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The Sportswriter (Frank Bascombe #1)

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  11,609 ratings  ·  750 reviews
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 ...more
Published June 18th 1996 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1986)
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Glenn Russell

Richard Ford’s 1986 novel, The Sportswriter, is about a divorced 38 year old suburban New Jersey writer who lives out the American dream gone sour. In some ways the story reminded me of Camus’s The Stranger. What I found particularly disturbing about the first-person narrator and main character, Ralph Bascombe, was the way Ralph would always project motives, backgrounds, ideas and futures onto all the people he encountered -- family, friends, strangers. It didn’t matter who you were, if you came
Apr 14, 2013 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Folks who don't mind good writing about a guy you don't like
Recommended to Mike by: Group Read On The Southern Literary Trail
The Sportswriter: Richard Ford's Bleak View of the American Dream

 photo RichardFord_TheSportswriter_zps27b18424.jpg

The Sportswriter, 1st Edition, Vintage, 1986

"My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter.

For the past fourteen years I have lived here at 19 Hoving Road, Haddam, New Jersey, in a large Tudor house bought when a book of short stories I wrote sold to a movie producer for a lot of money, and seemed to set my wife and me and our three children--two of whom were not even born yet--up for a good life.

Just exactly what that good lif
There was hardly any sports in this book at all. What a rip-off....

Frank Bascombe craves a 'normal' suburban existence the way a junkie craves heroin. Once an up-and-coming writer living with his wife in New York, Frank quit fiction writing and fled to the 'burbs in Jersey when offered a sports writing job for a weekly magazine. Frank's efforts to be a plain old suburbanite with zero introspection of his own life haven't exactly worked out, though. His young son died of a wasting disease and hi
The Sportswriter started out really strong for me - seemed thoughtful and familiar and American, a bit like Stegner's Crossing to Safety.

But after a while, say about 250 pages, I stopped finding the character thoughtful and subtle and started thinking he was kind of a boorish self-serving windbag. It didn't help that I'd rather have spent more time with his ex wife and children, who seemed charming, funny and smart, than his ditzy and unappealing girlfriend or his sadsack friends. I think I als
Scott Porch
This is the second time I have read this book, having first read it five or six years ago when a book about a divorced sportswriter had a certain currency to me. I have read Ford's recent short story collection, “A Multitude of Sins,” and a number of his other short stories published in The New Yorker.

The Sportswriter, which takes place over an Easter Weekend, represents something of a turning point in writer Frank Bascomb’s life. The story begins with his early morning meeting with his ex-wife
Beautiful writing. This was like reading an Edward Hopper painting. Loneliness, sadness and beauty.
I like sports, I like writing, so I figured I'd like The Sportswriter, written by acclaimed author and Pulitzer winner Richard Ford. After about 25 pages I realized that I disliked this book, and I hate-read the rest of the thing because I have a weird inability to give up on a book.

Ford comes from the Richard Russo school of writing, in that he seems to think that inundating the reader with detail will somehow make the book more real, or authentic (I call it that because Russo's Empire Falls w
Ben Hourigan
I've been raving about this book for months, chiefly on the basis of its opening chapters, which for me were an unprecedented exposition in art (and such beautiful art, at that) of the value of the ordinary, uncelebrated life. It's something I am often deep need of being reminded of, so often do I feel myself a failure, and curiously enough, it's one of the things I hope to remind others of later in my writing career. Maybe not just now—my first two books deal with the issues of one who (falsely ...more
There’s a scene in the first chapter of The Sportswriter that lays bare the novel’s heart. Frank Bascombe and his ex-wife—referred to as X throughout—arrive home from a night out to find their house ransacked. In making a list of the missing items for the police, X finds letters from another woman and demands to know who she is. Frank remains silent, and X, releasing the trapped fury created by the death of her son, her deteriorating marriage, and now the apparent infidelity of her husband, tear ...more
About ten years ago I read the second book in this triglogy -- Independence Day, for which writer Richard Ford won a Pulitzer, and found his writing quite nice. Reminded of that, I picked this up, the first book in that trilogy. Either Ford's writing changed a great deal from one book to the other, or my tastes have changed, not sure which. But this wasn't the type of writing I remembered.

