Another Home Run in the Frank Bascombe SeriesOkay, let me just say it Richard Ford s fictional alter ego, Frank Bascombe, seems real to me than many people I know.How is this possible In Independence Day, the second and most celebrated of his four Bascombe books it won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN Faulkner Award in 1996 Ford shows that he knows everything about this charming, flawed and oh so relatable Everyman, including things Frank wouldn t want him, or anyone, to know.The result is another masterpiece of realistic fiction, a chapter in Ford s Great American Epic.After the midlife crisis suggested at the end of The Sportswriter view spoiler quitting his magazine job, moving to Florida and then rural France with a much younger woman hide spoiler Really a Virtuoso performance Ford, in this book does right what I have always felt that Delillo fails at, which is the endless and minute description of events exactly as they unfold from within the subjective consciousness of the protagonist It s a technique which, in this case, renders the main character overwhelmingly human by virtue of the flood of details corresponding, in quality, quantity, and pace, with my own experience of how events unfold Ford s artifice disappears under the flood of particularities, and only a second reading of one detail or other makes clear that the author is than talented in his description, he is a virtuoso, capable of avoiding repetition and cliche while flooding the reader with image after image and thought after thought At the end of the book one realizes that the 3 day Independence Day structure has, in fact, been tightly woven around a set of ideas about independence, one s connection to the world, and the question of one s own innate value, as referenced to contemporary 1980s politics and the thoughts of the founding fathers Well, sometimes I have to wonder if I m on the right planet Never has a book been so praised and by the right people as this one and The Sportswriter so I gave this one a go and found myself in a hot muggy sauna of smugness, breathing in the profoundly self satisfied atmosphere of this guy Bascombe self satisfied in spite of failed marriages, bad relationship with son and all that, one of those deeply wise, mature, creased lived in face type guys who you instinctively trust sorry pal, not me though, I kept turning the pages hoping that at some point Tony Soprano would drive round the corner like a bat out of hell in a four by four and in a tragic case of mistaken identity him and Chris would jump out, grab this guy Bascombe and bundle him into the boot, drive off like crazy bastards into the nearby woods and bury him where only wolverines and badgers would pick over his wise old bones. I rarely find myself thinking wow, I hated that book Often times the last few sentences of a book I ve struggled through make me seriously reconsider whether or not I actually disliked it at all But I can confidently say that this is by far the most aggravating, pretentious and boring book I ve ever read The entire book is essentially monologue and inner workings, which I m typically than happy with, but the stuff Ford presents fells absolutely contrived and ridiculous The main character is stale and has typical middle aged thoughts, while simultaneously being incredibly delusional about father son relationships His son s motivations make little to no sense and I never, ever, EVER, want to talk about real estate with anyone again Ever Please god, don t pick this up Don t do it Don t let the fancy award draw you in I speak not its name as I can t believe its designation was bestowed upon this heinous book. I wouldn t say this is a book for all readers or all occasions, but it really was the perfect book for a rainy Fourth of July weekend when I was stuck at home alone with my dog, laid up and non ambulatory after some improperly stacked firewood fell and crushed my toes.I liked this better than The Sportswriter, though I did find some characters and conversations tiresome and can see how lots of people wouldn t get into this book I got deeply into it, though, because it s one of those long novels in which not a whole lot happens but which allows you to occupy totally another person s life and mind So instead of lying glumly on the couch all weekend with my foot wrapped in towels and ice while America joyfully celebrated its birthday outside, I got to tour New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York State, and rather than just being an immobilized, bored, and crabby version of me, I got to see what it was like to be Frank Bascombe for a change.Not that there s anything particularly fabulous about being Frank Bascombe, but sometimes it s nice to be someone else In Independence Day, we pick up a bit later than we left off with Bascombe the last time we saw him, at the end of The Sportswriter It s now Independence Day weekend in 1988, and Bascombe has entered what he calls his Existence Period, drifting through his forties while working as a real estate agent in his beloved Haddam, NJ Basombe is a basically good natured poster child for easy American privilege straight, white, well off, and or less content in his suburban idyll, despite a few bumps in the road a deceased child, the divorce he hasn t been able to recover from, a brutally murdered ex girlfriend He s existing, quite nicely, doing mostly fine.But Okay, there is no but here This isn t a novel about conflict or rupture or surprising and unexpected turns of events For me it really was just about living inside someone else while he goes about a interesting weekend than the one I d had planned for myself Instead of icing his purple toes and limping pathetically around the dog park, Bascombe has to show a house to a difficult couple of clients, run a few Haddam business errands, visit his girlfriend on the Jersey Shore, and take his troubled adolescent son