Saturday, November 03, 2007

Novelist Richard Ford at Plymouth State (NH), Sunday November 4

Ten points if you know where novelist Richard Ford is living now.

His moves from one state to another have been a much-enjoyed characteristic that readers of his novels -- especially INDEPENDENCE DAY -- have seized on, to point out contrasts with his characters and their lives. INDEPENDENCE DAY was the first novel ever to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/Faulkner Award -- and it was a sequel, to his well-known THE SPORTSWRITER. When THE LAY OF THE LAND came out in 2006, Ford said it would be the last in the sequence featuring Frank Bascombe. The term "dirty realism" may well have emerged with critical attention to the series.

Ford will read at Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH, on Sunday November 4 at 3 p.m. -- tickets are free but call ahead to reserve them, so you'll have seats (603-535-ARTS).

Oh yes, the answer?



One reason Ford appeared at PSU's Eagle Pond Series, named for Donald Hall's family farm, is that his connection with Hall is a powerful one. Ford recounted that Donald Hall "changed Christina's and my life back i 1970 in a way that, had he not, I would probably be a carpenter now." Ford was literally about to earn his journeyman's license in carpentry when Hall invited him into an audacious program at the University of Michigan, which would accept five people -- who would just WRITE for three years. "It was really just Donald who did it, Donald taking a flyer on a kid like I was."

Ford read from his final novel in the Frank Bascombe series, THE LAY OF THE LAND, which is set in the margin of time in 2000 between when the presidential vote was taken and, in Ford's words, "December, when the Republicans stole the election." He called this interlude a time when Americans were asleep.

After reading from both the opening chapter and a mid-book chapter when Bascombe's wife's first husband walks back into the couple's marriage, Ford took questions and quoted Randall Jarrell: that "a novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it." He went on to explain the process of his latest book, for which he spent almost 3 years writing the first draft in longhand, then read the book aloud to his wife Christina, then read it aloud again to himself -- in order to be sure that "every word and stop and line break is chosen."

Which in turn reflects a principle that Ford and Donald Hall hold very much in common, doesn't it?

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