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The Sportswriter: Bascombe Trilogy (1) Paperback – June 13, 1995

3.2 out of 5 stars 211 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

From Publishers Weekly

Ralph Bascombe, the brooding antihero here, is not a Walter Matthaustyle, cigar-smoking sportswriter. Rather he resembles John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom (sans cynicism). Bascombe has decided in his "mid-life crisis" years to write heartwarming articles for a glossy sports magazine, and in the literal world of sportswriting, he has found a way to avoid life's "searing regret" without sacrificing its mysteries. In fact, Ralph is comfortable all around, living an ordinary, invisible existence in the "muted and adaptable" landscape of a New Jersey suburb. He has two lovely children, buddies in the Divorced Men's Club and occasional romps in the sack with a buxom nurse. Then comes a crisis, with a narrative that becomes an odyssey through an extraordinary Easter week of death and renewal that brutally challenges Ralph's fragile optimism. This painfully funny addition to Ford's two other masterful novels (A Piece of My Heart and The Ultimate Good Luck establishes the author among the best realist American writers today.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 13, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679762108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679762102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Taking place entirely over Easter weekend in 1983, "The Sportswriter" portrays Frank Bascombe, a 38-year-old man living in bland suburbia and suffering from the inertia and "dreaminess" of a mid-life crisis. The theme of middle-aged, middle-class male angst has pretty much become a genre unto itself (see John Updike, Philip Roth, Frederick Barthelme, et al.), and I confess that I've grown somewhat weary of it, but what rescues Ford's entry into the field is his compelling and wry prose.

Like the author himself, Bascombe hails from Mississippi, lives in New Jersey, published a well-received collection of short stories earlier in life, and works as a writer for a glossy sports weekly. There the resemblances between author and protagonist apparently end. Bascombe is suffering: he is still reeling from the loss of his son four years earlier and the subsequent demise of his marriage after his wife discovered evidence of his infidelity. He's the type of guy who knows a lot of people but has no real friends, and his male reserve prevents him from confronting the tragedies experienced by his family, the lingering feelings for his ex-wife, and the emotional vacuity of his life. Instead of therapy, he escapes to a fortune-telling psychic; unfortunately, she seems to be away for the weekend.

During the course of three days, Frank reunites with his wife briefly for the anniversary of his son's death. He travels to Detroit both for business (to conduct an interview with a permanently disabled football player) and for a short holiday with his latest girlfriend Vicki. The trip is a disaster on both counts.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter" by now has become the only slightly less heralded prequel to his Pulitzer Prize winning "Independence Day". While critics have been nearly unanimous in their praise for Ford's breakthrough novel, readers have been more divided about its merits. Some allege its lack of plot, others complain about the seemingly interminable stream of consciousness styled interior monologue of its central character. But what makes failed novelist turned sportswriter Frank Boscombe such an enduring figure in American literature may be his more than passing resemblence to Willy Loman and his litany of everydayman insecurities. Surely, the dank whiff of failure about Frank's middle aged crisis struck existence is a condition that most educated American males can relate to.

Bereaved of a child and divorced from a wife (referred to only as X) whom he still vaguely regards as part of his environment, Frank finds himself drifting into a permanent state of "dreaminess", which when he explains himself turns out to be a place we've all been before though few would care to admit it. X and sportsmen in general, he calls factualists. Their lives are purposeful, defined, nailed down by very specific goals. Sportswriting allows Frank to abdicate from making any real decisions because his duty is only to report. Should it surprise that Frank scores a big zero on the relationship front ? Dreaminess isn't conducive to the making of any real friendships. With women, there's at least sex, though his fling with Vicky proves to be another rudderless affair. With men, there's even less incentive to fake interest.
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Okay, ladies: in spite of the title, go right out and buy this book. If you've ever complained that you just don't understand what makes men tick, The Sportswriter was meant exactly for you.
Frank Bascombe's young son has just died, his marriage has crumbled, and his promising career as a novelist has failed - and the guy's only in his late 30s. Depressing, right? Right. For sure. Sooooo, why bother, you might ask? Answer: Frank has a rich inner life that makes you want to stick with him. This is where his problems originate. We know he is sensitive (these days, we'd say he has a well-developed feminine side) and cares about the pleasures of life's small moments - but he's got a typical male problem: He can't express this side of himself to those closest to him, resorting to moral dishonesty rather than expose himself as a caring human.
Read it, ladies. Then read the sequel, Independence Day, which won the Pulitzer in 1996. But read this one first. It's important.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Ford is a great writer. This book was considered a marvel in its time, a writers book passed around by writers, though it didn't have much "buzz" beyond the fiction writing community. Seeing it on here makes me want to take off a day, go by the beach and reread to end up the way Mr. Bascomb does. There is something in the modest respect for the real details of life and its limitations and an eye for the realities of life in this and all of Ford's work.
Of course, this is necessary reading because Ford's sequel with the same character, married and a decade or so later was his Independence Day that won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, a larger more ambitious work, but with the same accuracy, modesty, and wisdom.
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