Dec 11, 2006

The internet connection is back, for now, and with it comes a desire to dump a whole heap of content that's been building up over the past week. I have no clue anymore what it takes for a site like this to build a loyal fan base (I fear it might be impossible), but my plan is to spread the four or five things I want to talk about over multiple posts rather than dump them all into one. Strategies change on the fly.
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Being without a live wire forced me to -- gasp! -- do some long-overdue reading. I did so in style by digesting The Womanizer, the first short story in Richard Ford's Women With Men.

I picked it up last summer on a whim, and it took me until now to really dig in. I wish now I'd done so sooner. Ford's sensibilities remind me a lot of Raymond Carver -- one of my all-time favorites -- but he's a shade more ponderous. Like Carver, he has what I'd call a terrible knack for the human condition. Consider the following passage:
Theirs was practiced, undramatic lovemaking, a set of protocols and assumptions lovingly followed like a liturgy which points to but really has little connection with the mysteries and chaos that had once made it a breathless necessity.
It's a devastating line which becomes more so every time I read it. Then a few pages later he drops this:
Life didn't veer -- you discovered it had veered, later. Now.
Ford, in my limited reading, seems to be one of those rare writers who can address the complexities of human relationships without veering into either platitudes or hard-boiled fatalism. Not only that, but The Womanizer bears an intriguing -- since I didn't know Ford's name when I wrote it -- similarity to my own Last Exit Before Toll.

I suppose that tales of people who feel suffocated by routine are fairly universal, but I found myself contemplating Ford's words through the prism of what I had said, and it was vaguely uncomfortable. I'm not putting myself on his level -- not at all -- but part of me can't help but ask where I stand on that scale. I'd love to hear from anyone who's read both, for better or worse.

Regardless, Ford is a find. If the rest of his work is half as good as this one story then it's certainly worth your time. I'll read more and let you know for sure.

1 comment:

geoff said...

I'm finishing up The Sportswriter today. Interesting novel, but Ford's narrator is painful to inhabit, and his prose works to dislocate the reader from the kind of intimacy Carver's simple phrases allow.