Previewing the 2006 Texas Book Festival


The Lay Of The Land

by Richard Ford

Knopf, 496 pp., $26.95

It has been more than a decade since we last encountered Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of Richard Ford's acclaimed novels, The Sportswriter and Independence Day. The former introduced Bascombe in 1986 as an alienated young man. The latter, appearing in 1995, continued his saga and was the first book to win both the Pulitzer and the Pen/Faulkner. The Lay of the Land picks up with Bascombe now 55 years old, still a successful real-estate agent living on the Jersey shore, dealing with the aftermath of prostate cancer and uncertainty of whether his second marriage has come to an end after a truly bizarre twist of fate.

While The Sportswriter was set around an Easter holiday and Independence Day during a Fourth of July weekend, we find Bascombe here in the days before Thanksgiving weekend of 2000, with the contested presidential election as a backdrop, preparing for the separate arrivals of his grown son and daughter and their mother, from whom he has been divorced for many years. Although Bascombe has optimistically entered the "Permanent Period" of his life – with some semblance of its anticipated stability still intact – there have been significant and unexpected complications.

In the course of these three books, we've come to know Bascombe as a quintessential everyman, a WASP American living a materially comfortable life in suburbia, dealing with the same universal issues that confront us all in their own unique way: relationships, family, job, health, mortality, and our place in the world. His sometimes brutal, often humorous, but always astute observations of the turn-of-century American psyche mirror the frequently unspoken anxieties that beset an individual within modern society. One could even argue that Bascombe puts a face on the baby boom generation as it begins to contemplate its own closing chapters.

Sunday, Oct. 29, 11am

Senate Chamber

Literary Fiction

Richard Ford; Intro: Tom Grimes

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