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June 19, 1996 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1996-06-19

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P OETRY SLAM
The Ann Arbor Poetry Slam closes out its season
July 2 at the Heidelberg Club. Poets will com-
pete for cash and spots on the National Slam
team Open mike before and after. Doors open at
7:0pm 3 cover.

ARTS

Wednesday f
Jdune 19, 19967

Pulitzer winner, 'U' alum Richard Ford
to return to Ann Arbor, read at Borders

By Dean Bakopoulos thinking."
I)aily Arts Writer The decision to
* When writer Richard Ford comes to Ann Arbor, "Independence Day
he won't be on foreign soil. Ford was an assistant nation of any kind
professor in the University's English department in Ford says, "I think
the mid-70s, working here while his wife did her as a kind of tone of
Ph.D. work. He's lived right on South University allows me to do a
street, and still has plenty of
friends in Ann Arbor. Plus, he
returns to town every year to FREVI EWX
give a lecture to the Michigan Richa
Society of Journalism Fellows. Literary Fgagement
So, needless to say, he's looking Monday, June 24
forward to his visit. Borders
* Ford will be at the Borders on 7:30 p.m.
E. Liberty Monday night, reading from his Pulitzer distinctly American
Prize-winning novel, "Independence Day" - the book is full of mino
hero of which, Frank Bascombe, is a University ferent phases of
alum who makes references to distinctly Ann American dream, an
Arbor traditions like love in the Arb and "The patriotic holiday, so
Victors" fight song. But most University grads Ford said indeed the
will not aspire for a future like Bascombe's, who, tinctly American th
in the 1986 novel "The Sportswriter," went July 4th setting, but
through a midlife crisis of epic proportions. In place in 1988, an el
"Independence Day" Bascombe returns, having oft-discussed in the
ivenup the writing life and settling down to a real "I think the book
estate job in upper middle-class New Jersey. cal book, in that it ext
With his return, and a marvelous return it is, American, or at least
many critics have heralded Bascombe as one of the average American, is
greatest American literary characters, ranking him actual electoral proc
with the likes of Updike's Harry Angstrom or same time American
Miller's Willy Loman. Ford says that wasn't his ical forces themselve
intention. "When I finished 'The Sportswriter' I forces of democracy,
had no intention of bringing Frank Bascombe back There are other r
again. But I found that in a rather accretive sort of novel on the July 4t
way, that voice kept creeping back into my way of to want to set up a n

bring Bascombe back in
" does not stem from a fasci-
with his own character. Rather,
about Frank Bascombe chiefly
voice. A tone of voice which
number of things which I feel
might be appealing to the
reader. For instance, things
like making moral judge-
ments, being mirthful, show-
ing sympathy, being attrac-
tively self-effacing."
Bascombe is a key reason
that the novel is being labeled
by the literary community. The
r characters, all of them in dif-
losing out on the mythical
d is set during the nation's most
such a label seems inevitable.
e novel does deal in some dis-
iemes, not only because of the
it because the novel also takes
ection year, and the election is
novel.
turned out to be a kind of politi-
emplifies how much the average
this character who represents an
divorced or distanced from the
ess" Ford said. "And yet at the
s are intensely involved in polit-
s - the forces of economy, the
the forces of sociology."
reasons Ford chose to set his
h weekend. "I'm often tempted
tovel around a holiday because

