“The Sportswriter” by Richard Ford

When I was in the 8th grade I decided to become a journalist. It was the era of the Washington Post expose of Richard Nixon and his dirty tricks by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

I suppose a lot of kids went into journalism because of their book “All the President’s Men” and the movie by the same title. The muckraking journalist was the ic0nic figure of the day, much like the fireman of September 11 today.

I wrote sports in high school for the local town paper and edited the school newspaper’s sports section. I was on my way to a journalism career when life happened.

Thus, when I went looking for some English book to read from my local library in Finland, I was drawn to the book “The Sportswriter” by Richard Ford. I didn’t know it when I picked up the book, but Ford is a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Like any good author,  he writes what he knows. This is what the author Frank Peretti told me to do when I asked him for some advice on writing. In his mountain man Colorodo accent, he looked at me and said,”Write wahtcha know!”.

Ford lost his father early in life. He spent a lot of time with his grandfather.

A couple novels he wrote didn’t do too well and he went to work as a sportswriter for “Inside Sports”, a competitor to Sports Illustrated in the early 1980s. I bought the first edition of that publication.

When it folded, Ford went back to novel writing. He became successful.

In “The Sportswriter”, protagonist Frank Bascombe is a successful one-hit-wonder novelist who gives up literature for sports writing. He just feels more comfortable writing sports than agonizing over the deeper aspects of literature. He has lost what he calls the “anticipation” needed to write novels anymore.

Like his creator, Frank”s  father died when he was young. Frank is able to talk easily with his father-in-law and with the father of his current girlfriend. Perhaps this was Ford’s experience with his grandfather.

What is clear in the book is that Frank is a conflicted person. He is one part deep thinker and one part shallow rogue.

Frank  is greatly affected  by the death of his pre-teen son, as anyone would be. He is also struggling with the nature of a divorce from his wife, to whom he refers to throughout the book as “X”.

Yet, he is a wanton womanizer. By the time he divorced, Frank had slept with close to 20 women in a short period beforehand. The skirt chasing doesn’t stop.

Ford writes the story from Frank’s perspective. One minute Frank is narrating events and the next he is philosophizing about his life.

The one thing Frank refuses to do is to engage in regret. Through his own personal and family disasters and those of an acquaintance from his Divorced Men’s Club, Frank tries to view life in stoic fashion.

His story is about the effects of loss on one man and how he handles it. I thought Frank’s life and thoughts as depicted by Ford were interesting, yet sad. There was much I could identify with in Frank’s thinking.

Ford’s Pulitzer Prize was awarded for the sequel to “The Sportswriter”, a book called “Independence Day”. I liked the first book well enough to want to go chasing after the second.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to ““The Sportswriter” by Richard Ford

  1. Eddie Boylan

    So, is it ‘Go and do likewise’ ?

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