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The Lay of the Land
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About the Author

The author of five novels and two collections of stories, Richard Ford was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Independence Day, the first book to win both prizes. In 2001, he received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in short fiction. Ford is the author of the Bascombe novels, which include The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land. He lives in Boothbay, Maine.

Reviews

In 1985, Ford published The Sportswriter and with protagonist Frank Bascombe began an epic story of the everyman. Ten years later, Bascombe returned in Ford's Independence Day, winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, a feat never before accomplished by a single work of fiction. Here, Ford revisits the story in 2000, as Bascombe deals with prostate cancer, his second divorce, and the controversial presidential election fiasco. He has moved to the Jersey shore, where he sells real estate and, over the course of 500 pages, does nothing particularly important except host a postnuclear family Thanksgiving get-together to which, against his better judgment, he has invited his ex-wife and emotionally explosive son. But, as in many literary classics, the beauty of this novel is in its presentation the word choice and perfect phrases and in Bascombe's unwaveringly honest and humorous narration. Ford manages to become his character and remove authorial boundaries, transforming his novel into a story told to us by an old friend. A fitting way to complete the Frank Bascombe legacy; recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/06.] Stephen Morrow, Columbus, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor's rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford's magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated "dreaminess." He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the "Existence Period" of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a "Permanent Period," a time of being, not becoming. He's long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women's golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank's undergone treatment for prostate cancer. The novel's action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton ("My President," he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive "mainstreamer," who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who's unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank's quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank's emotional life until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to "fully occupy" his real estate career ("it's really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about") illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility in work and in love to breed doubt: "Is this it?" and "Am I good?" Frank wonders. The answers don't come easy. 150,000 announced first printing. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Ford once again shows why he deserves to be hailed as one of the great American fiction novelists of his generation." --The Washington Post Book World"By now, we have gotten to know Frank Bascombe well enough to take his measure, and to appreciate that, like almost no one else in our recent literature, he is life-size." --The New York Times Book Review"The Lay of the Land . . . is distinct not only for its singular style but also because of its generosity. Ford shows that life is never easy and never placid. . . . Yet we keep moving forward for that occasional moment of pure understanding." --Chicago Sun-Times

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