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Rock Springs

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,408 ratings  ·  224 reviews
In these ten stories, Ford mines literary gold from the wind-scrubbed landscape of the American West--and from the guarded hopes and gnawing loneliness of the people who live there. Rock Springs is a masterpiece of taut narration, cleanly chiseled prose, and empathy so generous that it feels like a kind of grace.

"Beautifully imagined and crafted stories, by turns heartrend
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 12th 1988 by Vintage (first published 1987)
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4.06  · 
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 ·  4,408 ratings  ·  224 reviews

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Glenn Russell
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Richard Ford with Raymond Carver

This collection of ten short stories published as part of the 1980s Vintage Contemporaries series is Richard Ford at his best. Certainly, Ford would go on to write a string of first-rate novels, but for my money these short stories are some of the finest American realist fiction I’ve come across. I had a blast doing a brief write—up of three of the ten below:

Rock Springs
Earl tells us first off how he’s headed down from Montana to Florida where he could hook up wit
Glenn Sumi
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Hunting, fishing, drinking too much, avoiding going to jail, grudgingly going to jail, thinking up get rich schemes, abandoning them when they flop, committing or discovering adultery, witnessing accidents, witnessing murders, dealing with being unemployed when your wife’s successful ex comes to town, being a child and knowing one day you’ll be one of those sad adults, being an adult looking back on that life-changing incident that made you grow up, realizing you're basically alone.

Welcome to Ri
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rocky Mountain Highs

Flock of Snow Geese

"Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams, seeking grace in every step he takes.
His sight is turned inside himself, to try and understand
the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake."
Rocky Mountain High, Denver/Taylor, 1972

This splendid collection of short stories reminds me why I love realist short stories of unique characters in gorgeous faraway settings I'd never experience but for the magic of literature.

In picturesque prose precisely
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best and most succinct thing I can say about this collection is that almost all of these stories could be adapted by the Coen brothers. If that sounds like something you'd be into then I can almost guarantee you'll like Rock Springs.

These stories can feel repetitive in the middle of the collection ("Sweethearts" and "Winterkill" have such identical set ups that if someone else had written one of them instead of Richard Ford, he could sue them for plagiarism. A woman in "Winterkill"
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Every time I read this collection I enjoy it more than the last and become even more impressed with Ford’s ability to get so deep without seeming to. His beginnings are subtle, and his endings crackle with meaning. The middle of his stories oscillate between quiet moments that explode like depth charges with their silence, and tense action threatening to undo the characters.

“Rock Springs” is remarkable for its tone, the way that Ford captured the language of the first-person narrator’s sense of
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Ford writes stories somewhat like Raymond Carver, only with more of an edge. Set mostly in the towns and rural areas of Montana, his stories are about characters who have survived against the odds - busted marriages, unemployment, jail terms, and a kind of bleak aimlessness. Some struggle to hold onto an identity that will maintain their self respect and some sense of security, but it's often slipping away as life's lessons leave them typically empty-handed.

In the title story, a man with
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Two words: gold mine. Two more: loved this.

My absolute favorite was “Sweethearts,” followed close by “Communist” and the titular “Rock Springs.”
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot of writers who do the brutal, spare stuff are not keen on explaining everything a character is thinking, even exactly what a character doesn't understand, or odd things the character might fear. Richard Ford doesn't avoid those tricky emotions here. Since these stories are all first-person, the narrator will always go into detail about what they believe are important moments. It becomes most intense when a character is confused:

