Paperback Ô The Sportswriter Epub Ö

  • Paperback
  • 375 pages
  • The Sportswriter
  • Richard Ford
  • English
  • 22 September 2019
  • 9780394743257

10 thoughts on “The Sportswriter

  1. Glenn Russell Glenn Russell says:

    Photo of the American novelist - Richard Ford

    Part of the Vintage Contemporaries Series, Richard Ford’s 1986 novel, The Sportswriter, is about a divorced 38-year old suburban New Jersey writer who lives out the American dream gone sour. In some ways the story reminded me of Camus’s The Stranger. What I found particularly disturbing about the first-person narrator and main character, Frank Bascombe, was the way Frank would always project motives, backgrounds, ideas and futures onto all the people he encountered -- family, friends, strangers. It didn’t matter who you were, if you came within the view of Frank Bascombe, you were in for a layering of categories. Frank even layered his categories onto neighborhoods, towns, cities, regions and countries. It was a kind of poison.

    The other disturbing thing about Frank was the way he would always tell you, the reader, that what he said to people was not what he really felt or what he really thought. In other words, Frank was incapable of saying what he meant or meaning what he said. Talk about living in a kind of hell.

    At one point in the novel, Frank tells the reader the divorced men’s club, where he is a member, is composed of men who are all Babbitts, himself included. Reading Frank’s admission, I ask the question: Is life so suffocating that people can’t escape their current trap, even when they can see it as a trap? What a commentary on modern life. Frank Bascombe as a modern day Babbitt, incapable of change. To me, this sounds like a life sentence.

  2. Jaline Jaline says:

    After spending hours in Frank Bascombe’s head, I am still not sure what to make of him. This book revolves around an Easter weekend in his life, beginning with an annual visit to his son’s grave with his ex-wife (referred to as “X” throughout the novel) early in the morning of Good Friday. Many things happen during that weekend, although the bulk of it centres around Frank’s thoughts.

    This is a deeply introspective book. For quite some time I enjoyed the experience of discovering the matches and misses between Frank Bascombe’s thoughts and feelings with my own. I felt an empathy with his character and many of the sad things he had experienced. I felt secure in the knowledge that he had done something of note: he wrote a book of short stories that was picked up by a Producer in Hollywood and gave him and his then-wife a nice start when he was just 24 or 25.

    In his ruminations, it is difficult to tell exactly when I began to see some subtle discrepancies in his thought patterns. It is hard to say when this began because for the most part he avoids the first 20 or so years of his life altogether.

    When did Frank Bascombe begin to spend most of his life in the passenger seat while life and other people steered and had their foot on the gas pedal? When did he begin to obfuscate many incidents in his life? When did he begin the process of projecting his own thinking and desires onto other people? When did he begin to skip reality and skew it to his own purposes? Now that his 39th birthday is just around the corner, what is it he is seeking and does he have the complete honesty necessary for his contemplations to bear any fruit worth biting into?

    Frank Bascombe is a mass of contradictions. He claims to want intimacy, yet he flees from it or sabotages intimate relationships so the other person flees in self-preservation. He wants to be seen as helpful and kind – enraptured by the mysteries of life to the degree that he turns everything into a mystery. Other times, confronted by less ethereal mysteries, the hard and gritty mysteries, he puts his own stamp on them – always slightly off-kilter like a sailboat struggling to right itself on a stormy sea.

    At the very end of the novel, Frank Bascombe leaves his New Jersey home to spend time in Florida. He finds family members there from the Bascombe side of his family and that is where we leave him. For now.

    While I still don’t know quite what to make of Frank Bascombe, Richard Ford's writing roused my curiosity, and I will read Part Two next month.

  3. Glenn Sumi Glenn Sumi says:

    I tried reading Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter years ago, but I wasn’t ready. Now that I’ve lived a lot more life, I get it.

    Most of all, I get Ford’s Everyman hero, Frank Bascombe, a 38-year-old, divorced man with two kids (one has died), who works at a sports magazine after he gave up a promising literary career and lives alone (he’s got an African boarder) in a New Jersey suburb.

