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Be Mine

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Earlier in the novel, Frank details a relationship he has with Betty, a Vietnamese American massage therapist who he considers marrying and who may or may not seriously consider him as anything more than a reliable client. This may have some point in a five-novel portrait of Frank Bascombe, but in a stand-alone story it really serves little purpose. One of the hallmarks of the stories, and of your work in general, is the way you depict what I’ll call the changing emotional “weather” between your characters, especially in dialogue. By the way, I add – though I know Ford would have no interest in such low things – he has now outdone John Updike, who wrote four novels and one novella in his Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series. Much is made of the clinic, its physical layout and its various attempts at raising people's spirits, separate from whatever it can or can't do for them physically. Frank and Paul are united in their rejection of this atmosphere and Frank rents a vehicle, old, large, not quite a camper, for a road trip to Mt Rushmore, where he went with his parents some 60 years earlier. If you do nothing, you will be auto-enrolled in our premium digital monthly subscription plan and retain complete access for 65 € per month.

Richard Ford: ‘Work. That’s what I do’ - Financial Times Richard Ford: ‘Work. That’s what I do’ - Financial Times

What is Ford reading now for pleasure? “Well I’m reading Fintan [O’Toole]’s book [ We Don’t Know Ourselves] for one thing. Which is immersive and wonderful. And very useful for a non-Irish reader, oh boy. And I’m just about to read Michael Magee’s debut novel [ Close to Home]. My wife’s read it. I couldn’t get it out of her hands.” Apt reading, as he tells me he will be in Ireland next month. Resolutely uncynical, blessed with the perceptual gifts of his creator, Frank Bascombe incarnates an old idea of America, now waning; and he knows it. The Mount Rushmore presidents, finally reached, have something “decidedly measly about them […] the great men themselves seem unapologetically apart, as if they’ve seen me, and I’m too small.” If that seems a bit on the nose, well, neither Frank Bascombe nor Richard Ford have ever shied away from the obvious – the obvious being, like everything else, part of the job.In the book Frank seems trapped between the present of his experience with Paul’s illness and memories of the past. Does Ford reflect more on the past as he gets older? In the drawing room, we sit side by side, and prepare to talk about Frank Bascombe, Ford’s most famous creation and the man who’ll inevitably outlive him. Bascombe first appeared in his 1986 novel The Sportswriter – an American everyman who suffers an existential crisis after the death of his young son (a failed novelist turned sports journalist, Bascombe later moves into property). Three more books about him followed – Independence Day (1995), the second, won the Pulitzer prize for fiction – and now here is the fifth and, we are forewarned, final book in the series, Be Mine.

Be Mine: A Frank Bascombe Novel by Richard Ford | Goodreads Be Mine: A Frank Bascombe Novel by Richard Ford | Goodreads

