Ever wish a book would never end? (Richard Ford’s Bascombe Trilogy)

by Steve

The Lay of the Land book cover - Richard FordFinally, after much procrastination, I have finished Richard Ford’s Bascombe Trilogy. That is, The Sportswriter, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land. It hasn’t taken me so long because the books were hard work, far from it. It has taken me so long because I haven’t wanted to leave the life of the narrator, Frank Bascombe.

Over the three books, I have dropped in on Bascombe’s life in his thirties, forties and fifties. Each book covers a few days – around Easter in the first book, Independence Day weekend in the second (obviously), and Thanksgiving in the last.

The books, taken as a whole, are far more than snapshots of a man. They are an incredibly rich and human take on the interior life. Bascombe may not be the ‘everyman’ we might wish him to be, and Ford suggests he is not that, but he still a wonderful conduit for exploring just what goes on inside our heads.

Meditative might not be the right term, but these books are built around the wonder and absurdity of the everyday, seen through the interior dialogue we all have. We each encounter drama every day, just on a very human scale. And we work through it in our heads. Well, at least I do. My interior dialogue rarely shuts up. Maybe that is why I liked Bascombe so much.

Bascombe does not live an extraordinary life. He is divorced with two children, and for most of the books is a realtor. Yet, like us all, Bascombe has passions, fears and hopes.

And I really haven’t wanted to leave his headspace as he ruminates over what life means as we get older, and how we can cope with whatever life throws our way.

Upon reading the final page I felt a real wave of emotion. Sadness, at bidding goodbye to a good friend. And happiness at having encountered such a character. I think I enjoyed The Lay of the Land the most, as by that point I had totally engaged with the character, and would happily have read 500 pages of him discussing anything. Which is pretty much what the book does, avoiding a normal plot. I could have read it forever.

Once I finally let myself finish the book, I had to pick up another book right away, to avoid some sort of readerly paralysis. After savouring each word, of getting so attached to one character, how could another book compete? At least with the first two I had another Bascombe book to look forward to. This time, I had to just get reading, to stop those thoughts leaving me book-less.

I wish I had it in me to come up with some sort of cogent and coherent argument about why I loved the Bascombe books so. Yet, I’m not sure I want to pick at the stitching and see how Ford did it. Not yet anyway. I just want to be happy that I let these books into my life.

So, do ever not want a book to end? How do you cope? And what is your take on Richard Ford?

Oh, and apologies for the gushing nature of this post. And my incredibly sporadic blogging schedule. I’ll work on it (the schedule, if not the gushing).