Fellow Boomer Frank Bascombe Returns in Richard Ford’s New Book

If you’re a Boomer, then Frank Bascombe is one of us, and it’s nice to have him back and once more pondering the past, fretting about the future and coping with an unsettled present. His creator, Richard Ford, has somewhat begrudgingly returned Frank to us in Let Me Be Frank With You, continuing a life started nearly 30 years ago in The Sportswriter (1986), picked up again in the Pulitzer-winning Independence Day (1995) and seemingly wound down in The Lay of the Land (2006). But there always seemed something a little too easy about the outcome of the last novel, something left dangling in a tangled life marked by sorrow, loss, moments of joy, hopes, longings, failure and success.

And so now Ford returns to his everyman in response, he admits, to requests from readers, but also a desire to touch on “the consequences of a hurricane that the media wouldn’t pay attention to.” In other words, the human debris left behind to be dealt with long after the storm — in this case, Hurricane Sandy and its disorienting aftermath that causes Frank to realize nothing is here to stay.

He’s now 68, still living in New Jersey, contentedly married, retired from selling real estate, and aware of and troubled by both the liberations and challenges of creeping age. In four interconnected novellas, Frank deals with his “new normal,” awakens to the need to savor the little moments, even accepts that less is more as he jettisons even friends. He’s not always lovable, sometimes not even likable in his comments and actions, but that’s what makes him believable on the page. Continue reading

Memory is a Tricky Tease

Time moves in one direction, memory in another -- William Gibson

Time moves in one direction, memory in another — William Gibson

We all know memory is a tricky thing, sometimes teasing, sometimes torturing as we grasp at the past, often during attempts to deal with the present and plan for the future. As we learn more and more about the human brain and its miraculous functions, we also come to understand that memories are not exact, finite things. There is no portion of the human brain that functions as a “filing cabinet” from which memories are extracted whole and presented for retrospection. Instead, a “memory” is formed through input from various sections of the brain, with data collected and assimilated into a reconstruction of something or someone past. This means a “memory” is not an exact thing, but a re-creation.

I was considering this recently after reading a column by a friend with whom I attended school from our first day through high school. His well-crafted piece, featured in the hometown newspaper, was his recollection of beginning school with that fearful walk into the first grade classroom (no kindergarten in those days in our little town). Having shared that experience – we were in the same class – it was interesting to compare my memories, admittedly dim, with his, and allow his to cause me to examine things forgotten.

One thing I agreed with was the slanted perception of that time and place and situation. For me, it reinforces the notion that memories are recreations, perceptions fed through Continue reading