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A Multitude of Sins by Richard Ford
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A Multitude of Sins (2001)

by Richard Ford

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496420,596 (3.7)3
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This is a bleak collection. Ford's characters, having achieved a certain level of success by society's standards, grow restless and cheat on their spouses with wild abandon, and yet fail to find any true satisfaction even in their dalliances. These people are incapable of connecting with each other; they are distant and self-involved. They navigate with tarnished moral compasses, which often lead them far off-course. Occasionally the ending of a story might hint at some hope for the future, or a character might feel a semblance of relief, but just as often the stories end in unpleasant realizations or in great tragedy. Ford doesn't judge his characters, leaving his readers to reflect alone on their behavior, and it's hard to say for sure what he is getting at, but maybe there is no point beyond some oblique comments on the human condition. Regardless, the writing is strong and engaging, offering room for the reader to ruminate, and that was enough for me. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
The stories collected here reveal Ford in his full mastery of the short form. Always unsettling, always turning away from the direct path. Ford’s characters are always undercutting themselves, and their intentions, second guessing, as it were, their own second guesses. It is a deliberative technique, so much so that at times the reader feels, here, that the technique takes precedence over the characters and their stories. And yet, even unsettled and unsettling, Ford remains vital and needs to be read.

Some of the stories are near classics. “Puppy” takes the unwanted abandonment of a dog within a couple’s fenced-in property as the catalyst for the disintegration of their relationship. “Crèche” is even more disastrous, in personal terms, as a broken extended family breaks even further during a misguided Christmas skiing vacation. “Under the Radar” is both unnerving and violent, explosively so as a wife confesses to having had an affair with the host of dinner party to which the couple are on route. Violence ensues but it isn’t entirely the anticipated violence. And there is just a hint that it might be a mercy, or at least no great deviation from nature.

The final long story (or short novella), “Abyss”, follows two real estate agents who are having an affair. Ford masterfully moves from one character’s point of view to the other’s in extremely close proximity, at times from one sentence to the next. Their actions, of course, define them, as the one character notes, but beyond that there are their words and behind their words, thoughts and intentions. Ford shows how what they say is often, perhaps always, undercut by what they think or intend, and both stand at odds with what they do. For characters so out of touch with their authentic being, it might be no surprise that a great abyss lies before them, though in this case it is the Grand Canyon itself. In another writer it might have turned into pathetic fallacy, but with Ford it blows past that risk and moves on to something altogether different.

There are very few characters to identify with in these stories, fewer still to feel sympathetic towards, and yet the writing is never less than compelling. Recommended, as ever. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jan 7, 2014 |
ein wahres Glück für die Literatur: "Henry und Madeleine hatten seit zwei Jahren eine weitaus mehr als gewöhnliche Freundschaft, von der außer ihnen beiden niemand wissen sollte."Richard Ford erzählt uns in verschiedenen Variationen "Eine Vielzahl von Sünden". Untreue, Ehebruch..., aber so gewaltig das auch klingen mag, versteht es Ford, hier leise Töne schwingen zu lassen. Sie lieben sich wirklich ungemein, Wales und Jena, aber nur fünf Nächte in einem Hotel bleiben ihnen. Einmal fragt Jena: " 'Wenn ich dich bitten würde, meinen Mann umzubringen, würdest du das tun?' ... 'Nein, ich glaube nicht', sagte Wales. Jena drehte sich weg und warf einen kurzen Blick zurück...'Das habe ich einfach so gesagt. Du solltest mich nicht so ernst nehmen'", meinte sie. - Jena hat für einen kurzen Moment gedacht, ihre Ehe hinzuwerfen. Was zwischen den Personen gefühlsmäßig abläuft, wird oft nur angedeutet. Wenn man diese Stories liest, kann man aber sehr nah die Gefühlswelten und Spannungen zwischen den Menschen miterleben. Die Menschen erhalten auf wenigen Seiten Konturen. Mit scheinbarer Leichtigkeit entwickelt Richard Ford kleinere oder größere Katastrophen. Irgendwann enden die Strories einfach so, wenn "die Worte aufgebraucht sind." Sie wollen sich trennen, sie müssen sich trennen, geballte Wut nach einem Seitensprunggeständnis, eine missverstandene Einladung zu einer Liebesnacht - der Enttäuschte "bleibt stehen und sieht zu ihr hoch, wie sie im weißen Schlafanzug am Fenster steht, vor dem Hintergrund der blinkenden Weihnachtslichter...Sein Mund bewegt sich, sonst aber nichts. In dieser Herberge ist kein Platz für Roger." Die letzte Liebesaffäre des Buches endet in einem "Abgrund" des Grand Canyon. In den seelischen Abgründen dieser Menschen werden sich Kerben festsetzen als Überbleibsel der kleineren oder größeren Katastrophen. Ein wunderbares Buch, ein wahres Glück für die Literatur.
  r1hard | Nov 22, 2009 |
All of the short stories concern marriage and infidelity, painting marriage as bleak intimacy and infidelity as a banal detour that never gets you what you want. In ways reminiscent of Updike, Ford takes a scalpel to the relationships between men and women portrayed in this book. Definitely well-written, but towards the end the hopelessness with which the subject matter is explored becomes tedious and a little depressing. ( )
  citygirl | Aug 25, 2007 |
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