    I get Frank’s vague yearnings, his dreaminess, his little tragedies, his big ones, his successes, his failures, his compromises, his phone calls to people he used to know, his relationship with someone who’s totally inappropriate, his thoughts about his ex-wife (called, literally, X – to protect her identity?), his gestures of civility, his good Southern manners, his excusable prejudices, his inexcusable ones, his impulsive decisions, his crippling indecisions, his outward geniality and actual remoteness… in the end, I get his valiant, noble attempt to try to live with dignity in a sad, unfair yet frequently beautiful world.

    You don’t have to know much about sports to appreciate Ford’s gorgeous, melancholy book. Not much happens. It recounts one memorable Easter weekend in Frank’s life.

    Will I read Ford’s other Bascombe books? As Frank would say in his grinning, archetypal middle-class American way (with a glint in his eye, knowing you're also a reader of serious fiction), “You bet.”

  4. Duane Duane says:

    Frank Bascombe, he is the sportswriter, and he is the first-person narrator of this novel which takes a slanted and sometimes brutal look at the failings of a 20th century American family, especially of the father and husband, Frank himself. We learn early in the story that Frank is not a happy person, and with good reason most of us would agree. He is divorced, but still living in the family's suburban home in New Jersey. He has three children; one of them, a son, has died. And his dreams of being a novelist have been abandoned and he has turned to writing sports for a national magazine. Honestly, Frank is not a very likable guy. He's not a bad guy, he's just that guy you want to grab and shake and say, snap out of it Frank. But alas, that never happens.

    So what makes this a five star book, one that many consider one of the best of the 20th century? It's quite simply the writing. What Richard Ford does here is what John Williams does in Stoner, what Philip Roth does in American Pastoral; he transforms the mundane, the everyday events of life, into a work of art. You may not like Frank Bascombe when you are finished, but you will know him, and you will feel for him, and you may even recognize something of yourself in him.

  5. Will Byrnes Will Byrnes says:

    Frank Bascombe published a book once. He just never got around to writing another, veering off into the world of sportswriting. The Sportwriter shows us a week in Frank’s life in which he confronts the choices he has made as parts of his life are pared away and we are shown what has already been cut. He is divorced, with one child having died. His girlfriend is clearly inappropriate for him and that ends as well. A sort-of friend comes out and on to him, ending badly. We see his semester as a teacher and the complications that ensue.

    The above really tells nothing about the book. It is one of beautiful language, tone, self-inspection, how one lives one’s life in the world. Much resonated. It is not an action adventure tale, but things do happen, dramatic on an individual scale, if not a global one. It is about expectations of life and of ourselves. Not a quick read, but very good stuff.

    P 24
    All we really want is to get to the point where the past can explain nothing about us and we can get on with life.

    P 24
    My own history I think of as a postcard with changing scenes on one side but no particular or memorable messages on the back.

    P 27
    It may be just the fate of boys whose fathers die young never to be young—officially—ourselves; youth being just a brief dream, a prelude of no particular lasting moment before actual life begins.

    P 97
    What’s friendships real measure?
    I’ll tell you. The amount of precious time you’ll squander on someone else’s calamities and fuck-ups.

    P 183
    I’ve quit becoming, is what it feels like. Only I stopped at the wrong time.

  6. Wendy Wendy says:

    The Sportswriter started out really strong for me - seemed thoughtful and familiar and American, a bit like Stegner's Crossing to Safety.

    But after a while, say about 250 pages, I stopped finding the character thoughtful and subtle and started thinking he was kind of a boorish self-serving windbag. It didn't help that I'd rather have spent more time with his ex wife and children, who seemed charming, funny and smart, than his ditzy and unappealing girlfriend or his sadsack friends. I think I also didn't believe him that the New Jersey suburbs were the real stuff of life, as he thought. I found myself wishing that he'd shut the hell up already.

    Maybe all of this was sort of the point, but I felt like, well, I knew all that already.

  7. Lyn Lyn says:

    This takes a long way to get where its going; however the last third of the book is quite good.

