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Frank is Rich,
This review is from: The Lay of the Land (Paperback)
Proof (if proof were needed) that Ford can be bracketed with Roth, Bellow and Updike as exponents of the extended 20th century Great American Novel. On meeting, Ford's southern charm is evident, but his famously prickly hubris and hauteur has made him less prolific than his forebears and contemporaries. Though his recent 'Women with Men' garnered deservedly mixed reviews, here, with the effort evident on each page, Ford delivers one of the most enjoyable and insightful books of the last decade. There is an original use of language and phraseology, a modernity which to some extent alienates us from his 60ish narrator but distances Ford from his competition.
Frank (ex-'Sportswriter') Bascombe is not - as Ford rightly denies - an alter ego, though both live on the East Coast and are comfortably late middle-aged. Frank now is seriously wealthy, rocketing property prices inflating the value of both his NJ shore real estate business and his own ocean view mansion. Counterpointing this are continuing unresolved issues, this novel being set (like the Faulkner / Pulitzer winning 'Independence Day') around a traditional holiday where Frank's age and sentimentalism augurs a crisis.
Frank's prolonged internal soliloquy takes up most of the wordage. It contains some of the most sublime self-consciousness, and self-deception. He is successful, gung-ho and energetic. Money is made and lost almost carelessly. But while he has a peripatetic business partner, his life partners are estranged, and his children distant and bewildering. His failing health is a critical subtext: Frank has prostate cancer (treatable). But there are references to heart murmurs and palpitations, which are less evidence of coronary disease, rather unacknowledged stress and incipient nervous disorder and potential breakdown.
All considered, it is a better novel than 'Independence Day'. The odd denouement detracts a little from this wonderful book; but one reads to the end, which is Ford's stated invocation of success as a writer. In part because the end is unsatisfying, tetralogy beckons: Merry Christmas Mr Bascombe? Bascombe at Rest?