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The Lay of the Land [Kindle Edition]

Richard Ford
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)

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Kindle Edition $11.99  
Hardcover --  
Paperback $12.72  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $35.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
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Book Description

It is fall, 2000 and Frank Bascombe has arrived at a state of optimistic pragmatism that he calls the Permanent Period of life. Epic mistakes have already been made, dreams downsized, and Frank reflects that now at least there are fewer opportunities left in life to get things wrong. But the tranquillity he anticipated is not to be. In fact, as Thanksgiving dinner with his children and first wife nears, the Permanent Period proves as full of possibility as life had ever been. In his third Frank Bascombe novel Richard Ford contemplates the human character with wry precision. Graceful, expansive, filled with pathos but irresistibly funny, The Lay of the Land is a modern American masterpiece.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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


From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Frank Bascombe, Ford's former fiction writer and sports journalist who we have seen age and change since Ford introduced him in 1986's The Sportswriter, must be one of the most difficult fictional characters to bring to audio life. His moods and mindsets shift like the shores of his native New Jersey, where at 55 he now sells real estate, and keeping them clear and credible requires a reader of subtle and impeccable judgment. Barrett, a veteran stage, film and television actor, has a voice that should make listeners think they're hearing Frank tell his own story. He catches every nuance from the odd to the tragic, making the breakup of two marriages, a life-threatening disease and the disappointment over a son's career choice as vital a part of Bascombe's story as his strange mental journeys, which are often triggered by headlines or TV news items. A sharp, revealing interview with author Ford is part of this very large, extremely important audio package.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1311 KB
  • Print Length: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; 1 edition (June 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0085UPJAI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,274 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet Downshift In Life Expectations November 12, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"This novel showcases many of Mr. Ford's gifts: his ability to capture the nubby, variegated texture of ordinary life; his unerring ear for how ordinary people talk; his talent for conjuring up subsidiary characters with a handful of brilliant brushstrokes.
MICHIKO KAKUTANI, New York Times

Frank Bascombe, real estate manager, aka sportswriter and novelist, is in the prime of his life. He is on what he describes as ""the permanent phase" of his life, the period when life "starts to look like a destination rather than a journey". He is 55, his second wife has left him for her first husband, he has prostate cancer, his daughter is moving from her lesbian phase, to what exactly? His son has a girlfriend and wants a relationship with his father. But Paul, the son is overbearing and, what was it that Frank did not give him? His first wife, Anne, calls and wants to start another relationship, But, do they really love each other? These and other life problems all emerge within three days of this 500 page novel.

These three days take place in 2000. I began to see the irony in Frank's thinking when he said his life was going down a permanent road, just when the election of Bush has just taken place. There is no peace in America or in Frank's life at this time. We find that events and tragedy's spring up around us at all times. Frank realizes he has fear for 'The Lay of the Land' in 2000, and, as we all know 9/11/2001 is just around the corner. We have the luxury of looking back as Frank tells his story.

Some parts of this novel are too limiting, the explosion in the local hospital, and one of the police officers must question him as a suspect but that never occurs. His first wife has but a small part in the novel, and it is confusing.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More ordinary, with flashes of brilliance..... February 5, 2007
Format:Hardcover
Having written his first two tomes in 1986 and 1996, author Richard Ford seems poised to end Frank Bascombe's story as he approaches the age of 60; with a decade's gap. Ford is a marvelous writer of prose, and while much of the book takes place in Bascombe's thoughts, we are treated to dialogue in his encounters with friends and foes from the earlier books, as well as a new character or two - notably his employee, realtor Mike Mahoney, who is a Tibetan Buddhist and a consummate capitalist.

In addition to the ups and downs of normal life, as the book opens Bascombe muses on his own mortality. He has suffered from prostrate cancer for which he is treated at the Mayo clinic with a procedure that sounds like a clinical trial, so incomprehensible is it to me to be walking around with radioactive pellets in your body.

It is this sense of ongoing danger and risk that sets the tone for the musings of Bascombe, as he looks back on his successes and failures during the "permanent period" of his life....where he's reached his destination on the Jersey shore, instead of continuing his journey. But where his thoughts on life and death seemed to spur his actions in the first two novels, in "The Lay of the Land", they seem somewhat incidental to a series of unrelated, ordinary happenings. There are whole sections of the book, that, while descriptive, seem to go nowhere. Eventually, as you bog down and wonder where Ford is taking you, you start to be bothered by his lengthy descriptive passages for ordinary incidentals. In short, where the first two books gave depth and sincerity to writer/realtor Bascombe, this third novel becomes tedious.