on a bonding trip to the basketball and baseball halls of fame The majority of the book is Bascombe driving around the Northeast in his Crown Vic and having conversations with various characters, with whom he generally tries to share moments of meaningful human connection, with varying degrees of failure.It s really plain to me that I would ve hated this book had I tried to read it at most earlier stages of my life, which I wouldn t have, because it s about a divorced realtor living in suburban New Jersey, and that s not the kind of novel I ever used to want to read Note that there are no tricks here you shouldn t read Independence Day if that thumbnail description sounds awful to you This was one of those novels that made me realize I ve officially become a boring grownup with interest in and empathy for boring grownup concerns there were pages in here that were the main character s thoughts about real estate, and I found them fascinating Ditto his thoughts on parenting, aging, mortality, and divorce This book is not for the spritely or young at heart, and my enjoyment of it marks some yet unnamed midlife Period of my own.Without worrying too much about irresponsibly sweeping gender essentialism, I ll say that this book s representation of masculinity and being male was really interesting to me Bascombe reminds me in certain ways of my father who s from New Jersey and my husband who loves sports , and there was a lot about his character that seemed to represent and partly explicate some of what I find opaque and mysterious about many men So I did get a kick out of that.I also loved all the landscapes and descriptions of place I can t remember the last book I read that transported me with such vividness to places I almost knew but didn t I m pretty familiar with that part of the country, but I haven t been to Cooperstown really hope to go, someday or to Haddam which doesn t exist , though now I definitely feel that I ve seen them and the other places in here as well And I hugely appreciated that on this homebound July Fourth weekend, which otherwise could have been an even depressing wash. Like Frank Bascombe, Ford s protagonist, I m middle aged and sometimes given to contemplation And while I wouldn t consider Frank a role model, I do give top marks to the book I give it bonus points for Inner thoughts that are meaningful and articulate the kind that make you say, Wish I d thought of that, had I the brainpower to do so Ford s wonderful writing style descriptive without being obtrusive Taking on a tough topic the plodding years of middle age what he calls the Existence Period An undercurrent of empathy despite it all Hints that though Frank is smart, Ford himself is even smarter It s almost like Ford has an omniscient meta voice backing Frank s 1st person account Readers get clues that Frank s self awareness extends only so far, and he s human because of it Thanks to my friend Robert for recommending it to me. A Visionary Account Of American Life And The Long Awaited Sequel To One Of The Most Celebrated Novels Of The Past Decade Independence Day Reveals A Man And Our Country With Unflinching Comedy And The Specter Of Hope And Even Permanence, All Of Which Richard Ford Evokes With A Keen Intelligence, Perfect Emotional Pitch, And A Voice Invested With Absolute Authority I m already getting ready for the brickbats on this one, but after reading than one glowing review of Richard Ford s work, I tackled this one first, and I found that I disliked the main character so much that no amount of storytelling finesse about real estate in New Jersey and other exigencies of modern life could change my mind And in this case, I had the feeling that Ford is a lot like his central character, so that gave me the kind of bad taste that has just put me off him permanently. Glutten for punishment that I am, after reading and strongly disliking Ford s first Bascombe novel I soldiered on with the hope that Independence Day was, indeed, worthy of the Pulitzer Prize After just a few chapters I realized that Ford had a formula several chapters of Bascombe s narcissistic ramblings coupled with surprise a life changing event that shocks Bascombe into engaging with his family and the world around him about 60 pages from the end I m not on the Pulitzer panel, but in my opinion they made a huge mistake by awarding this hack this highly coveted prize. I read this one after a tumultuous breakup and I completely connected with it You know how after a big breakup you feel like a middle aged, lonely, sadly contemplative semi loser who just wants to feel.uhvital again Well, I did I woke up early something I never do to read this I savored it Frank whines, he whinges, he bemoans But Ford writes in a shimmering, smooth, Saul Bellow y kinda a way that lets you me take in the sensations and the situations in an easy sip I pictured every single moment he describes in this story, something that is usually kind of hard for me But I was there with him, Frank I mean, as he mopes and wallows and tries to reconnect with his son.The dopey couple Frank tries to sell a house to one of the major subplots has the same last name as the girl who had left me yeah, it was like that so that was a nice sort of synchronistc pleasure.hee hee heeO and I might be wrong but this also had a thin vein of political criticism running through it His kid getting hit in the eye by a baseball in Cooperstown, his sullen and defiant black tenants, the jovial fat broke Republican hot dog vendor, Frank s fruitless attempt at getting some Emerson under his son s eyes, there s a bunch else I forget I liked this stuff, subtle and telling without being too over the top.I m not sure I ll read it again, but it definitely came to my aid randomly in a time of crisis For that, I m giving it tons of love and respect.anyway, I came to find out it was part of a trilogy so now I ve got to get to the other two sometime.