Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Richard Ford 101

Richard Ford's short story collection Rock Springs is a great introduction to his longer works.  Ford's stories mostly take place in working class small towns, often in Montana, and featuring just a handful of characters.  He usually focuses on men on the cusp of being down and out, on the edge of becoming drifters, about to make decisions that will alter the course of their lives.  In his title story, Ford writes from the perspective of a man trying to figure out how he ended up at a Ramada Inn with a stolen car hidden in the woods and a woman leaving him in the morning.  He writes of more successful lives led, "Through luck or design they had all faced fewer troubles, and by their own characters, they forgot them faster.  And that's what I wanted for me.  Fewer troubles, fewer memories of trouble."  Ford explores the relationships between small nuclear families (often a man, a woman, and their son).  Some of the images in the stories seemed very similar to scenes in Wildlife and Canada, perhaps as early precursors.  For example, in "Optimists," the protagonist writes of "hearing my father's steel-toed boots strike the floor," a similar image to a scene in Canada.  While not uplifting, Ford has a very distinctive writing style that I like very much, though I imagine that not everyone may agree, perhaps finding the dialogue too unrealistic or the moments of intimacy between the characters too forced.  I think this is a great introduction to reading Richard Ford, knowing that his novels (at least the two I have read) are very similar in theme and style.  It is interesting to me to contrast scenes from this book, some of which take place in Montana in the 1960s, to scenes in Doig's The Bartender's Tale, in that the setting is the same but the way it is written about is very different. 

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