Richard Ford is a Boring Lunatic
The slog is real, and its name is The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. I’ve hit my first speed bump in the Pulitzer Project. And it’s not so much a speed bump as a waist deep pit of coagulated circus peanuts and sand. I’m reading The Sportswriter not because it won the Pulitzer, because it didn’t. I’m reading it because it’s the precursor to Independence Day which did.
I’m 207 pages in and I feel like I’ve been reading War and Peace in braille with one hand tied behind my back.
Squarely in the Great American Novel genre, Ford’s first foray into his Frank Bascombe series is so far a mildly sociopathic meandering trek through the post-post grief of an upper middle class Jersian divorcee.
I want to root for Frank.
I really do.
But he is so robotically averse to allowing any raw human emotion to take the helm I can’t seem to make contact. Everything in this book, including characters who do seem to possess an amygdale, has a milky morning haze to it as if my internal narrator is perpetually riding the rails of a strong opiate.
The book was published in the mid-1980s so it’s in that weird era far enough away from the 1960s to fret amusingly about New Agers but not far away enough to avoid those commonplace subtle disparaging references to Jews and African-Americans. You can tell that Frank (or Ford or both) is warm to other races and cultures but still in his heart of hearts believes Caucasians are the apogee of all conscious bipeds. It’s off-putting and makes me like him less.
Also, it doesn’t help that the author is somewhat of a lunatic.
Sometimes while reading a particular book, I’ll get curious about the author’s other work, personal life, influences, etc.
I Googled Richard Ford and the first thing that popped up was:
“Richard Ford should swallow his pride over Colson Whitehead's bad review” – The Guardian – June 14, 2017
Not a good look.
Now every time my eyes pass over a slightly racist-tinged sentence or a casual use of the word “Negroid” I think about him wanting to spit on Colson Whitehead. And then I think, these are Ford’s thoughts. Not Frank’s.
He apparently also took a gun and shot a hole through one of Alice Hoffman’s books after receiving a bad review from her. Then he mailed it to her.
So, you know…
Kind of a wild card.
I’m going to try and finish it though. And then push through Independence Day. I guess I'm optimistic that there's something worthwhile still to be mined. Feels like work though.
Work for a jerk.