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Independence Day Hardcover – June 13, 1995

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Hardcover, June 13, 1995
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Editorial Reviews Review

Another title for Ford's 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel might be "The Return of Frank Bascombe." Bascombe, in this sequel to Ford's 10-year-old The Sportswriter, comes close to taking his place with John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom in the pantheon of confused white middle-class American literary protagonists. At age 44 he has entered what Bascombe calls "the Existence Period, the high-wire act of normalcy, the part that comes after the big struggle which led to the big blowup." Bascombe's almost comic indecisiveness has led to the breakup of his marriage, a detached, wary affair, and an achingly fragile relationship with his troubled teenage son, Paul. Ford details Bascombe's Fourth of July weekend in leisurely, measured prose, crafting scenes of muted heartbreak.

From Publishers Weekly

Ford is the author now of five novels and a book of short stories, but he is probably best known for The Sportswriter (1988), widely praised as a realistic, compassionate and humorous view of American life as seen through the eyes of a highly intelligent and deeply involved observer. The man was Frank Bascombe of Haddan, N.J., and for those who came to see him as a new kind of American fiction icon, the good news is that he's back. Independence Day is an often poetic, sometimes searing, sometimes hilarious account of a few days around the Fourth of July in Bascombe's new life. Divorced, working with genuine enthusiasm and insight as a real estate salesman (not even John Updike has penetrated the working, commercial life of a contemporary American with such skill and empathy), embarked on a tentative new relationship with Sally, who lives by the sea, narrator Frank struggles through the long weekend with a mixture of courage, self-knowledge and utter foolishness that makes him a kind of 1980s Everyman. He desperately tries to find a new home for some brilliantly observed losers from Vermont, has some resentful exchanges with his former wife, takes a difficult teenage son on what might have been an idyllic pilgrimage to two sports Halls of Fame, bobs and weaves uneasily around Sally and, as the Fourth arrives, achieves a sort of low-key epiphany. This is a long, closely woven novel that, like life itself, is short on drama but dense with almost unconscious observations of the passing scene and reflections on fragmentary human encounters. In fact, if it were possible to write a Great American Novel of this time in our lives, this is what it would look like. Ford achieves astonishing effects on almost every page: atmospheric moments that recall James Agee, a sense of community as strong as those of the great Victorians and an almost Thurberesque grasp of the inanities and silent cruelties between people who are close. Even as a travel writer, evoking journeys through summertime Connecticut and New York, Ford makes his work glow. Perhaps the book's only fault is a technical one: that so many key conversations have to be carried out, in rather improbable length and complexity, on the phone. But it's difficult to imagine a better American novel appearing this year. First printing 50,000; simultaneous Random House Audio; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 451 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 13, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679492658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679492658
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,053,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Here is a guy, you think, who worries too much.
Paul McGrath
I'm a reader- I like dense books and don't mind if there's more character building than plot.
C. Hurt
I literally read the entire thing but could not get myself to finish the last ten pages.
Sarah A. Humphreys

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on May 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the reviewer (...) who raved about Richard Poe's brilliant reading of an unabridged, audio version of this book. Having read many of the divergent opinions listed here by Amazon readers, and remembering some of my own struggles to read authors like Tim Parks (whose narrators internalize much of the story and who digress often), it occurs to me that perhaps this story is better enjoyed on tape. I couldn't wait to get in my car every day and listen to Poe's witty, heart-felt rendition of Ford's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Independence Day is essentially an internal monologue, set on the long July 4th weekend of 1988. It is a sequel to Ford's earlier novel The Sportswriter, which I have yet to read, but I never got the impression I was missing anything due to lack of familiarity with the earlier novel. The protagonist is Frank Bascombe, a divorced, well-educated former sportswriter who now makes his living selling real estate in the affluent New Jersey town of Haddam, while supplementing his earnings with a couple of rental properties he owns in the town's African American neighborhood.
Bascombe is at something of a mid-life crisis. We learn that he has lost a son, and while he has been divorced from his wife for years, he still has feelings for her and secretly hopes for a reconciliation. At the same time, he is seen carrying on a half-hearted affair with a presumed widow whose husband left years earlier and never came back. Bascombe has planned to spend the long weekend with his troubled teenage son Paul, who is apparently battling some sort of mental illness or depression; for some unknown reason Bascombe decides to pick up his son in Connecticut, and drive to the basketball and baseball halls of fame in Springfield, Mass. and Cooperstown, N.Y.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 1996
Format: Hardcover
In Independence Day, Richard Ford chronicles with consummate
skill a few days in the life of a New Jersey sportswriter
turned real estate agent, Frank Bascombe.

With keen observations, outstanding descriptive
power and dialogue more real than "The Real World," Ford
pulls the strings of this great book masterfully.

Frank is in the midst of what he calls "The Existence
Period," a time when he has come to terms with his life
to date and moved on to the more uncharted waters of vaguely
contented middle-agedom. He has arrived at a crossroads
where he has plenty of past but still a lot of future left

The novel's narrative flows like life itself - forward,
back, sideways - in a way that is so natural and consuming
that you would swear the character is you and his thoughts
are yours.

There is not a book that I have read that does better
justice to the realities of being human and adult in
today's world.

At its heart, Independence Day is the recording of two
worlds- the one we sense through our bodies and the one
that exists in our heads - and how these two interact in
a way that is sometimes painful, sometimes beautiful, and
most times just O.K.

To read it is to see yourself, and in many ways, all of us.

A must.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
I suppose I will never belong to the self-proclaimed literati, because while I can appreciate the fact that this book is very well written, still I believe that that is not enough in itself to make it a great book - certainly not a Putlizer-Prize winner. Having never read the prequel to this book, it's possible I've missed something crucial that could have contributed to my enjoyment of Independence Day. But as it was, I found it to be tedious, often boring, and almost transparently "deep" - as if Ford was more concerned with waxing philosophical than with telling a compelling story. There are so many authors out there who can both write well and tell a compelling story, that Ford is hardly the first author I would turn to.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Paul Cook on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
From the remarks at this site, people either love this novel or hate it. I hated it. I hated it for the reason that it represents all that is bad about MFA program writing in the last 30 years. The emphasis is entirely on STYLE. Forget story. Forget that your reader needs some reason to be reading the narrative. Just throw out and string together wonderful language and the reader will follow you anywhere. Some of this thinking goes back to Henry James, some of it goes back to Virginia Woolf who was so terrified of books with plots or dominating conceits (like H.G. Wells' THE TIME MACHINE). The first 100 pages of this novel are about a real estate deal and the people to whom Frank Bascombe is trying to sell a property. It's brilliantly written. In fact, it's so brilliantly written that I had a lot of problems seeing a former sportswriter being so introspective and articulate about his life, his loves, and the region of the country he inhabits. This book has no driving plot. In fact, it's an arbitrarily chosen conceit: what happens on July 4th in the life of one guy. It's not James Joyce's ULYSSES nor is it trying to be, but EVERY thought this man has is in this book. And none of it is related to a plot or story or any reason whatever why a person--any person--should pick up the book.

Indeed, that seems to be the crux. I read this book because it was by Richard Ford, a man whom all of my colleagues in the mainstream fiction world revere. You must read this book, they said. So I did. And I consider it an extraordinary waste of my time. To be sure, this is a judgment call, but I'm allowed to make it. EVERY reader is allowed to make that call. But I know I'm in the minority in this. This book is supposed to be one of the greatest American novels of the last 25 years.
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