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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
A Multitude of Sins
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on 20 September 2002
I am a fan of short stories, and this collection rates among the very best. Here, his theme is - as always - relationships, and in particular, people in unusual places with the 'wrong' person, starting, confessing to, or ending affairs. For years I resisted reading Ford's The Sportswriter, thinking it was a 'man's book'. Wrong. Richard Ford is an, emotional poetic novelist and a glittering short story writer. He deals marvellously accurately with human intimacy - or its absence - and describes faultlessly the fumbling, weak, but essentially optimistic beings we all recognise ourselves to be.
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on 12 January 2003
Richard Ford gives a lesson in the art of writing the short story. The common theme of this collection is adultery and its consequences for the unfaithful party, their wronged spouse and their lover. Through his characters Ford explores how humans love, cheat, squirm, regret and reconcile in their (generally unsatisfied) search for happiness. In each story Ford skilfully manages to create a detailed sense of time, place and character. We recognize each characters' faults but still sympathize with them because we know that Ford is describing the human condition and its necessary failings and compromises. My favourite story is 'Puppy' where a married couple find a puppy abandoned in their back yard. Their fruitless attempts to find its owner come to symbolize the couple's failure to deal with the effects of the wife's past indiscretions.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 October 2011
Richard Ford is a brilliant writer. The "techniques" of writing he has definitely mastered: dramatic tension, foreshadowing, incisive dialogue, et al. But I still recall the remark of a high school physics teacher who said: "I know people who can speak three languages, and have nothing to say in any of them." Ford is NOT one of those. He has the narrative skills, but more importantly, he has so much to say, particularly on the relationship between men and women. Sometimes noble; but all too often, ignoble. Just like in real life. Often there may be that experience that you believe has only occurred to you... and there it is, much more "universal" than you thought, in black and white, described by Ford. I've read most of Ford's works: Independence Day,The Sportswriter,Rock Springs The Ultimate Good Luck,Wildlife, and Women with Men. There are elements of each of these books in this one, but the subject matter covered most nearly resembles "Women with Men," and "Rock Springs."

This volume is comprised of ten short stories, or, if you will, nine, with the novella, "Abyss." For some reason the publisher started with the weakest, and shortest story, "Privacy," a brief look at the voyeurism fantasy. "Quality Time" concerns an affair with an older, rich woman in the Drake Hotel, in Chicago. "Calling" is primarily set in New Orleans, and involves a duck hunting trip, and the relationship between a coming-of-age son, and his now out-of-the-closet gay father. "Reunion" involves another affair, set in St. Louis, and the subsequent meeting of the husband and lover in Grand Central Station in NYC. "Puppy" is also set in New Orleans, and how an abandoned puppy might threaten a marriage. Doing a "Robert Frost" could become incorporated in your vocabulary after this story. "Crèche" depicts a highly dysfunctional family on a ski trip in upper Michigan, and involves the only story which alludes to a non-consensual consummation of a relationship. "Dominion" is set in Canada; another affair, and a very different twist in the denouement. "Charity" involves a married couple, an ex-police officer and his public defender wife vacationing in Maine, and covers the "mid-life" crisis contemplating how a change in locale might alter their lives. "Abyss" is yet another affair, between a couple married to others. They are both in real estate, a touchstone of Ford in "Independence Day." The "abyss" is the Grand Canyon, which they decide to visit. Metaphorically, of course, the "abyss" is so much more.

Bons Mots? Of course there are more than a few. Consider: "Everyone gets to think he wins, though no one does. That was extremely lawyerly." Or, "Possibilities would diminish. Life would cease to be an open, flat plain upon which you walked with a chosen other, and become instead cluttered, impassable." Or, "It was her doing, she thought; she'd invented him, turned him into someone she had a use for. His real intelligence was not to resist." And, Canada, eh: "It seemed very Canadian. Canada, in so many ways, seemed superior to America anyway. Canada was saner, more tolerant, friendlier, safer, less litigious."

A marvelous, penetrating examination of the complex emotional issues surrounding the transient, or more permanent liaisons among men and women. Richard Ford is one of the very best chroniclers of American life today. 5-stars plus.
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on 30 November 2014
Adultery is wrong. Even if there is no James M. Cain Old Testament wrath of God - save for the final tale, 'Abyss' - Ford uses his obvious gift to point out the obvious. Having read most of his novels, I was prepared to love this collection of short stories. I found them too alike and predictable in outcomes.

Ford is a very skilled writer in the Updike tradition - he understands Middle Americans and writes with insight snd skill about their lives. But whatever the set up, the outcome is pretty much pre-determined. From the very short - 'Privacy' - to the substantial - 'Abyss' - Ford makes it clear what he thinks. Adultery is driven by illusion - the grass is greener - and those who pursue its momentary pleasures come crashing down to Earth.

This is what literally happens in the longest - and clearly most revealing of the tales told in 'Abyss'. Two Real Estate agents fall in lust, have a drawn out set of trysts which results in a planned excursion to Phoenix where one of them does not rise from the ashes, but falls into the Grand Canyon by 'accident'. Like the rest of this volume, it is a very readable but not terribly surprising tale. The couple are young, attractive, driven and overwhelmed by desire. As they begin their drive to the canyon, they lose their lust, and the woman (Frances) begins to see her lover more clearly for what he is and is not. As the fog lifts, so does her desire, and her shame comes out to play. That it all ends in disaster is very biblical - although she, not the man, pays the ultimate price.

While one appreciates Ford's skills, these tales are difficult to love - with the possible exception of 'Puppy.'
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on 14 September 2014
great service, thanks - the book is very very good, wonderful in fact
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on 6 December 2012
The use of English is good clearly stated. The content of the stories seemed a little contrived. I look forward to re-reading a little more critically.
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on 16 September 2014
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