I think most Americans have very -
vivid, personal memories of holidays,"
Ford said. "And if I can engage in a
reader's personal memories, then I
think I have part of the persuasive
work done." Plus, Ford's themes in the
novel also heavily focus on an individ-
ual's personal and emotional indepen-
dence. "I wanted to define indepen-
dence in a slightly different way than I
thought its conventional understand-
.ing was."
Whatever Ford's motives in writing
the novel were, the readers caught on
quickly. "Independence Day" is a best-
seller, and it's also won Ford this year's
PEN/Faulkner and Pulitzer awards.
Plus, many critics are welcoming Ford
into the ranks of the great contempo-
rary American novelists, joining liter-
ary lions like John Updike and Saul
Bellow. Ford said that's not how he
views things. "I don't have that strati-
fied sense of accomplishment. I would
never consider myself of being on a
plane with them. They're heroes of Pulitzer winner, University alum Richard Ford relaxes in tweed.
mine and I don't compete with them,
nor do I aspire to be as good or better than them. he says the writer's trade is "very, very, very dif-
All's I try to do is be the best I can be." ficult," one in which the failure rate is very high.
Successful or not, Ford said, the writer's life Any advice for younger, aspiring writers?"Sure,"
should be viewed as a "privledged one" "To Ford quips,"Talk yourself out ofit,if you can." He
choose to be a writer," he said, "is basically a life tells young writers to weigh all their other
in which you aspire to do what Chekhov did. I options first, before they decide to dedicate their
mean, what can be more wonderful?" Still, Ford lives to being a practicioner of words.
says the writing life is one in which disappoint- Fortunately for his many readers, Ford was
ment and discouragement are commonplace, and unable to do that.

r
r

Richard Ford's 'Independence Day' captures essence of American condition

By Dean Bakopoulos
Daily Arts Writer

the crisis of epicT
now remains in w

If the folks who give out the Pulitzer Prize for
fiction use closing paragraphs as one of their E'V EW
deciding factors, it's no wonder that Richard Ford Independence Day
as this year's choice. Ford's "Independence By Richard Ford
ay" pulled in this year's Pulitzer (during the 'intage 1996
same two-week stretch in which he lassoed the
PEN/Faulkner award for fiction), and the closing
paragraph of the winning novel is a testament to Ford's rank as one of broad cast of cha
America's most adept prose practicioners. Emotional, yet restrained, affects Frank. Sot
full of meaning, yet subtle - this is how Ford ends "Independence sneak their way in
Day." As a matter of fact, it's how he writes the whole damn thing. additions by Ford,
"Independence Day" catches up with Frank Bascombe, hero of of characters who
Ford's acclaimed 1986 novel, "The Sportswriter." Frank happens to ing portrait of the
be a graduate of the University of Michigan, and often recalls his have hope, but m
"Ann Arbor days." directly or indirec
Frank has since given up his career as a sportswriter, as well as and possibility to 1
srned his back on writing short stories. Now, he simply sells real In his vast and
estate in Haddam, NJ, although the career move has taken only some only on plot, but r
of the complexity out of his life.
His ex-wife has since remarried aYale
man, and his son Paul, now 15, has been
charged with shoplifting Magtnum con-A
doms. Among Paul's quirks are his inex-
plicable dog barking, a violent temper E E ~ M & E
and other psychological problems. So, Y E EXA S & E
Frank plans to take his son on a Fourth R)Ib RLHM L
f July weekend trip. Armed with a copy
f Emerson's "Self-Reliance," he hopes CALVIN KL
to get to the bottom of his son's prob- e y e w e
lems, all the while establishing a father-
son relationship that would fill a void in S T U D E N T D I
both father and son's lives. He's through 3 S S

porportions he suffered in "The Sportswriter," and
hat he calls the "Existence Period": "The part that
comes after the big struggle that led to the big
blowup."
On this "Independence Day" weekend, a time
Frank calls an "observance of human possibility,"
Frank must deal not only with his problematic
son, but also with a semi-relation-
ship goitg semi-awry, stubborn
and despairing realty clients, and a UnVC
aracters whose existence somehow
metimes the minor characters who Heall
to Frank's holiday seem superfluous
but as a whole they make up a cast (Of re
represent a very real and very touch-
average American's condition. Some
ost have lost it; and many of them
tly rely on Frank to return the hope *
their lives.
far-reaching novel, Ford relies not
ather on a series of observations and

ponderings though the eyes of Frank Bascombe, a distinctly American
voice who, with "Independence Day," joins the ranks of some of the
great American literary characters. Names like Nick Carraway, Harry
Angstrom and Augie March come to mind as similar literary charac-
ters who have similarily captured the American condition. With the
distinctly American "Independence Day," Ford has vaulted himself
into the frefornt of contemnorarv A mercn novelits.

YE G LASSES
AxE GIORGIO ARMANI
LEIN r> S,
a r
SC OU NTS
Ic u @ *4

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