    Inconsistent and with too frequently one dimensional dialogue, however when it is good, it is very good, reminding the reader of Phillip Roth or John Cheever. Actually, and this is a stretch, this could be a modern, more sympathetic retelling of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and there are some hints to indicate this is where Ford was coming from.

    Ford's protagonist Frank Bascombe is an existential wreck and deals with life as it comes to him, not having given up, but surviving.

    Ford would win the Pulitzer prize for the follow up to this work, 1995's Independence Day, and his talent is evident.


  8. Alex Alex says:

    Did you hear the one about the middle-aged white guy who has a mid-life crisis? You did! You sometimes think you’ve heard nothing else! The world is brimful of middle-aged white guys having midlife crises. Of course it’s full of many other things as well but it's been run, for so long, by middle-aged white guys having midlife crises, writing books about it, putting each others’ books about it on their college curricula, making lists of great novels about white guy midlife crises, sometimes you can’t hear anyone else’s story for the multitude of white guys surrounding you and shouting theirs. They’ve made a great big circle jerk and convinced themselves that they’ve gained Hard-Won Wisdom, and that you need to hear it. All these books have, strewn like trucks in a toddler’s home, pearls of wisdom waiting for you to step on them and fall over.

    The Sportswriter isn’t the gold standard of middle-aged white guy crisis books - that’s Updike, of course - this is store brand Updike, a Gobot to Updike’s Transformer, a blatant Rabbit ripoff, and it slavishly adheres to every white guy tic you hate. Describing women tits-first? Yep! (Oh man, check this one out: he actually does the fruit thing! “A white cotton blouse concealing a pair of considerable grapefruits. Classic!) Extreme solipsism? This book is so solipsistic that the guy never names his ex-wife, a major character; she’s referred to throughout as X, and I understand that Ford’s making a point but the point is that he’s an asshole. And will there be hard-won wisdom? Boy howdy, will there!

    The weird thing is how much of his hard-won wisdom is nonsense. Of course hard-won wisdom is often nonsense, but Frank's ratio of “OK good point to “Wait, what? is frankly abysmal.

    A short list of things Frank is wrong about
    - We’re almost always wrong when we are young - reverse that, my friend
    - In some of the heart’s business there is really no net gain - no
    - Literature’s consolations are always temporary, while life is quick to begin again. - good gosh, you might have to reverse this too
    - The world is a more engaging and less dramatic place than writers ever give it credit for being. - speaking of solipsism, lol. Has he even read Shirley Jackson? Almost certainly not
    - The truth of most things turned out to be waiting just over the edge of worried thought. - this is actual garbage

    This is all Frank Bascombe saying this, but when middle-aged white guys write middle-aged white guys saying things, it’s almost always the author speaking, and there’s no reason to think otherwise here. It’s distracting! You keep coming across sentences like this that make you stop and think wait, that… that doesn’t sound right.

    Well, Frank ambles through this book, dropping his questionable pearls. The death of his nine-year-old son has effectively turned him off; he wandered on autopilot through his subsequent divorce and he’s still on autopilot now. “Dreaminess, he calls it. The abdication of agency. He can’t directly face his son’s death, referring to it mostly obliquely, and the book can’t face it either; he’s more comfortable talking about his failure as a writer, which ricocheted him into success as a sportswriter.

    The book is, in fact, more about sportswriting than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a metaphor? This is too bad, given my complete lack of interest in sports or sportswriting. Richard Ford himself has been a sportswriter but he has not been the father of a dead child, so one starts to think he’s not so much describing a man who’s numb with tragedy as glossing over something he doesn’t know shit about.

    Instead of facing tragedy, Frank has awkward conversations with other sad middle-aged men about their stunted lives. They compulsively use each other’s first names. He is casually racist (see Appendix B, and it was not okay to say Negro or colored in 1986, let me assure you). He has an affair with a younger woman. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?) He will not engage with life, and you’re unlikely to want to engage with him. There isn’t any fire to this story, just more of the sorts of sentences you’re used to. He’s wrong about almost everything, but the bigger problem is that you’ve heard this one before. It wasn’t even that interesting the first time.

