Also just finished Richard Ford's Independence Day (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).
Summary: "Frank Bascombe is no longer a sportswriter, yet he's still living in Haddam, New Jersey, where he now sells real estate. He's still divorced, though his ex-wife, to his dismay, has remarried and moved along with their children to Connecticut. But Frank is happy enough in his work and pursuing various civic and entrepreneurial sidelines. He has high hopes for this 4th of July weekend: a search for a house for deeply hapless clients relocating to Vermont; a rendezvous on the Jersey shore with his girlfriend; then up to Connecticut to pick up his larcenous and emotionally troubled teenage son and visit as many sports halls of fame as they can fit into two days. Frank's Independence Day, however, turns out not as he'd planned, and this decent, appealingly bewildered, profoundly observant man is wrenched, gradually and inevitably, out of his private refuge. Independence Day captures the mystery of life — in all its conflicted glory — with grand humour, intense compassion and transfixing power."
Opening line: "In Haddam, summer floats over tree-softened streets like a sweet lotion balm from a careless, languorous god, and the world falls in tune with its own mysterious anthems."
My take: Not exactly what I was expecting, and maybe not quite what I was in the mood for, but still an interesting meditation on suburbia in the late 1980s, life and parenthood after divorce, autonomy vs. interdependence, and aging in America. Can't really complain that there's no plot here, as this is essentially a road novel with a twist: Our hero, Frank Bascombe, travels (by way of his girlfriend's beach house at the Jersey Shore) to Connecticut to pick up the aforementioned teenage son Paul, and from there to the Basketball and Baseball Halls of Fame in Worcester, Mass., and Cooperstown, NY. The pacing is fairly languorous itself, and much of the book seems a bit dated, but Frank is indeed a likeable, interesting character ... which was what moved me to see the novel through to the end. (I wish I could say the same for his irritating son, or his ladyfriend Sally, who I Just Didn't Get.) Well-written, provocative in places ... but not one I'll return to again, I don't expect.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.