Jeff's Reviews > The Lay of the Land
The Lay of the Land
by Richard Ford
by Richard Ford
Apr 09, 12
It's hard to give a novel packed with so much excellent prose less than four stars, so maybe three and a half is a better rating. My issue with this novel is not the trees, but the forest. Richard Ford's writing is compelling, lucid, and picturesque in a way few contemporary novelists achieve, and he's certainly painted a full panorama of the life of Frank Bascombe across three novels (I've read the last two), the sportswriter turned real estate agent, who endures post-middle age life in what he terms as the "Permanent Period," and thereby suffers from prostate cancer that makes for uncomfortable moments if only for the number of times the protagonist plots to find the nearest bathroom. The details both in the character's head and the world around him illuminate the New Jersey world he's so fond of recreating, so it's not the writing that lacks quality or substance. We've been taking a long drive with Bascombe (seems an apt metaphor because he spends most of his time in his car), and for the most part have been willing to sit in the passenger seat while he points out the various sights and sounds that catch his constant attention. Yet, when we finally get to the end of the journey and with the car parked, I'm not sure I have a sense of greater epiphany of the meaning of the journey itself, whether about this particular drive that Frank Bascombe takes us on, or even the overall meaning of his life. Maybe Frank Bascombe mirrors American life these days, acutely self-conscious and self-centered, and in an odd way and through his own peculiar way of seeing the world, isolated from it. Yet Ford's beaming prose may make up for the book's somewhat less sparkling overall narrative arch.
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