The Lay of the Land (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Richard Ford cemented his reputation and his popularity with the publication of The Sportswriter in 1986. Before this point he was known for his darker, bleaker fiction such as A Piece of My Heart (1976), but when his wife Kristina encouraged him to write a novel about a character who wants to be happy, Ford created Frank Bascombe, a thirty-eight-year-old former author who works as a sportswriter in New Jersey. With its meditative tone and existential themes, The Sportswriter carries a clear debt to Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (1961). Both novels depict their main character suffering a kind of midlife crisis. In Frank’s case, his extended period of dreaminess and distraction, in part due to the loss of his son Ralph to Reye’s syndrome at age nine, causes him to lose his wife and then his girlfriend, Vicki Arsenault. Alternating between periods of despair and affirmation, The Sportswriter immerses the reader in Frank’s self-evasions, philosophical reflections, and hard-won realization of the need to take responsibility for his middle-aged drift.
By the time Ford published the sequel to The Sportswriter, titled Independence Day, Frank Bascombe had moved on to selling real estate in the fictional town of Haddam, New Jersey. While The Sportswriter revolved thematically around the...
(The entire section is 1623 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
The Atlantic Monthly 298, no. 5 (December, 2006): 134.
Booklist 103, no. 5 (November 1, 2006): 4.
Entertainment Weekly, no. 904 (October 27, 2006): 74.
Kirkus Reviews 74, no. 18 (September 15, 2006): 922.
Library Journal 131, no. 17 (October 15, 2006): 51.
The Nation 283, no. 19 (December 4, 2006): 28-32.
The New York Review of Books 54, no. 1 (January 11, 2007): 25-27.
The New York Times 156 (October 24, 2006): E1-E7.
The New York Times Book Review 156 (October 29, 2006): 1-13.
Newsweek 148, no. 17 (October 23, 2006): 71.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 36 (September 11, 2006): 34.
Time 168, no. 17 (October 23, 2006): 82.
(The entire section is 59 words.)