I’m happy to say that if it hadn’t been for Updike, I probably would never have had the temerity to think that I could write connected books And then he is almost in. I give another grunting upwards lift, ignoring everything but what I’m doing and doing my best to do. And in he sags. At which point nothing else matters. Readers of The Sportswriter will remember Paul as an appealing little boy who kept pigeons in a coop behind the house in Haddam and sent them off with forlorn messages to his dead older brother—who Paul thought lived on Cape May. In the next novel, Paul was a teenager, troubled, abrasive, yet still intermittently appealing. Then he was briefly married and worked for Hallmark writing “dopey” greeting cards. Familiarity with these previous incarnations is in no way necessary, though it does add to the illusion of depth, an accretion of sedimentary layers. The astonishing core of Be Mine is the barbed, tender, despairing bond between father and son, a bond both battered and strengthened by the cruel “progress” of Paul’s disease.As readers we can feel the fear of that, and understanding of growing older, weaker, and more uncomfortable with a body that doesn’t work as well for us. The fact of Donald Trump’s election continues, even now, to seem preposterous to him. But Ford believes – or perhaps he only chooses to believe – that his presidency was an interregnum, not the start of a downward spiral. “The republic is fairly ebullient and I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected again. Partly, he’s too old, just like Biden. Partly, he’s probably insane. I think it’s become glaringly obvious to everybody that he’s delusional.” So democracy will endure in the US? “I don’t know the answer to that, and I won’t be here anyway. But I will say that its survival is a whole lot less dependent on who the president is than it is on our position vis-a-vis our antagonists. The fact that we cannot stop this insane war in Ukraine. Americans are taking it as a given that we can’t stop it. And what’s happening with the Chinese. I don’t have much of an idea about that, but I know it’s nothing good. They’re not riven by doubts. They’re not riven by ethical conflicts. And I don’t think we’re in a position to do anything about them.” I find it hard to subordinate what’s happening now to anything I would have written about it. Because what’s happening now will eventually have to become subordinate to people’s imaginations, but I don’t feel I have the language for what’s happening now. I wish, in a way, I did. This pandemic is going to produce some wonderful literature. That’s not much of a solace to us, but I wouldn’t even try to apply my thinking about these stories to the situation that’s before us now, because all those stories were framed around a world that’s in jeopardy of never existing again. The stories feel almost quaint.

The Guardian Fiction to look out for in 2023 | Fiction | The Guardian

Richard Ford talks to Alex Clark about his latest novel Be Mine. Ford has written about American life through his character Frank Bascombe for nearly forty years though The Sportswriter to Independence Day and Lay of the Land. This time Frank undertakes a road trip across the country with his son who is dying of ALS - a form of motor neurone disease – and their journey is both tender and tough, filled with wit. Ford discusses his writing, passion for observation and unerring faith in the US political institutions. Looking away from Paul’s death, Frank looks instead at America – Ford’s other great subject in the Bascombe books, which now essentially constitute a social history of Ford’s own boomer generation from midlife to end times. There can be no happy ending here, and Frank knows it. But “I happen to believe there’s plenty to be said for a robust state of denial about many things – death being high on the list”. I assume when I’m in Walgreens [the chemist] – and unfortunately, at my age, I often am in Walgreens – that 50% of people there are carrying. The reason they are doing this, ostensibly, is in case some malefactor tries to shoot them. But it’s blurry because I can tell you that when you walk around carrying a firearm, you look at everybody as a potential target. You’re basically thinking subliminally about the possibility that you will shoot.Now that Frank’s story has fattened into a sequence spanning four decades and five books, it is easier to perceive that Hoffman’s review may have missed The Sportswriter’s point (though shooting her book in retaliation still seems excessive). As you progress through The Sportswriter and its sequels – Independence Day (1995), The Lay of the Land (2006) and the title novella in the collection Let Me Be Frank With You (2014) – it becomes clearer and clearer that these are, indeed, books about happiness as a project of conscious denial. Frank, in his own way, does what the alien Tralfamadorians tell Billy Pilgrim to do in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five: he lives only in the happy moments. Blessed with the perceptual gifts of his creator, Frank incarnates an old idea of America, now waning; and he knows it Change the plan you will roll onto at any time during your trial by visiting the “Settings & Account” section. What happens at the end of my trial? It's been a while since I read the four previous works by Ford featuring and following Frank Bascombe through family and marriages and divorces and emotions, holidays, yearnings, America and more. I can't say I remember them particularly well, but I recall falling into each happily, reading them with great focus, and have each on my bookshelves. Having read this one, which may or may not be the final installment in Bascombe's world, I might very well make it a project to read them all again from the beginning. In Be Mine, Frank is now 74, working in real estate part-time, mostly a desk job, living alone, when he learns from his daughter that his son, Paul, with whom he's had an uneven relationship, has ALS. A road trip, as the other novels include, is featured here, once Paul has gone through an experimental drug program at Mayo. This is not laugh out loud funny, but the views are amusing, droll, the nature of America precise, the relationship between father and son true, and it was a pleasure to take this latest trip with Frank.

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