Troy moved his hand around on the deer, then looked at me agai
Nathan Wisnoski
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ten variations on a handful of themes: broken families, financial insecurity, moral unease, desolation, and the West. The characters in these stories may appear interchangeable and a bit too similar, but to me they simply seemed human. While not every story has a protagonist to root for, most have one to root against, one to feel sorry for, and one with whom we can relate. The characters make mistakes, they pay for them, and they mostly accept their flaws. For me, these stories were not always e ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Ford's short stories, because they are short stories, lack the almost overwhelming power and depth of his great novels, The Sportswriter and Independence Day. But as short stories, they are no less masterfully crafted and lyrical. Of the huge glut of American writers and their publications, Ford is one of the few who will actually be studied and remembered after he is long dead and gone. He has such a distinct rhythm to his prose, somehow lyrical without being flowery. He excels at addin ...more
Andy Miller
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of short stories published in 1987, well before his famous novels, The Sportwriter and Independence Day and of course the recently published Canada. The thing that struck me the most while reading this collection was the striking similarities between the short story "Great Falls" and the first half of "Canada" written more than 25 years later. While there were differences in plot, the characters and back stories have so much in common I wondered if Ford had always meant to w ...more
Simon A.
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
I don't know why it's taken me so long to read Richard Ford. He was influenced by one of my favorite writers (Richard Yates) and spent significant time hanging out with two of my other favorites (Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver.) The time those three have spent together really shows. They all have very similar writing styles and often tackle the same heartbreaking subject matter. Ford may not be quite as good as Wolff or Carver, but who is? As far as short story writers go, nobody in my book.

Apr 23, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
too American, too male, too middle aged for me to really really get, but I'm sure there was something good going on here
plus, I learnt what the term 'gash-hound' means (had never heard that one before...)
borz nazari
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the stories were full of surprise for me. I love realism in a way ford described. unfortunately, the book is not accessible and I can't download it from the internet. I'd be flattered if anyone send me ebook version of book. I'd be very flattered friends. I studied two stories of this collection. sweethearts and rocksprings. and I overwhelmed.
Bud Smith
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yeah, this guy is a master, I’ll say that. These truly are next level short stories.
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Ford has become my favorite author.
I have a new favorite author, Richard Ford.
It’s important for you to know that I have a new favorite author, Richard Ford.
Three sentences saying very much the same thing, but yet each saying it so completely differently from the others. Yes, it’s a matter of words, but more than that, it’s a matter of tone. It’s a matter of intimacy. And it is the last sentence, the one that draws the recipient into the message -- because it implies, or rather crea
Alice Dragon
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my dad's old books. I read it on a whim and I was surprised how I enjoyed a lot of the stories. I do love attention to detail and Ford is very meticulous about bringing the surroundings to life, creating a sense of realism in the book and among the characters that you don't find often.
John Kenny
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A number of years ago I tackled Richard Ford’s novel The Sportswriter and found it heavy going, so I was reluctant to take on another of his works. However, I picked up this collection of his short fiction and decided to give him another chance. And, boy, am I glad I did. Rock Springs gathers a number of stories that generally take place in and around Great Falls, Montana, and feature characters either fallen on hard times or living a life of limited scope of opportunity.

In ‘Rock Springs’, a man
Patrick McCoy
I first read Richard Ford’s great novels The Sportswriter and Independence Day in the 90s close to when they were released. However, I hadn’t read anything else until recently after reading an essay by Elizabeth Hardwick on the early writings of Ford and was inspired to rediscover him. Not long ago I read The Ultimate Good Luck and now his excellent short story collection, Rock Springs. I can see how Ford got thrown in with Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff as one of the originators of “dirty real ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I can't remember whether or not this collection was assigned for contemporary american lit, but the stories in Rock Springs just seem like the kind of trailerpark hardluck narrative that was all the rage back in the day. It's Raymond Carver, but with more hunting, more manslaughter, more wives (and ex-wives) working in taverns, more unemployment checks running out, more cheating husbands getting in bad with biker gangs, more cheating wives getting in a huff and flouncing down the road, and more ...more
ron swegman
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rock Springs is Richard Ford's first collection of short stories, which was published after his third novel, The Sportswriter, finally cracked the glass ceiling and allowed him to rise to the prominence he now enjoys in American letters.

