Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reading Rainbow: Independence Day by Richard Ford

Despite the fact that nearly three months passed between when I began and completed reading this book, Independence Day was every bit the masterwork that the first in the Frank Bascombe series, The Sportswriter, was. As I have surely stated before, there may not be a writer out there whose prose is as consistently awe-inspiring as Richard Ford's. The release of his newest novel, Canada (less than $19.00 brand new in hardcover), this week has me brimming with excitement because there is more Richard Ford--new Richard Ford--out there for me to read.

Returning to Independence Day, Ford's Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award winning fifth novel, Ford drops in on protagonist Frank Bascombe on another holiday weekend, this time on the titular weekend in 1988. Just over four years (if my memory of when The Sportswriter takes place is correct; I believe it was in 1984, but it could have been 1982) have passed since the reader last got a glimpse into the life of Frank Bascombe. The death of his son and the near completeness at which his old life had been torn from him have left Frank to live in his self-termed Existence Period, marked by ambivalence and characterized by his goal to simply be. Decisiveness, at least as it relates to life-altering choices, is not a trait that Frank is displaying at this juncture in his life. As the weekend progresses, the people in his life, both in the short- and long-term act with widely varying degrees of respect as pertains to Frank, and it all just happens to him with little [re]action from our hero.

What makes Frank Bascombe so compelling his his voice. Imbued with the natural predisposition of a philosopher, it is often how he reads a situation--sometimes in completely divergent ways within the span of mere seconds--that sets this book and Ford's protagonist apart from others. The first-person narrative construct allows for Frank to quizzically look upon the situations that present themselves, his voice ringing out with equal parts poetry and clarity. Ford's deftness at which he captures the essence of the Everyman beset by indecision while blessed with an innate critical eye that allows him to observe without acting leaves the reader with a book that is breathtaking even with the simplicity that lies at the surface. Independence Day is a much richer novel than one could ever expect given the events that occur and is absolutely deserving of the mountains of praise heaped upon it.

But don't take my word for it...

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