Of the many fine authors I've become newly familiar with since stopping full time work in 2010, a handful really stand out. I'm so grateful my reading path over the last ten years led me to Richard Ford.
After first finishing Ford's memoir - Between Them - a short time later I made my way to The Sportswriter, the first of his four novels featuring Frank Bascombe. The entry in my book journal for that novel ended up being the longest one I've ever written largely because as I wrote, my appreciation for what Ford had accomplished kept deepening. His prose is so stripped down it sometimes feels as though he's reciting his straightforward stories. His magic is disarming and difficult to describe but few pages ever go by without a hard-earned, understated insight. And his dialogue has the ring of truth. There is more Frank Bascombe in my reading future.
Canada was the latest stop on my Richard Ford path. "First I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later." Those sentences - the first two in Ford's 2012 novel - personify how matter-of-fact this modern-day master is. No fireworks, no silly surprises, no showy metaphors. Over the 400+ pages of Canada, Ford keeps the flame low, expertly maintaining the sense of quotidian doom clearly telegraphed by the novel's opening. It's extraordinary.
Good literature has given me many gifts. Foremost among those gifts is a heightened understanding of people. Richard Ford's work has significantly enhanced that understanding.