    Appendix A: Some Of The Ways Women Are Introduced
    - Rhonda is a tall raw-boned, ash-blond girl in her late thirties with an old-fashioned, chorus-line figure, but with a face like a racehorse and a loud voice I don’t like
    - A small fawn-haired woman of the frail but vaguely pretty category, not of this town
    - A sweet, saucy little black-hair with a delicate width of cheekbone, a broad Texas accent and a matter-of-factness with her rapture
    - She was thirty-two and not at all an appealing woman. She was plump with large, white teeth and a perfectly pie-shaped face.
    - Look at even the cover of this book. It's just disembodied legs. What does it even have to do with anything?

    Appendix B: Some Of The Ways Black People Are Described
    - a bony African with an austere face, almost certain the kind to have a long aboriginal penis.
    - Even Negroes look different here - healthy, smiling, prosperous
    - I could talk to him about invisibility, though it’s possible a true African would know less than one of our local Negroes
    - The colored boy in the Trans-Am slides by...more white girls on his mind.
    - And here’s a word from Ford himself, who once spat on Colson Whitehead, about how he doesn’t even see race.

  9. Lawyer Lawyer says:

    The Sportswriter: Richard Ford's Bleak View of the American Dream


    The Sportswriter, 1st Edition, Vintage, 1986

    My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter.

    For the past fourteen years I have lived here at 19 Hoving Road, Haddam, New Jersey, in a large Tudor house bought when a book of short stories I wrote sold to a movie producer for a lot of money, and seemed to set my wife and me and our three children--two of whom were not even born yet--up for a good life.

    Just exactly what that good life was--the one I expected--I cannot tell you now exactly, though I wouldn't say it has not come to pass, only that much has come in between. I am no longer married to X, for instance. The child we had when everything was starting has died, though there are two others, as I mentioned, who are alive and wonderful children.

    So it is that Richard Ford begins to tell us in beautifully written style the story of Frank Bascombe, The Sportswriter. And, although Ford writes beautifully, and paints characters in crystal clarity, Frank Bascombe is not a protagonist that is easy to like, much less love. Critics have described Bascombe as heroic and a decent man. Either I read a different book, or my dictionary has become outdated.

    The first hint of Bascombe's revelations to come is calling his former wife X. One wonders whether he has changed her name in Dragnet fashion to protect the innocent, or that over the period of their marriage he has become so distant from her he can no longer bear to call her by name.

    One could trace the disintegration of the Bascombe marriage back to the death of their first born son, Ralph, who died of Reyes syndrome. How many marriages have evaporated following the death of a child? Yet, no blame is cast between the two of them. There is no question as to which parent gave Ralph aspirin while running a fever. It simply occurred. They remained together long enough to create two other children, wonderful, as Frank describes them.

    But as Frank tells us, much has happened in between. He had intended to follow up his collection of well received short stories with a novel. The novel remains half written, abandoned, tucked away in Frank's desk drawer.

    While the unfinished novel gathers dust, Frank is offered a job by a glossy sports magazine you all have heard of. Ironically, Frank really doesn't like sports, not most of them. Now, baseball. That's different. However, Frank's angle as a sports writer is his innate ability to read people, to get them talking about themselves. He's a pro at ingratiating himself to those he interviews. He is a mixture of wide smiles, grins, platitudes, and the qualities of a good guy people don't mind talking to. That Frank has no real connection with his assignments is never evident to them, nor does it seemingly bother him. And, if a lie is called for, he has no difficulty in telling it.

    Richard Ford formerly wrote for Inside Sports Magazine

    Frank's job constantly takes him on travel junkets, to sporting events, to athlete interviews. Time with X and his two wonderful children is limited. During one of his out of town assignments the seat on the plane next to him occupied by a woman who has left her husband to write. They engage in pleasant conversation, more on her part than Frank's. It is no surprise they end up in the same hotel and that there's a knock on Frank's door that night. Frank discovers he can read women as well as he can the athletes he interviews. He turns her offer of lovemaking down, but holds her through the night, the courtly gentleman. What follows is a series of letters implying an intimacy that doesn't exist.

