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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Exes and Whys: Some conditions in Richard Ford's stories

About half-way through the 3rd story - The New Normal - in Richard Ford's collection let Me Be Frank with You; I've noticed, oddly, that Frank Bascombe's wife plays virtually no role in the book so far, which is kind of surprising because the first 3 Frank Bascombe novels were, if my memory serves (it doesn't always, as Ford himself might parenthetically remark) very much about his relationships with his spouse - spouse to be - ex spouse - 2nd spouse. Also I'm amused that there are no phone conversations (so far) in these stories, and that FB whimsically remarks that he doesn't use the phone much any more: Phone conversations have been, in the other novels, a key narrative device Ford uses, tying his peripatetic narrator to people he's left behind. Frank seems to have grown beyond the need for phone contact - he doesn't get around so much anymore either, as a retired 68-year-old civic volunteer - but hasn't evolved yet into the world of text messaging and social media. Give him time. Anyway, this 3rd story is ostensibly about FB's first wife, Ann, who is now in senior housing right in the same prosperous central Jersey town as Frank, and in early stages of Parkinson's; Frank visits her occasionally, and the occasion of this story is his bringing her an orthopedic pillow. As happens in Ford narratives, not all that much happens - halfway through the story, Frank has ruminated on a # of topics and filled us in on the back story of his marriage to Ann and the whereabouts of their children, but the actual meeting of the two has not taken place yet. All I can think is that his current wife, Sally, is an astonishing trusting and tolerant woman: even if she professes to wonder what Frank could ever have seen in Ann, she must one would think be a bit puzzled and troubled by his sudden solicitude and his commitment to visiting ex-wife every other week or so. (Frank also had no concerns, in the 2nd story in the collection, about inviting a woman whom he didn't know into the house w/ him while Sally was out at the gym or something - a lot of guys would wonder how they could explain that situation when wife returned home.) So these are mature and settled adults - but there also seems to be a flame burning slowly at the base of this story, and this collection, and if the fuse catches these carefully assembled relationships could explode - or take off.

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