A brilliant new work that returns Richard Ford to the hallowed territory that sealed his reputation as an American master: the world of Frank Bascombe, and the landscape of his celebrated novels The Sportswriter, the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner winning Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land.
In his trio of world-acclaimed novels portraying the life of an entire American generation, Richard Ford has imagined one of the most indelible and widely discussed characters in modern literature, Frank Bascombe. Through Bascombe—protean, funny, profane, wise, often inappropriate—we’ve witnessed the aspirations, sorrows, longings, achievements and failings of an American life in the twilight of the twentieth century.
Now, in Let Me Be Frank with You, Ford reinvents Bascombe in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In four richly luminous narratives, Bascombe (and Ford) attempts to reconcile, interpret and console a world undone by calamity. It is a moving and wondrous and extremely funny odyssey through the America we live in at this moment. Ford is here again working with the maturity and brilliance of a writer at the absolute height of his powers.
Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land, continues to reflect on the meaning of existence in these four absorbing, funny, and often profound novellas. The collection is set in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2012. Frank considers the evanescence of life as he travels to the site of his former home on the shore; has an unsettling experience with a black woman whose family once lived in his present home in fictional Haddam; visits his prickly ex-wife, who is suffering from Parkinson's, in an extended-care institution; and meets a dying former friend. At 68, Frank feels "old"; his bout with prostate cancer has convinced him that he's in the "Default Period of life." Intimations of mortality ("the bad closing in") permeate his musings, recounted in an unadorned, profane, vernacular that conveys his witty, cynical voice. Frank's cranky comments and free-flowing meditations about current social and political events are slyly juxtaposed with references to Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Trollope, Emerson, Milton, and others. Despite Frank's dyspeptic outlook, Ford packs in a surprising amount of affirmation and redemption. Readers who met Frank in Ford's earlier novels will quickly reconnect with his indelible personality.
What amounts to four vignettes featuring Frank Bascombe, it is a stretch to label 'Let Me Be Frank With You' a novel. The four stories appear to have been written independently, with no connective material linking the stories and some background material repeated in several of them. Unfortunately 'Let Me Be Frank With You' reads like a phone-in job, a disappointment for admirers of Ford’s writing.
Pointless and verbose. Filled with gratuitous comments about Republicans and Mitt Romney.