    Ironically, following a vacation trip, Frank and X return to their Tudor home to find it burglarized. It's the typical burglary where the intruders have left out for inspection those things most of us would rather stay tucked away in the privacy of boxes and drawers. X finds Frank's correspondence which he had kept in his desk drawer. Frank is surprised to find X setting her hope chest containing all the special mementos of their marriage ablaze in the fireplace. The marriage is over.

    Surprisingly, the marriage is over for an offense that Frank did not commit. He casually informs the reader that perhaps X had turned a blind eye to the eighteen women he in fact had slept with. The details of the Bascombe divorce are never revealed. Again, a surprise, Frank ends up with the Tudor house while X and the two children establish a new home in The Presidents, a hot new suburban development. It turns out that X has always been the true athlete of the couple, a golfer, who becomes a pro at a local club, and offers golfing lessons.

    Frank's and X's relationship remains relatively amicable. X keeps their two children Peter and Claire readily accessible to him. At times, Frank sleeps over on the couch.

    Frank and X also continue to observe Ralph's birthday, meeting at the cemetery each year. Frank's practice is to select a poem each year to read over the grave. This particular year he has chosen A.E. Houseman's On an Athlete's Dying Young. X laconically tells Frank she never liked Houseman, nor was Ralph ever an athlete.

    At their meeting at the cemetery, Frank does not tell X he's taking a female companion along with him on an assignment to Detroit, though she brings up the matter of whether either of them ever think of marrying again. Frank has met Vicki, a nurse in the ER, who has recently fled an abusive marriage in Texas. Vicki's father, a former petroleum engineer in Texas, now a toll taker at one of the New Jersey turnpikes has bought and furnished a house for her.

    To Frank, Vicki is a weekend gift from Heaven. The curves are in all the right place. She's indicated her sexual interest, calling herself a real firecracker in that department. Frank paints her as a Southern stereotype, complete with Texas twang, and wide eyed wonder at the prospect of going to Detroit and seeing the Big Tire which she's always wanted to do.


    One of Nurse Vicki's Wonders of the World

    Frank bears a hostility towards Southerners, which he especially exhibits towards his physician Fincher who shows up at the airport, decked out in awful trendy golfing clothes, his clubs thrown over his shoulder. Frank thinks of the Southern college boy decked out in khakis and campaign belt, baggy oxford shirt, with hands tucked confidently in their pockets, displaying a nonchalant insouciance. Only later does Bascombe himself reveal that he, too, is a Southern expatriate, and happy to be one, although he had attempted to use that image to gain entrance at the University of Michigan in his undergrad days.

    The Detroit trip is a disaster. A freakish blizzard makes sightseeing a lost cause. Bascombe's assignment is off his meds, crazy as a betsy bug, and won't produce a successful story. While Vicki is a firecracker in bed, Frank makes a crucial error after telling her he loves her. He sneaks through her purse, looking through the photographs in her wallet. Vicki wakes up. The party's over, in spite of Frank's proposal of marriage.

    Throw into the mix that Frank's formula for wooing involves a quick declaration of love. His preference is for divorced women. Single mother's are even more preferable for they are more vulnerable to being told they are loved. His ideal relationship consists of making eye contact over a drink, the suggestion dinner, and being entwined in bed within four hours, hopefully while on assignment in a location not to be visited again. Hero? Decent? Or heel?

    Frank's relationships with other men are just as tangential, lacking any commitment. Shortly after his divorce from X, Frank was dragged into the Divorced Men's Club, a group of five men, who meet for dinner, drinks, taking in a sports game, an occasional fishing charter. As places become available through death or remarriage, some lucky guy becomes available to fill the empty slot. Frank approaches the club much as he does the athletes he interviews, with smiles, grins, and the occasional joke.

    Things grow complicated when a new place opens in the club and it is filled by Walter Luckett. Walter's only luck is bad. His wife ran off to Bimini with her ski instructor. He's a true sad sack. Because of Frank's seeming bonhomie, Walter mistakes him for a friend and confidant.