The book follows Frank Bascombe over an Easter weekend as he drifts around in his own mind, recalling the de
After reading "Canada" and "The Sportswriter", I have come to the conclusion that I just don't care for Richard Ford's writing. I found both of the books dull, slow, and remarkably shallow considering the narrators spend most of their time intently navel-gazing. Maybe it's a guy thing that I'm just not getting, but I found none of Frank Bascombe's introspective musings to be revelatory, illuminating, or at all interesting.

Ford used repetition in both the books I read but not to any advantage. I
Stephen Burns
Another book I couldn't finish. Sigh. This is about as dry as it gets, and the first half of the book is spent inside Bascombe's head. 200 pages of introspection just doesn't do it for me.
Anne Kadet
Like reading a piece of poop.
Hi, I’m Frank Bascombe entering middle age in a dreamy self-absorbed lethargic marking of the time between birth and death. My wife divorced me after she became disillusioned with me and I turned to other women to reaffirm my value. This change in our relationship and resulting divorce was precipitated by the death of our nine year old son, but I have always avoided any challenge and sought mediocrity. Many years ago I started out to be a novelist but it required a lot of thought so I settled fo ...more
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Jun 12, 2008 Julia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: males
I lost this poor book under my bed back in '07 and just uncovered it. I think it goes to show how much I was enjoying it initially that I let it lie there for a good half year without trying to retrieve it.

But when I returned to the trials and tribulations of a near-forty year-old sportswriter in the 1980s, all of a sudden his dreamy, midwest-meets-Jersey language and sensitive yet overly-mysogynistic way of thinking really resonated with me and I enjoyed every last page. Yet I still wouldn't re
I bought Independence Day some time ago and was considering The Lay of the Land when a friend said I should read the whole trilogy in order so I started on The Sportswriter. I was initially drawn in by the writing style: informal, slightly comic, completely honest. This is one of the most interesting novels of “everyday life” I can think of; it’s also a novel that gives me real insights into how men think. I’ve never got into Updike’s Rabbit novels, figured they must appeal primarily to men, but ...more
Awful! Self-absorbed baby boomer muses unitelligibly about life/sports. I didn't understand what the main character was talking about most of the time, the dialoge was terrible and practically incoherent. And EVERY time the main character noticed someone whose ethnicity was other than waspy, he pointed it out: The Polack football player, the Negro cabdriver (Negro? In 1986?) the Irish cop. This was anacronistic and irritating. Maybe you have to be a self-obsessed baby boomer to appreciate this b ...more
This was a lonely book about a lonely man who does and says things that you disagree with. Sadly many of these things you have either contemplated saying (or doing) or have already done yourself. In contrast, Ford makes Bascombe into a caring and intuitive character who catches himself from saying something to spare a persons feelings only to ruin it by asking them to hop into bed moments later. Frank Basombe is one of the truest human beings i have found in literature.

