Books I Love

Canada July 17 2014, 0 Comments

Asked about character development in an interview with the Paris Review, Richard Ford says: "Today I think of characters—actual and literary characters— as being rather unfixed. I think of them as changeable, provisional, unpredictable, decidedly unwhole. Partly this owes to the act of writing characters and of succeeding somewhat in making them seem believable and morally provoking. As I write them they are provisional, changeable, and so forth, right on through and beyond the process of being made. I can change them at will, and do."

That is exactly how this novel - which I took too long to finally get to, being a fierce and slightly obsessive fan of Richard Ford - feels. While it doesn't seem like much is happening plot-wise (he gives most of it away in the first sentence), this novel is an extraordinary slow burn, where lives unravel, changeable, provisional and unpredictable as hell. Its emotional impact doesn't hit you in the gut until the very last chapter, which feels like the most profound gathering of an existential hunting spree.

It took me a while to feel the immense undercurrents at work in this book. The cumulative power of this novel's astonishingly beautiful prose (no other writer in my book writes sentences like Ford, you can almost feel them sizzle on your tongue and tremble in your ear) is something to behold. What does it mean to "build" a life? How does landscape and environment shape who we are? How much do other people's actions have an effect on our own lives? Can you become your own person in the midst of circumstances completely outside of your control?

A haunting novel by one of the greatest American writers writing today.