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The Sportswriter

(Frank Bascombe #1)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  16,366 ratings  ·  1,122 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 ...more
Paperback, 367 pages
Published 2006 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published March 1986)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  16,366 ratings  ·  1,122 reviews

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Glenn Russell
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Photo of the American novelist - Richard Ford

Part of the Vintage Contemporaries Series, 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, Frank Bascombe, was the way Frank would always project motives, backgrounds, ideas and futures onto all the people
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-completed
After spending hours in Frank Bascombe’s head, I am still not sure what to make of him. This book revolves around an Easter weekend in his life, beginning with an annual visit to his son’s grave with his ex-wife (referred to as “X” throughout the novel) early in the morning of Good Friday. Many things happen during that weekend, although the bulk of it centres around Frank’s thoughts.

This is a deeply introspective book. For quite some time I enjoyed the experience of discovering the matches and
Glenn Sumi
I tried reading Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter years ago, but I wasn’t ready. Now that I’ve lived a lot more life, I get it.

Most of all, I get Ford’s Everyman hero, Frank Bascombe, a 38-year-old, divorced man with two kids (one has died), who works at a sports magazine after he gave up a promising literary career and lives alone (he’s got an African boarder) in a New Jersey suburb.

I get Frank’s vague yearnings, his dreaminess, his little tragedies, his big ones, his successes, his failures, his
Frank Bascombe, he is the sportswriter, and he is the first-person narrator of this novel which takes a slanted and sometimes brutal look at the failings of a 20th century American family, especially of the father and husband, Frank himself. We learn early in the story that Frank is not a happy person, and with good reason most of us would agree. He is divorced, but still living in the family's suburban home in New Jersey. He has three children; one of them, a son, has died. And his dreams of ...more
Will Byrnes
Nov 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This takes a long way to get where its going; however the last third of the book is quite good.

Inconsistent and with too frequently one dimensional dialogue, however when it is good, it is very good, reminding the reader of Phillip Roth or John Cheever. Actually, and this is a stretch, this could be a modern, more sympathetic retelling of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and there are some hints to indicate this is where Ford was coming from.

Ford's protagonist Frank Bascombe is an existential
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Folks who don't mind good writing about a guy you don't like
Recommended to Lawyer 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
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Did you hear the one about the middle-aged white guy who has a mid-life crisis? You did! You sometimes think you’ve heard nothing else! The world is brimful of middle-aged white guys having midlife crises. Of course it’s full of many other things as well but it's been run, for so long, by middle-aged white guys having midlife crises, writing books about it, putting each others’ books about it on their college curricula, making lists of great novels about white guy midlife crises, sometimes you ...more
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
Jan 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful writing. This was like reading an Edward Hopper painting. Loneliness, sadness and beauty.
Michael Finocchiaro
Richard Ford's The Sportswriter is the first of his series about the character Frank Boscombe, the second of which, Independence Day won the Pulitzer in 1996. The Sportswriter was written in 1985 and introduces us to a self-proclaimed Babbitt (from the classic Sinclair Lewis novel of 1922) from which it borrows a bit of the style, but is entirely written from the perspective of and in the voice of the protagonist, a 39 year old divorcee with two kids who are alive and one, still very present, ...more
Scott Porch
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: award-winners
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 ...more
Anne Kadet
Mar 11, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like reading a piece of poop.
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some books that just connect with readers in their own time, in a particular frame of mind, at a certain juncture of life. These books aren't something for everyone, they're everything for someone.

Olive Kitteridge comes to mind. Some people found that book boring. While for others it hits a certain note and they are captivated and deeply moved, almost haunted.

That's how The Sportswriter was for me. The right book at the right time. I absolutely loved it.

On a trivial note, I recently
Jan 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ben Hourigan
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Steven Godin
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: america, fiction
The writing style will not be to everyone's taste but it's a deep and thoughtful book tinged with a hint of melancholia.It does drag at times but i stuck with it and was richly rewarded.As the book only spans a few days there is a lot of thinking back to the past during moments in the present which works very well.I think if you are thirtysomething and pondering about life you will relate to this book.
Sep 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
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 ...more
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Apr 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, fiction, us
Adored this when I read it 30 years ago. I wonder if it would stand up to a second reading?
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 ...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

Other books in the series

Frank Bascombe (4 books)
  • Independence Day
  • The Lay of the Land
  • Let Me Be Frank With You
“People surprise you, Frank, with just how fuckin stupid they are.” 88 likes
“If you lose all hope, you can always find it again.” 55 likes
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