    Following a fishing charter Walter confides in Frank that he met a nice fellow and ended up in a motel room with him. Walter feels that Frank, while he might have an opinion, will listen to him, and not express how he might feel about what happened. Frank in fact does listen. But tells Walter he does have an opinion which he would prefer not to express.

    (view spoiler)[Walter's loneliness, the humiliation of being left by his wife, and his guilt over his homosexual experience lead him to commit suicide. Walter leaves a suicide note for Frank calling his best friend. Responding police find the note. Unable to locate Frank, they call X who locates Frank on his cell. X volunteers to go to the police department with Frank. After being questioned whether he and Walter were romantically linked, Frank indignantly denies it, invites the interviewing officer to join the Divorced Men's Club, and sets out to explore Walter's apartment since Walter had left him a key. X drives him to the apartment and goes inside with him.

    Frank has no idea why he is inside Walter's apartment. Nor does he know why Walter considered him his best friend.

    As he meanders through the dead man's apartment, X tells Frank she still loves him. Frank impulsively asks X to go into Walter's bedroom make love. Wrong move. I was going to ask you to spend the night. I left the kids with the Armenis. Instead X leaves Frank stranded at Walter's apartment to get home the best way he can. (hide spoiler)]

  10. Kemper Kemper says:

    There was hardly any sports in this book at all. What a rip-off....

    Frank Bascombe craves a 'normal' suburban existence the way a junkie craves heroin. Once an up-and-coming writer living with his wife in New York, Frank quit fiction writing and fled to the 'burbs in Jersey when offered a sports writing job for a weekly magazine. Frank's efforts to be a plain old suburbanite with zero introspection of his own life haven't exactly worked out, though. His young son died of a wasting disease and his wife left him with his other children when she found evidence that he cheated on her during one of his trips to cover a sporting event.

    The book takes place over an Easter weekend that begins with Frank meeting his ex-wife (that he refers to only as X) at their son's grave on the anniversary of his death, and most of the book deals with Frank's inner monologue about the way things should be.

    Frank claims to love the solid suburban lifestyle he still clings to even after his divorce and has nothing but thinly veiled contempt for academics and other artsy types, even though he used to be one. He prides himself on being a literalist who deals only with what's in front of him and doesn't waste time on 'dreaminess' like he used too.

    Frank is so square that ninety degree angles are jealous of him. His idea of a romantic weekend with his new girlfriend, Vicki, is a few days in Detroit on one of his sports writing assingments, and when a male friend confesses a homosexual encounter, Frank thinks of it as 'monkeyshines'. Frank would probably live inside a Norman Rockwell painting if he could.

    However, despite all of his claims of literalism and suburban tranquility, Frank is quietly having a meltdown. He prides himself with dealing with life as it is, but he's disappointed and ill equipped to cope when things go off the rails. For example, he had hoped to write an uplifting story on a former football player paralyzed in an accident about how the player had overcome adversity. When he finds that the man is actually devastated, Frank thinks only of how he can make the guy fit into the story he planned to write, not of how he could honestly tell how the man's life has fallen apart.

    Very well-written, but I had a hard time dealing with Frank. Maybe it's because as a male suburbanite looking down the barrel of middle-age myself, I had little patience for Frank's self-deceptions and fairy tales of suburban life being the best place to live to keep one 'normal' and 'happy'. I like my 'burb, but it's just a quiet place to live. As I close in on 40, quiet has become very important to me. Now get off my lawn, you kids!

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The SportswriterAs a sportswriter, Frank Bascombe makes his living studying peoplemen, mostlywho live entirely within themselves This is a condition that Frank himself aspires to But at thirtyeight, he suffers from incurable dreaminess, occasional pounding of the heart, and the nottoodistant losses of a career, a son, and a marriage In the course of the Easter week in which Ford's moving novel transpires, Bascombe will end up losing the remnants of his familiar life, though with his spirits still soaring

About the Author: Richard Ford

Richard Ford, born February 16, 1944 in Jackson, Mississippi, is an American novelist and short story writer His best known works are the novel The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land and Let Me Be Frank With You, and the short story collection Rock Springs, which contains several widely anthologized stories Comparisons have been drawn between Ford's work and the