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The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (1986)

Recently added bythomax, private library, stortemelk, wjmcomposer, electrice, leselotte, advincent, Malphoria, ceb115, cjsnee
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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
“It is no loss to mankind when one writer decides to call it a day. When a tree falls in the forest, who cares but the monkeys?”

Frank Bascombe is a thirty-eight year-old sportswriter, a job he generally enjoys, a nice house in New Jersey and a younger beautiful girlfriend so you would expect things to look rosy in his life.However, he is also trying to cope bereavement, a young son, and a relatively recent divorce.

The book is essentially a first-person monologue with large sections of personal ruminations and observations - framed by 'normal' events: a trip to Detroit with his new girlfriend, Easter Sunday lunch with her family and fishing trip with the Divorced Men's Club. All the 'action' takes place over an extended Easter weekend.

For me the novel is a study of grief, both for his son and his marriage, as he struggles to find some meaning in his life but he is also a quitter. He had a book of short stories published to some acclaim but quits after that initial success, seemingly quite happy to live off that past glory, then fails to really fight to save his marriage. As such I found it hard to really like Frank and found him rather superficial supposedly like the 'jocks' he interviews. There is also quite a bit of use of brackets (often unnecessary) which stunts an already pedestrian flow.In general this is not too dissimilar to the 'Rabbit' books by John Updike but just not to the quality but then that's just my opinion. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Aug 28, 2015 |
"The Sportswriter" is the first book of a trilogy, but it wasn’t until "Independence Day"- the second book- won the Pulitzer Prize that many people, including myself, discovered Richard Ford. So having read "Independence Day" first, I felt compelled to back-track. And by the way, I was not too impressed with either book.

In a lot of ways Richard Ford’s ‘Frank Bascombe’ series reminds me of John Updike’s 'Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom’ collection… unlikable male protagonist who expresses disappointment at the hand he’s been dealt, but makes an effort to find happiness through infidelity with superficial relationships. Alienates his wife and ruins his marriage, hurts the kids, and ends up lonely and in isolation.

John Updike did it better. Rabbit was larger-than-life… a truly unforgettable character. He did many despicable things but he did them decisively. He never made excuses for his behavior. He struggled, he suffered, and he explained to the reader with great clarity, exactly what he was about and why.

Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe is vague and has a weak personality. He lacks character, conviction, and integrity. He is very self-centered, immature, superficial, and detached from everyone, including the reader. He jumps from bed to bed, declaring his love to the various women he encounters but avoids commitment at all cost. Perhaps the difference between the two characters (Frank and Rabbit) was merely a reflection of the changing times, but after reading The Sportswriter, along with Frank’s many fictional acquaintances, lovers, spouse, and children, the reader is left wondering who Frank Bascombe really is. And judging from his obscure personality, they may not want to get to know him any better.

The story might have been more enjoyable if the dialogue was more realistic. Dialogue seems to be Ford’s weak point, with most conversations grandiose in nature but both boring and abstract. In addition, speaking through the character of Frank Bascombe, it was pompous and annoying that Richard Ford lets the reader know that he feels novelists (regardless of level of failure) are far superior to magazine writers... in fact, superior to most other professions. Not that that would have any relevance on my rating, but if one cannot relate to the opinions of the author, it becomes difficult to have empathy for the characters in the story. ( )
  LadyLo | Jul 13, 2015 |
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford chronicles an Easter Weekend in the life of Frank Bascombe, a failed novelist turned sportswriter. Ford’s breakout third novel grapples with the themes of grief, a failed career, and unhealthy relationships.

Bascombe’s story is told in the first person and you get the sense immediately on what kind of man he becomes in the aftermath of losing of his child, Ralph.

"My life over these twelve years has not been and isn’t now a bad one at all. In most ways it’s been great. And although the older I get the more things scare me, and the more apparent it is to me that bad things can and do happen to you, very little really worries me or keeps me up at night. I still believe in the possibilities of passion and romance. And I would not change much, if anything at all. I would not die. But that’s about it for these matters.

Why, you might ask, would a man give up a promising literary career—-there were some good notices–to become a sportswriter?

It’s a good question. For now let me say only this: if sportswriting teaches you anything, and there is much truth to it as well as plenty of lies, it is that for your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or your life will be ruined.

I believe I have done these things. Faced down regret. Avoided ruin. And I am still here to tell about it."

That section is from very early in the novel and Frank spends the rest of book trying to face down regret and avoid ruin.

The Sportswriter is a novel of introspection and reflection of a man coming to grips with the bad things that can happen to you in life and choices one makes as a result of it. There is not a lot of action or suspense in the novel, just seeing a man come unravelled and still trying to make the best of it in a bad situation.

I must admit that Frank Bascombe was the most unlikable character I had read since Sarah Worth in John Updike’s novel S. Frank’s a cad and a callous human being to the people in his life. However, Ford’s strength as a writer keep me interested to see how Frank’s life would turn out.

The Sportswriter is the first in the quartet of the Frank Bascombe Series. The subsequent books: Independence Day, The Lay of the Land, and Let Me Be Frank You continues to chronicle Frank Bascombe’s life as he ages though my journey into this world will stop here. Not because I hated it or it was a terrible novel. Richard Ford is an excellent writer and I could see why he has received all the acclaim that has come his way. I just did not connect with Frank Bascombe and I’m not compelled to go on any further.

Still, I would write that The Sportswriter was one of the best novels I’ve read in 2015 and deserves its place as one of the best works of modern literary fiction. ( )
1 vote Kammbia1 | Jun 4, 2015 |
Three days in the life of Frank Bascombe, a man who is apathetic toward much of life. Others featured in the book are Walter whom he met at a Divorced Men's Club, his ex-wife called "X", and his girlfriend, Vicki. There's really not a lot of action. I didn't really like the characters. It's not my type of book. ( )
  thornton37814 | Apr 6, 2015 |
Probably the most enchanting thing about the book is how crystalline Frank Bascombe's voice is. It's one of those voices that you can actually hear in your head, or at least that was the effect I felt. It's a stark portrait of what I'd rather not become when I grow up, but sadly it looks that must be the way since my chosen profession, poetry, doesn't pay even when I become a "success." I think the novel is a bit too pedestrian in some parts for it to be something on the level of a This Side Of Paradise or A Farewell To Arms. The sequel won some serious awards and if it's that good then I think this book clearly lays the groundwork. If he can maintain the voice and add perhaps more elements that are surprising yet inevitable in retrospect then I think Independence Day could be a masterpiece. This book, however, is great. ( )
  Salmondaze | Jan 9, 2015 |
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Wiel, Frans van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter.
What’s friendship’s realest measure? I’ll tell you. The amount of precious time you’ll squander on someone else’s calamities and fuck-ups.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679762108, Paperback)

It's hard to imagine a book illuminating the texture of everyday life more brilliantly, or capturing the truth of human emotions more honestly, than Ford does in his account of an alienated scribe in the New Jersey suburbs. Frank Bascombe, Ford's protagonist, clings to his almost villainous despair in a way that Walker Percy's men don't, but the book is heavily influenced by Ford's fellow southerner nonetheless. Read this and you're ready for Ford's Pulitzer Prize-winning sequel, Independence Day.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:45 -0400)

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At the beginning of his career, a young man gives up his chance to become a successful novelist in order to work as a sportswriter.

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