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The Sportswriter (Frank Bascombe #1)

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  9,735 ratings  ·  624 reviews
As a sportswriter, Frank Bascombe makes his living studying people--men, mostly--who live entirely within themselves. This is a condition that Frank himself aspires to. But at thirty-eight, he suffers from incurable dreaminess, occasional pounding of the heart, and the not-too-distant losses of a career, a son, and a marriage. In the course of the Easter week in which Ford...more
Paperback, 375 pages
Published June 13th 1995 by Vintage Books (first published 1986)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardWatchmen by Alan MooreBeloved by Toni Morrison
Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
87th out of 983 books — 1,041 voters
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Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Novels
89th out of 100 books — 308 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike
Apr 14, 2013 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
...more
Kemper
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...more
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...more
Wendy
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...more
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...more
Gerry
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
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
Julia
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...more
Laura
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...more
CC
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...more
Susan
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
Alex
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...more
David
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan
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...more
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.
Eric
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...more
Will Byrnes
Frank Bascombe published a book once. He just never got around to writing another, veering off into the world of sportswriting. The Sportwriter shows us a week in Frank’s life in which he confronts the choices he has made as parts of his life are pared away and we are shown what has already been cut. He is divorced, with one child having died. His girlfriend is clearly inappropriate for him and that ends as well. A sort-of friend comes out and on to him, ending badly. We see his semester as a te...more
Paul
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
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
Mike
Aug 20, 2007 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men
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...more
Andreas
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
Anne Kadet
Like reading a piece of poop.
dara
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
Josh Duggan
In short, I loved this book. This was my first venture into the writings of Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Independence Day (the sequel to The Sportswriter). He had come pretty highly recommended from a few friends whose literary tastes I trust. Their recommendations are going to be more highly regarded going forward.

The novel follows Frank Bascombe, a writer who has abandoned being a novelist for writing about sports, a subject he is largely indifferent to. It is set against Eas...more
Scott
Hmmm. Well. Mr. Frank Bascombe certainly was not a likable character. But he wasn't necessarily an unlikeable character. Not an anti-hero; certainly no hero. If I had to write a synopsis of this book, I'm not sure I could do it very well. All I can say is that I'm sure moments and passages from this book will rattle around in my head for years to come. I'm certain that I will experience a few moments in the next few days, months, years, where I will liken myself to Bascombe and wonder why the he...more
Pat
Aug 14, 2008 Pat rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: middle aged white guys who may or may not like sports
This book won me over despite:
it's a middle-aged-white-guy-has-mid-life-crisis book.
I don't like sports much
It's slow. Nothing really happens.
It seems depressing.

Yet:
Ford has a great ear for dialog. When his characters speak it pulls you out of the interior world of Frank and into a very realistic world of how people actually are. But the narrative voice is equally as strong. The two voices seem at odds with each other but they actually compliment one another. I think the dialog (which is sparse...more
Keirstan
As a twenty-six-year-old female, I am probably not the target audience for the male mid-life crisis novel, which, since its boom in the 1980s, is essentially a genre all on its own. But, alas, like the novels of Philip Roth before it, I loved and related to Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. Despite its measured pace and oftentimes frustratingly flawed narrator, The Sportswriter reveals elements of truth in the human condition that make it essential reading.

Despite the death of his eldest son, rec...more
Jeremy
My question to those who find Frank Bascombe's engagement with his world wooden and without feeling:

How much of your grief do you put on display, and of how much do you permit yourself to be consciously aware?

The beauty of this book is its honesty in appraising the possible synthesis of pain into useful experience. That is to say, Oprah's favorite writers will show us closure, learning, and growth, but they are (pernicious and filthy) liars. Ford tells the truth, that life is more frequently tha...more
Dan Varley
Let me be upfront with you and say that I'm not going to put-put around with an elaborate description of plot here since Frank Bascombe, the quote-un-quote protagonist of the Sportswriter, has over the course of twenty years entered the pantheon as one of literature's best known White Males Figuring Things Out In Middle Age, just like Updike's Rabbit Angstrom, and whose life events can be filled out pretty quickly with a quick download from Wikipedia. In one long-ish sentence, Frank is a former...more
Labmom
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
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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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_...
More about Richard Ford...
Canada Independence Day Rock Springs The Lay of the Land A Multitude of Sins

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“People surprise you, Frank, with just how fuckin stupid they are.” 59 likes
“If you lose all hope, you can always find it again.” 42 likes
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