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The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (1986)

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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. ( )
  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 |
A fair novel. Falls in the middle of the 70s-80s male journeys of discovery, a la Irving, Russo, Roth. Frank Bascombe is narrator, and is perhaps autobiographical to an extent. What disheartened me here was that Ford plays Bascombe's character much too safe. He floats about life in an apathetic malaise, prone to stages of "dreaminess" as he reminds us several times too many. It's as though Ford never really decided where to go with him, and so for me, he comes across unformed. With reservations aside, I did generally like Ford's writing, which manages intelligence without pretension, and I looked forward to Bascombe's next move, in a book of constant movement. ( )
1 vote JamesMScott | Nov 16, 2014 |
Frank Bascombe is seriously depressed and he is not handling things at all well. Following the tragic death of his young son, he has fallen into an extended malaise—or a bout of “dreaminess” as he calls it—that has led to several meaningless affairs, the dissolution of his marriage, and a growing disenchantment with the magazine writing job he turned to after giving up on his career as a novelist. In The Sportswriter, we follow Frank’s life over an eventful Easter weekend just before his 39th birthday when both his resolve and some of his closest relationships are severely tested.

The fact that I liked this book despite finding the main character to be mildly repellent can only be testimony to the strong writing and story-telling skills of the author. This is the first of Ford’s novels that I have read—in fact, it is the first of the so-called “Bascombe Quartet,” followed by Independence Day, The Lay of the Land, and Let Me Be Frank With You--and I was impressed with his insight into the human condition, at least as it pertains to the plight of a middle-aged, affluent male living in New Jersey during the 1980s. Without being overly sentimental, the author manages to empower Frank with an odd sense of optimism and resilience that carries him forward despite the various setbacks he faces, many of which are of his own design. I would guess that this is not subject matter that will resonate with every reader—a lot of women, for instance—but it did with me. I look forward to reading the other volumes in the series to see what Frank does next. ( )
  browner56 | Jun 7, 2014 |
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Richard Fordprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:47 -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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