The Sportswriter Essay - Critical Evaluation

Richard Ford

Critical Evaluation

Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter is the first of three books—including Independence Day (1995) and The Lay of the Land (2006)—about the life of real estate agent Frank Bascombe. Ford’s popular notice as a novelist came with the release of The Sportswriter, soon followed by the release of a short-story collection. He won the Rhea Award for short fiction and received both the PEN/Faulkner Award and a Pulitzer Prize in fiction for Independence Day.

With the creation of Bascombe, Ford has developed an Everyman figure, similar to novelist John Updike’s character Rabbit Angstrom. In interviews, Ford tries to soften this view of his character as representative of the ordinary person, suggesting Bascombe offers only one view among many. Much of the novel focuses on the central character’s views on life, love, and happiness.

Similar to Updike, in his quartet of novels about Angstrom, Ford uses the present tense to give a sense of immediacy and uncertainly to The Sportswriter. The choice of tense suggests the unknowability and uncertainty of the future. Unlike Updike’s novels, though, Ford chooses to use a first-person presentation for Bascombe. Therefore, as the events of the novel unfold, the reader feels a sense of eavesdropping on Bascombe’s inner thoughts, as he goes through this challenging weekend.

The choice of first-person narrative also raises a challenging question about whether or not Bascombe understands himself. As critics have noted, the degree of irony with which Bascombe should be read is difficult to determine. Certainly, the character is slow to reveal events...

(The entire section is 684 words.)