This collection of short fiction is set in various places across Montana, and the characters are distinctly average, working-class,, and American. The stories involve people on the precipice of big decisions in tough situations: infidelity, jail, unemployment, co
Tom Kern
The first story is pretty much the text book definition of how to write a short story.
Yeah it's Carver with a shot of Hemingway but hell if you're gonna use a model those guys are the best.
Anyway the theme of escape and cars is as American as the town it's set it.
And it's truly stunning the amount of character devlopement Ford can telegraph in just a few sentences.
The last lines of this story truly raise the bar to something epic and grand (in its minimalist way). Really awe inspiring.
I still c
Di Taylor
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Di by: Prof. from literature class
We were assigned to read the short story "Rock Springs" for a literature class I'm taking called "Quest & Arrival." I was immediately taken with Richard Ford's writing and a friend lent me his copy and subsequently gave to me...I'm excited to read the rest of the short stories contained in this book and subsequent writings by this author.
Rock Springs is told in first person narrative (Earl) looking to escape the threat of jail time for writing bad checks in Montana. The ending leaves you po
Kevin Thurman
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was my first introduction to Ford back when I was 17. I had been searching for something Kerouac-esque to read as my love of On The Road was just making me want to flee. To this day the stories are still as powerful and elegant as they ever were. Ford's language is both languid and sparse. It is as if his characters really were narrating for you in how Ford writes like Carver. Which is to say, he writes the way people speak. While that may not sound like a plus, I assure you it is.
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm re-reading this one, having felt its impact some years before. Or should I say I'm reading "the optimists" over and over again. I've rarely seen a story whose strengths lie so heavily in the denouement,the repercussions of the climax outweighing the actual event without really being delved into. The arc of a whole life (or more aptly, a broken one) is implied here, and details of that life, for me at least, rushed to fill the gap. It's got me excited to see how much staying power the rest of ...more
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a 3.5 stars read for me, until near the end and the story 'Optimists', which I thought was excellent. This moved it up to 4 stars,

I was less interested in the subject matter than in some if his other books. Living, fishing and hunting in small town Montana is something I know nothing about, and reading about it didn't appeal to me much.

As well written as Ford's books usually are.
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Apparently Ford is another author who I have been intending to read for a while only to find out when I read the title story of this collection that I already have and already love. "Rock Springs" is one of those stories everyone has read, and with just cause. Ford reminds me a little of a cross between McGuane and Carver. Western stories without cowboys and ranches but with down and outs. Either way, they are great stories.
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Ford writes like the west can feel - stark, cold, sad. I didn't realize when I picked up the book that it was a set of short stories but I'm glad because I really liked them. But I also didn't realize that they would be so full of melancholy either. They reminded me of Annie Proulx style a bit. While I wouldn't recommend this book if you're feeling blue, I loved his use of the landscapes to develop his themes.
Sairam Krishnan
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After I’d read the book, I realised it was written in 1987, the year I was born. I don’t know why that’s important. In fact, I don’t think it is, just that it seems significant enough to point out.

I read these stories in a town in the Himalayan foothills, and the heavy silence that was the backdrop to my reading was perhaps apt. Because these are stories of the interior, of feelings, of things you cannot really say but know deep down. And this awareness, this knowing that Ford’s characters have
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These stories hit you like a punch in the gut. However, you do not feel the devastating effects until much later. I've never read anything as haunting as these stories, never immersed myself in such solid gold when it comes to writing short stories. And I think it never took me quite so long to finish a book this size, with short stories. I remember last night when I still had time at least for one more before sleep took over, and I just couldn't turn the page. Simply because after each and ever ...more
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Richard Ford, born February 16, 1944 in Jackson, Mississippi, is an American novelist and short story writer. His best-known works are the novel The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land and Let Me Be Frank With You, and the short story collection Rock Springs, which contains several widely anthologized stories. Comparisons have been drawn between Ford's work and the ...more
“I thought that the difference between a successful life and an unsuccessful one, between me at that moment and all the people who owned the cars that were nosed-in to their proper places in the lot, maybe between me and that woman out in the trailers by the gold mine, was how well you were able to put things like this out of your mind and not be bothered by them, and maybe too, by how many troubles like this one you had to face in a lifetime.” 8 likes
“It was on such a night as this that the unhappy things came about.” 6 likes
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