22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Richard Ford

Portrait Richard Ford
© Peter-Andreas Hassiepen

Richard Ford was born in 1944 in Jackson, Mississippi. He studied literature and law but also was employed as a railroad worker and a teacher and a science editor.

Along the way he worked as a sports reporter, work which afforded him material with which to write the novel »The Sportswriter« (1986), leading to his literary breakthrough in America. Preferring not to be stereotyped as a »southern writer«, Ford in 1981, abruptly changed his literary course and began setting his novels and stories in (for him) less familiar locales in America – Montana and the mid-west and New Jersey. But also in Paris. In his novella »Occidentals« (1997), a mismatched American couple sets out upon a rainy, nearly deserted Paris in winter city-scape, wherein their feelings of inner dislocation and longing allow Ford – rather laconically – to provoke great sympathy and even brief human understandings. Ford, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel »Independence Day« in 1996 is rightly considered »The Great American Novelist« in the tradition of Saul Bellow and John Updike.

Ford’s stories focus on figures of the American middle class, whose lives are unexpectedly illuminated at crucial turning points that might not – but for the story – seem like turning points at all. In the novella »Jealous« (1995) a story is told by a Montana teenager who’s left home for the Pacific northwest. The insecurity and vulnerability, the not-knowing-anything-yet-seeing-much of how life actually works is brilliantly captured in Ford’s seemingly plain but evocative language. In the end the story allows less an understanding than an acknowledgement that love may be the only resilient force preservable in life. In 2006, Richard Ford continued the story of Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of »The Sportswriter« and »Independence Day«, with »The Lay of the Land«. Bascombe is also the narrator of »Let Me Be Frank with You« (2014), a collection of four novellas, set against the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in the US. »Canada« (2012) is a retrospective coming-of-age story of a western boy whose parents rob a bank in 1960, after which the boy flees to Canada, where he’s immersed into a life-changing and murderous plot not of his making. In his literary memory, »Between Them« (2017), Ford recalls his parents’ seemingly ordinary lives in mid-century America. His Short Story Collection “Sorry for Your Trouble” was published in 2019.