Sunday, October 5, 2008

Independence Day

Independence Day by Richard Ford was originally published in 1995. My paperback copy has 451 pages. Independence Day was the Pulitzer-Prize Winning novel for 1996. Independence Day is an account of one Fourth of July weekend in the life of Frank Bascombe. Because Independence Day is a sequel to The Sportswriter, I made sure I read The Sportswriter first. One need not do this. In fact, I think I'd recommend just reading Independence Day and then deciding if you want to read a prequel. Independence Day is a completely realized novel and stands firmly on it's own. I also think I would have enjoyed the character of Frank Bascombe more if I had started with Independence Day. After reading The Sportswriter and immediately following it with reading Independence Day, I became a bit tired of Frank mid-way through Independence Day. Since Independence Day is the better of the two novels start there. The other option would be to read The Sportswriter and wait a month or so to read Independence Day, which will work quite nicely because Independence Day is set five years after The Sportswriter. I hope that was confusing enough for my readers. The nub of all of this is that I would not recommend reading the two novels one right after another. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:
In this visionary sequel to The Sportswriter, Richard Ford deepens his portrait of one of the most unforgettable characters in American fiction, and in so doing gives us an indelible portrait of America.

Frank Bascombe, in the aftermath of his divorce and the ruin of his career, has entered an "Existence Period," selling real estate in Haddam, New Jersey, and mastering the high-wire act of normalcy. But over one Fourth of July weekend, Frank is called into sudden, bewildering engagement with life.

Independence Day is a moving, peerlessly funny odyssey through America and through the layered consciousness of one of its most compelling literary incarnations, conducted by a novelist of astonishing empathy and perception.
"In Haddam, summer floats over tree-softened streets like a sweet lotion balm from a careless, languorous god, and the world falls in tune with its own mysterious anthems." first sentence

"[F]alling property values now ride through the trees like an odorless, colorless mist settling through the still air where all breathe it in, all sense it, though our new amenities - the new police cruisers, the new crosswalks... - do what they civically can to ease our minds off worrying, convince us our worries aren't worries, or at least not ours alone but everyone's - no ones - and that staying the course, holding the line, riding the cyclical nature of things are what this country's all about, and thinking otherwise is to drive optimism into retreat, to be paranoid and in need of expensive 'treatment' out-of-state." pg. 4-5

"A sad fact, of course, about adult life is that you see the very things you'll never adapt to coming toward you on the horizon." pg. 5

"And yet, and yet, even a good idea can be misguided if embarked on in ignorance." pg. 15

"Unhappily, the Markhams, out of ignorance and pigheadedness, have failed to intuit the one gnostic truth of real estate...: that people never find or buy the house they say they want...The premise is that you're presented with what you might've thought you didn't want, but what's available, whereupon you give in and start finding ways to feel good about it and yourself." pg. 41

"What we all want, of course, is all our best options left open as long as possible; we want not to have taken any obvious turns, but also not to have misread the correct turns the way some other boy-o would." pg. 57

"The truth is, however, we know very little and can find out precious little more about others, even though we stand in their presence, hear their complaints, ride the roller coaster with them, sell them houses, consider the happiness of their children - only in a flash or a gasp or the slam of a car door to see them disappear and be gone forever. Perfect strangers." pg. 76

"You're one of those people who think God's only in the details....You invent things that don't exist and then you worry about being denied whatever they are." pg. 254

"A walk-thru of an empty house you expect to rent (and not buy and live in till you croak) is not so much a careful inspection as a half-assed once-over in which you hope to find as little as possible to drive you crazy." pg. 417

1 comment:

Jan in Edmonds said...

Lori - Good review of Ford's books. I, too, grew tired of Frank especially in the Sportswriter. Don't really like that style of writing.

Jan (in Edmonds)