Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review: "Independence Day" by Richard Ford

It has been a few years, 2010 to be exact, when I read The Sportswriter, Richard Ford’s first Frank Bascombe novel, so I was worried when started reading Independence Day, the novel that really made Ford famous, that the experience would be hindered by the long gap between reading the two novels. And while Ford will never be one of my favorite writers, I don’t think the space between readings hurt the book at all, with this being my favorite boom Ford has written. He has a way with words, and a grasp of prose that can put any aspiring writer to shame, but that can also work against the book, with these simple stories about everyday people becoming too dense and esoteric to be completely enjoyed by anyone but scholars. That really hurt Ford’s most recent novel, Canada, but here, it creates a few scenes that soar with greatness. Like the last book, the story focuses on Frank Bascombe, a former writer turned real estate agent and estranged father and ex-husband over the course of one Fourth of July weekend, where is place in the “Existence Period” as he calls it, is thrown into upheaval as a few of his clients cause him heaps of trouble, and he and his troubled son are forced together on a road trip to both the baseball and basketball Hall of fames. Like most dense works, as I have noticed, it works best in chunks and sections, where Ford dishes, using Bascombe as a vessel, about all kinds of topics, such as a breathtaking scene where he discusses with his son the importance of seizing your happiness without compromise. Scenes like this show you are in the hands of someone with unparalleled skill. Other times, the meaning and ideas can get lost in a breathless rush of extended metaphor, leaving the reader perplexed and lost. But for the most part Ford gives you enlightening ride through the life of a flawed man who could only exist in modern America.

Rating: 4/5

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