Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Sportswriter

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford was originally published in 1986. My paperback copy has 375 pages. When I picked up Ford's Independence Day, I noticed that it was a sequel to The Sportswriter so I decided to read The Sportswriter first. Ford is a masterful writer, which is helpfully highlighted in this slow moving story that is set over one Easter weekend. Ford gives us in Frank Bascombe the inner thoughts of a flawed hero, an every man. This story is supremely well-written but can be slow as molasses at times. It does hold your attention, though. Rating: 3.9

Synopsis from cover:
As a sportswriter, Frank Bascombe makes his living studying people - men, mostly - who live entirely within themselves. This is a condition that Frank himself aspires to. But at thirty-eight, he suffers from incurable dreaminess, occasional pounding of the heart, and the not-too-distant losses of a career, a son, and a marriage. And in the course of the Easter week in which Richard Ford's wonderfully eloquent and moving novel transpires, Bascombe will end up losing the remnants of his familiar life, though with spirits soaring.

"My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter." opening sentences.

"For now let me say only this: if sportswriting teaches you anything, and there is much truth to it as well as plenty of lies, it is for your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or your life will be ruined." pg. 4

"I know that you can dream your way through an otherwise fine life, and never wake up, which is what I almost did." pg. 10

"She said it was a mistake to have made as few superficial friends as I have done in my life, and to have concentrated only on the few things I have concentrated on - her, for one. My children, for another. Sportswriting and being an ordinary citizen. This did not leave me well enough armored for the unexpected, was her opinion. She said this was because I didn't know my parents very well, had gone to a military school, and grown up in the south, which was full of betrayers and secret-keepers and untrustworthy people, which I agree is true, though I never knew any of them. All that originated, she said, with the outcome of the Civil War. It was much better to have grown up, she said, as she did, in a place with no apparent character, where there is nothing ambiguous around to confuse you or complicate things, where the only thing anybody ever thought seriously about was the weather." pg. 13

"Dreaminess is, among other things, a state of suspended recognition, and a response to too much useless and complicated factuality. Its symptoms can be a long-term interest in the weather, or a sustained soaring feeling...." pg. 42

" '...I don't really want a response from you. And I know you don't like confessions.'
'No, I don't....I think most things are better if you just let them be lonely facts.' " pg 93-94

"I have become more cynical than old Iago, since there is no cynicism like lifelong self-love and the tunnel vision in which you yourself are all that's visible at the tunnel's end." pg. 172

"....looks, in other words, like private death, though I have a feeling he is here to share some of it with me." pg. 181

"In my view all teachers should be required to stop teaching at age thirty-two and not allowed to resume until they're sixty-five, so that they can live their lives, not teach them away - lives full of ambiguity and transience and regret and wonder, be asked to explain nothing in public until very near the end when they can't do anything else. Explaining is where we all get into trouble." pg. 223

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