I must say I'm disappointed, because after the first chapter, "Are You Ready to Meet Your Maker?
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46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get it! Especially the AUDIOBOOK October 30, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I love this series and have waited patiently for further Frank Adventures. The wait has paid off. Yes, it's a long book; and yes there is some repetition, but the amazing wit and insightfullness of the writer's ability to plunge the depths of Frank's soul is astounding. Each sentence is wonderfully crafted with twists and turns that tug at your soul and at other times make you laugh outloud; he paints images that stay with you; notes situations and and experiences that plague all of us 50 somethings. I thought it was a fabulous read. Not a quick read, but one to be savoured by the fire this winter. He makes me laugh that warm human bittersweet laugh of recognition. *** I subsequently went ahead and got the AUDIO version .. wow ...Go ahead a treat yourself .. get this audio and listen to the wonderful narrator (Joe Barret) tell Frank Bascombe's story. This is a book that is meant to be heard out loud. I am not an audiobook fan, but this reading has won me over. The writing is heart-wrenchingly touching and the reading supports the writing 100 per cent. I laughed, I cried. Gee whiz, it's good stuff.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written as usual, but much more contrived January 31, 2007
Format:Hardcover
As the guardian of Frank Bascombe's life and times, Richard Ford faces in this third book a two-pronged dilemma: First, how to continue the trend of surpassed expectations for the product, and, second, how to keep it fresh. In the end, an alienated protaganist who squats inside our heads for twenty-five years is either going to start having wacky things happen to him, or start to sound tediously self-absorbed, or both. In The Lay of the Land, sadly, it's both. Several of the things that happen to Frank in this book (as things can only happen to Frank) are so implausible as to make them, paradoxically, predictable--as if the only person they could have happened to is the person to whom they must. Moreover, a guy who, after twenty-five years of behaving in these very ways, can still leave his house to squirrel-up a routine real estate deal when he knows he is about to receive the most important telephone call of his recent life, seems at this point less deserving of our sympathy as a modern anti-hero, and more as someone in immediate and lasting need of some heavy-duty counseling. All in all, a disappointing effort from a true virtuoso of the modern form. Sorry, Richard. Sorry, Frank. Sorry, everyone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a real person
Ford writes this story in real time with a person's deepest thoughts. I knew Frank and wanted to share his every experience with him. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Irma Gurman
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
A rich and sublime end to the trilogy. Probably the best of the three books. Enjoyable and engaging from start to finish.
Published 4 months ago by Mike Nestler
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
What a trilogy! Super read of the three over three years. A great way to get to the permanent period for Frank.
Published 4 months ago by Dr. David McCoubrey
3.0 out of 5 stars THE LAY OF THE LAND CAN RUN SLOW.
I had a hard time getting through this one, although I finally did, It kind of skipped around too much for me, and very slow getting to the point, if there was one.
Published 5 months ago by BARBARA BRITSCHGI
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely the best stories ever - I love Frank Bascombe
Read all three books in the trilogy. Absolutely loved all of them. Written with great depth of feeling. Highly recommended reading.
Published 9 months ago by Jeanne M. Sikora
4.0 out of 5 stars Bascombe's Swan Song?
Hooray, it only took me over 4 months to finish this book! Not because it was bad, but it's just I can't find much time for reading paper books since I got a Kindle--and now a... Read more
Published 10 months ago by BJ Fraser
1.0 out of 5 stars Regret buying it
Very depressing read. Had a hard time relating to the characters. Thought it would have more interesting facts about New Jersey
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Bascombe in Autumn
If you have read The Sportswriter and Independence Day, you already know Frank Bascombe, the thoughtful, musing, doubting, rather passive protagonist of Ford’s trilogy. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dee Bobbe
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lay of the Land
Reminds me of my time at the shore. Rather slow moving but interesting. I skiped over some of the pages.
Published 15 months ago by Dolores
5.0 out of 5 stars Ford doesn't disappoint
Richard Ford's novel is plotless, and the same is so full of events. The action of the book fits in three days of the life of the protagonist Frank Baskombe, but in those three... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ray Garraty
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