The book mostly takes plac
Reminiscent of Updike's Rabbit series, The Sportswriter is the typical "midlife crisis" novel. I am sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy this book, but I am not one of them. (I also did not like "Rabbit Run", the only one of those I got through.) While many of the characters in this novel are interesting, I never felt I got deeper than a surface glimpse of any of them. They are mostly miserable. And ordinary. And miserably ordinary, with ordinary lives and ordinary failings. Like many ...more
Kim Fay
This book is infused with a hypnotic suburban melancholy that kept me reading even when I was completely frustrated with the author. His writing is superb, but sometimes I wanted him to let the story go. Instead, I often felt that I was reading an essay about the characters, or suburbia, or writing or the modern human condition. Good essays, but essays, nonetheless. "The Sportswriter" is very much of its time (the mid-1980s), both in its style and in its self-reflection that verges on excruciati ...more
Richard Ford ist der Meister der gnadenlosen Genauigkeit: Das macht auch bei diesem Buch den Genuss und die Herausforderung aus. Es illustriert das Gegenteil von ökonomischem Erzählen, wie Ford ein Osterwochenende des Sportreporters Frank Bascombe wiedergibt, frei nach dem Motto: Nichts ist schwerer zu ertragen als eine Reihe von Feiertagen. Vermeintlich Uninteressantes wird kaum herausgefiltert, stattdessen haben wir so ziemlich an jedem Schritt, jeder wirklich oder vermeintlich unbedeutenden, ...more
I had been looking forward to this book for a long time. I've read a couple of Ford's collections of short stories as well as two of his novels. I searched the libraries in four different counties for this book and none carried it. I'd given up hope of finding it when I received it as a Christmas gift. Now I'm hesitant to say anything negative about it because I don't want it to be mistaken as ingratitude. I love that I was given exactly what I had (thought I) wanted, but the book itself was a d ...more
After I read The Sportswriter a few years ago, I recommended it with mixed results to almost every reader I know. I recall the bouyancy of such a simple and flawed character as Frak Bascombe had a profound effect on me - everyday life carried a deep meaning and (as my favorite line of the book reminds us) "life is not always ascendant."

Frank could very well be the most self-effacing character I have ever read. Page 355 (of 375) is the first physical description of the man whose dreams and rumina
It took me almost a month to finish Richard Ford's "The Sportswriter." I couldn't stand reading more than 5-10 pages at a time. Why? Well, I'd say that reading "The Sportswriter" is like being at a cocktail party, stuck listening to a bore whom you ordinarily avoid. But that analogy is generic enough for Ford to appreciate it, so I'll attempt the intensity he appears to loathe: reading "The Sportswriter" is like being stuck in a urologist's waiting room with a logorrheic -- boredom and irritatio ...more
I grew up in suburbia and my suburban community was even given a nod in The Sportswriter. As an adult I have struggled to stay out of suburbia. The place where I lived was as soul numbing as you can imagine. Nothing happens in suburban communities to inspire greatness, they simply lull your life away into nothingness. All is numbness.

That's what Frank realizes. That's why I actually sort of liked the guy. I know Vicki. She lived on the next block over from me. I know Walter too. My S.O.'s kid go
Aug 22, 2015 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: both sexes ;)
this book is basically a very introspective tale of an average middle aged man who is just as confused about the secrets of life as nearly anyone else out there. The main character is Frank Bascombe and in recent years his marriage has failed, his first son has passed away and his career as a novelist has fizzled. He now is a sportswriter and claims it to be his calling, but still, something is missing in frank's life and he doesn't know what it is.
Throughout the novel frank struggles with women
Aug 27, 2015 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
having once been a 38-year-old divorced person...maybe it would be fun to feel superior to this guy.
I started this book years ago ..... then recently I was informed that I must have been living under a rock to have not read it. This is a great book, beautifully written. It's very moving, some of the scenes actually brought me to tears ... when Frank's younger son tells him that he is sending a carrier pidgeon to check on Ralph and report on the family ... it conveyed the depth of Franks pain and sadness in just a couple of lines. I can't wait to read Independence Day.
Aug 21, 2015 Randal rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Frank Bascombe, the title character, is a boring, annoying schmuck who lost his wife and is floating through life in a well-to-do Jersey suburb.
I do not like Frank Bascombe. I do not hate him, although if a piano had dropped on his head from 20 stories up, I would have enjoyed the book more. At one point the character is upset because he thinks his ex-wife is boinking a jerk, at which moment I thought, well why not, she married you.
Crises happen to people around Frank -- a child dies (before the
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Richard Ford is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. His best-known works are the novel The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land, and the short story collection Rock Springs, which contains several widely anthologized stories.
For more info see
More about Richard Ford...

Other Books in the Series

Frank Bascombe (4 books)
  • Independence Day
  • The Lay of the Land
  • Let Me Be Frank With You
Canada Independence Day Rock Springs The Lay of the Land Let Me Be Frank With You

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“People surprise you, Frank, with just how fuckin stupid they are.” 73 likes
“If you lose all hope, you can always find it again.” 45 likes
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