Richard Ford’s Trilogy: The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land
With The Sportswriter (1986), Richard Ford began his story of the life and contemporary times of Frank Bascombe, a failed novelist turned sportswriter. Years later we again meet Frank in Independence Day (1999), where his floating freedom is redefined by needs and responsibilities he has tried to keep in an equipoise that isn’t quite denial. Independence Day won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Lay of the Land (2006) is the final installment in Ford’s Frank Bascombe series. Frank is coolly conscious of all that he is and isn’t doing with his life, and Ford’s prose is delicately omnivorous of every detail of “the way we live now,” as Anthony Trollope would say. Frank is a complement to John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom and Philip Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman, characters who suggest that at this moment extremity is the norm. Frank, however, is more “normal” and completely satisfying nonetheless. The Times of London declared the trilology to be “an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the story of the twentieth century itself.”
Terrence Doody, professor of English at Rice University, will prepare us for Richard Ford’s March 2009 visit to Houston by discussing the three novels in the order they are mentioned above.
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