A very useful overview, clearly written and with repeated reference to examples. Mullan covers a wide range of topics and discusses them in plain langA very useful overview, clearly written and with repeated reference to examples. Mullan covers a wide range of topics and discusses them in plain language. His explanations are sufficiently detailed that it isn't necessary to have read all the books he draws from.
The one fault of this book is the necessary evil of its comprehensiveness: it fails to cover many topics in satisfying depth. On the other hand, if it did, only weightlifters would be able to read it....more
Frank Bascombe, a failed novelist turned sportswriter, drifts through his New Jersey days in the aftermath of the death of his son and his ensuing divFrank Bascombe, a failed novelist turned sportswriter, drifts through his New Jersey days in the aftermath of the death of his son and his ensuing divorce. Yet this is no tale of suburban disenchantment; Frank is an optimist. And this is the feature that makes the sportswriter unique. Rather than lapsing into the tired and conventional pose of suburban cynicism, Richard Ford chooses to show us a man who is happy, or who believes that he is.
Fiction, in the simplistic formulae of creative writing teachers, begins with a character who has a problem. Frank does not appear to have a problem. His son may be dead, his wife may have left them, and he may be afflicted with what he calls "dreaminess," but overall, Frank believes that life is good. The tension in The Sportswriter comes not from external forces that pit the protagonist against the world, but from the unstated internal conflicts of Frank himself.
Frank does have problems, but he's not about to admit it. Why does this man, who appears to be happy with his life, repeatedly find himself parked in the darkened street outside his ex-wife's home? Why is he unable to refer to his wife by name, instead calling her only "X"?
As a narrator, Frank Bascombe is fascinating. This is not an unreliable narrator in the conventional sense, in which we expect that the narrator is not being entirely truthful with us; this is a far more sophisticated unreliable narrator, who appears always to be truthful with the reader, but seems not to be able to tell the truth to himself.
Frank's happiness seems to be entirely superficial. In fact, there's a sense of superficiality to his entire narrative. Frank uses of expressions such as "dreaminess," "literalness," "factuality," and so on without ever explaining what he means by them, but their meaning should become clear in the effect of the narrative as a whole. In short, Frank's world does not seem entirely real. So powerful is the sense of dissociation in Richard Ford's narrative that one reviewer called this novel "uneventful"; this of a novel that, in the space of four days, sees Frank Bascombe lose his girlfriend, get punched in the face, resist the kiss of another man who subsequently commits suicide, and embark on a relationship with a woman half his age. Uneventful?
This is the genius of The Sportswriter. It is all about the narrator and the narrative. There is a reason that this book launched, or relaunched, Richard Ford's writing career: if the only obligation of literature is to be interesting, then this novel, and it's narrator, fulfills everything we could expect of it....more
And she wrote one just like that: "Winter in calm air Pilgrim Lake froze," which appears at the top ofDillard in clear mind mannered sentences wrote.
And she wrote one just like that: "Winter in calm air Pilgrim Lake froze," which appears at the top of page 56 of the paperback edition, and which nearly caused me to hurl the book into space. This one sentence came to define the book for me. The Maytrees is filled with beautiful sentences, but Dillard's writing at times is too mannered for its own good. And when you peel away the writing style to see what lies beneath, you find this onion is rotting from the inside. Not a whole heck of a lot is going on in there.
You have the Maytrees. They fall in love. They get married. They have a kid. And so on. There is no real drama in these ordinary lives, and what drama exists is overwhelmed by Dillard's prose style. Her writing allows nothing else to shine, and this time, it smothers her ordinary subject and characters, who would have benefitted from a more subdued approach....more