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The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford

The Lay of the Land (edition 2007)

by Richard Ford

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Title:The Lay of the Land
Authors:Richard Ford
Info:Vintage Canada (2007), Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Read in 2013, Your library
Tags:home, r2013

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The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford



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Book three of Richard Ford’s trilogy about the life of Frank Bascombe starts out quite slow. Eleven years have passed since the conclusion of "Independence Day" with Frank turning 55 years old. He is still mourning his lost son, still selling real estate, still pondering the mystery of his unsuccessful relationships with the women in his life, and still trying to develop an acceptable relationship with his now adult children.

Though he has moved and remarried, not much else has changed in Frank’s life. The repetition can be boring. But if the story doesn’t put you to sleep within the first quarter, or drive you crazy from Frank’s indecisive, lackadaisical, passive personality, you may end up enjoying "The Lay of the Land".

Although Frank assures the reader that he has now passed from the “Permanent Stage” to the “Development Stage”, it is obvious that he is still continually examining his life and searching for ways to improve… but never seems to get anywhere.

The entire novel takes place in one week, culminating on Thanksgiving Day. Frank endures a calamity of events: a bar fight, car vandalism, funeral, dealing with is ex-wife and children, trying to close a deal on a property sale, and reconciling himself to the fact that he has prostate cancer… all while planning a family Thanksgiving weekend for his out-of-town children. Sounds like a lot, but as Frank plods from one scene to the next, the story gets weighted down with far too lengthy descriptions of the local environment, and Frank’s own personal thoughts. He has the annoying tendency to label and stereotype people based on their personality traits and his own personal experience with them (sometimes inappropriately, many times in-correctly) leaving the reader to think, “What a jerk!”.

Thankfully, in the last third of the book, the action picks up, and Frank seems to finally achieve some real “development”. I actually liked the ending. And despite the fact that "Independence Day" won the Pulitzer Prize, my favorite reading in the trilogy was "The Lay of the Land". ( )
  LadyLo | Aug 2, 2015 |
Walker Percy without the faith. I read an interview with this character somewhere, in which he said something to the effect that we must look for comfort to art rather than religion. I take it that this means he is well aware of the ersatz religious nature of this his work. Still, at my age and given the theme of this elegiac non-story, it's hard not to give him a few points.
  cstebbins | Feb 27, 2015 |
Amazing observer of life in the 21st century, in all its aspects, from a middle aged male viewpoint. Hang in there Frank! ( )
  ghefferon | Jan 18, 2015 |
Ford's third book about the ordinary white American man, Frank Bascombe, as ever offers a richly patterned and intricate meditation on the average and quotidian - and how extraordinary that is. The passage through life of a family man, navigating the new and unexpected, watching change and conscious of being one step behind or out of step, just holding things together or seeing them fall apart, takes us through a matter of days and miles in nearly 500 pages of intersections, hits and near misses.
  otterley | Feb 22, 2014 |
Boring, overwritten, pretentious crap laced with a steady diet of pronouncements on the evils of being a Republican. ( )
  PCorrigan | Aug 12, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679776672, Paperback)

After more than a decade, Richard Ford revives Frank Bascombe, the beloved protagonist from The Sportswriter and Independence Day. Fans will be scrambling for The Lay of the Land, a novel that finds Bascombe contending with health, marital, and familial issues wake of the 2000 presidential election. We asked Richard Ford to tell us a little more about what it's like to create (and share so much time with) a character like Frank. Read his short essay below. --Daphne Durham

Richard Ford on Frank Bascombe

I never think of the characters I write as exactly people, the way some writers say they do, letting their characters "just take over and write the book;" or for that matter, in the way I want readers to think of them as people, or even as I think of characters in novels I myself read (and didn't write). In my own books I do all the writing--the characters don't. And for me to think of them as people, instead of as figures made of language, would make my characters less subject to the useful and necessary changes that occur as I grow in my own awareness about them as I make them up. Writing a character for twenty-five years and for three novels, as I have written about Frank Bascombe, has meant that Frank has, of course, become a presence in my life (and a welcome one). When I wrote Independence Day I began with the belief that Frank was pretty much the same character and presence he was in The Sportswriter. But when I went back later and read parts of The Sportswriter, I found that the sentences Frank "spoke" and that filled that second book were longer, more complex, and actually contained more nitty experience than the first book. This has also been true of The Lay of the Land: longer sentences, more experience to reconcile and transact, more words required to make lived life seem accessible. You could say that Frank had simply changed as we all do. But practically speaking--as his author--what this makes me think is that I've had to make up Frank up newly each time, and have not exactly "gone back" and "found" him--although Frank's history from the previous books has certainly needed to be kept in sight and made consistent. What is finally consistent to me about Frank is that I "hear" language I associate with him, and it is language that pleases me, with which I and he can (if I'm a good enough writer) represent life in an intelligent and hopeful and buoyant spirit a reader can make use of. --Richard Ford

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:30 -0400)

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Frank Bascombe's career in real estate is thriving and his life finally seems to be on the right track, but when he is faced with marital and medical crises, he must find a new way to navigate the challenges of life without endangering everything he has worked for.… (more)

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