Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready to hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered, and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will indeed be a better person." From "The Age of Atheists" by Peter Watson Could Frank Bascombe be The Great American Existentialist character? Frank Bascombe is just a regular guy trying to deal with the demands of daily living and trying to stay centered and engaged in the process.
I have not read the two previous in the set but this didn't detract from my understanding and appreciation of this wonderful novel.
In this, the last in the trilogy, Frank is still the ever-thinking everyman, now age 55. (This was a very effective scene made all the better by a rare show of emotion that Frank himself, in the first person account, didnt see coming.) 5) Speaking of great writing, could this be Ford at the height of his powers? (All the prizes went to Independence Day, the second in the series, but I think the prose in this one is even better-long and lush sentences, words flowing like music, acoustically pure.) While I wouldnt consider Frank a role model, he comes by his opinions honestly.
At the risk of sounding mawkish or, gasp, even worse, sentimental, I'd describe this book, along with the other two Frank Bascombe novels (less so The Sportswriter, even more so Independence Day) as: wonderful. Someone told me they, after reading The Sportswriter, didn't like Richard Ford because he was "too depressing," which I simply don't buy, but I have found myself thinking twice about suggesting a book so death-obsessed to people like my dad or my soon-to-be father-in-law (who's name is also Frank). If you find yourself dying slowly and painfully, reach for a copy of this or any of the Bascombe novels (if they're all within reach and you don't think you've got enough time to read the three, go for Independence Day). If you're not dying, though, probably you should read the books anyway, and soon like now, because they're shit-hot good, and why wait.
A digressive, long-winded, over-adjectived, frequently-hyphenated contemplation of the middle-aged, middle-classed, middle-of-the-road American... Five immensely tedious reading hours later and nearly a third of the way through the book, he hasn't yet got there. But he has digressed endlessly on those subjects that seem to obsess the white, middle-class, middle-aged American male their health, the fact that they don't understand their children, their ex-wives (almost always plural), their sexual prowess or lack thereof, and the way the country is going to the dogs. All those words and yet he still fails to communicate his meaning.) And frankly, until I tried to read this book, I thought I was fairly fluent in American. He doesn't know what Kalamazoo means, or why it would be so side-splittingly hilarious. (Again, nope pity, because by that stage I could have done with a laugh.) I'm not blaming the book for being 'too' American why shouldn't it be? - but it did make it impossible for me to get into any kind of reading flow, since I was constantly either looking things up or trying to work out the meaning from the context. Not that I noticed, but maybe it becomes a gripping read once he gets to the meeting with his ex-wife, if he ever does. *laughs hollowly* I think we all know the answer to that one...
He is on what he describes as ""the permanent phase" of his life, the period when life "starts to look like a destination rather than a journey". These and other life problems all emerge within three days of this 500 page novel. I began to see the irony of Frank's thinking his life is going down a permanent road, when the election of Bush has just taken place. There is no peace in America or in Frank's life at this time. His first wife has but a small part in the novel and it is confusing, but I wonder if her part is to explain that we are all looking for love and may be confused about where we will find it. Frank is a man that we feel some sympathy for but do we really like him?
This is the third book in what used to be called, "The Sportswriter Trilogy." I'm not sure if that title still holds since,, as with John Updike's "Rabbit" trilogy, a 4th book has emerged in 2016 as a sort of coda--though from reviews I've read on here it is less a "wrapping up" than an admission that life can never be summed up in a tidy package. In The Lay of the Land, Frank Bascome, narrator of Ford's The Sportswriter and Independence Day, is back and has moved from Haddam, the once quaint but now gentrified New Jersey town he lived in many years, to the shore. I was not quite as immersed in The Lay of the Land as I was reading The Sportswriter and, particularly, Independence Day. I'm not sure, though, if this is due to an attenuation in Ford's powers or in mine? The Lay of the Land is a worthwhile read, and though as other reviewers have noted it can be read as a "stand-alone" book, I recommend a reader new to Ford's Bascome books start with The Sportswriter and move on to Independence Day before tackling The Lay of the Land.
Here, I slipped so easily back into reading Frank's voice, it was like I was passing time with an old college buddy - someone I know, but only see every few years now. As in all three of the Bascombe novels, Frank's voice is just so damn absorbing, it's hard to imagine seeing the ever-expanding New Jersey suburban landscape through another set of eyes. We know that cafeteria serves some good meatloaf, but there's more story to tell..." He's also a great observer of character; Frank has the ability to pinpoint what makes someone unique in a recognizable, American-sounding way ('he looked like an old Division III linebacker' e.g.). The Bascombe novels have successively gained weight, which may reflect real life complexities, but does not serve the fictional purpose ideally, in my mind. He is wise without being overbearing, he is emotional without being false, and he is aware of his place in history, in league with so many of his fellow Americans, trying to hold it together in the face of life's continual adversity, waiting for those bursts of happiness along the way that make it worthwhile.