Richard Ford 1944
- A Piece of My Heart
- The Ultimate Good Luck
- The Sportswriter
- Independence Day
- The Lay of the Land 2007
- Canada 2012
- Short Story Collections
- Rock Springs
- Women with Men 1997
- Multitude of Sins 2002
- Collaborative Portfolio
- Privacy (with seven etchings by artist Jane Kent)
- The Lay of the Land 2007
Richard Ford at MIAL in Columbus, MS. in 2013. Photo by Nancy Jacobs
By Brandon Patton (SHS)
Ford, a Mississippi writer who in 1996 won the Pulitzer Prize
for Literature for Independence Day, was born
in Jackson, Mississippi, on February 16, 1944. While
growing up, Richard went to Davis Elementary, the same elementary
school Eudora Welty attended. He even had some of the same teachers!
Interestingly, he also lived across the street from Eudora!
Richard graduated from high school in Mississippi , then went
on to get his B. A. from Michigan State University and his M.
F. A. from the University of California. Ford wrote short stories
The Paris Review, and The New Yorker
before completing his first novel, A Piece of My Heart,
in 1976. Richard has written many more novels such as The
Ultimate Good Luck (1981), The Sportswriter
(1986), Wildlife, and Independence Day.
Ford has won many awards and is a member of the Writers Guild.
His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment
for the Arts Fellowship, the PEN/Faulkner citation for fiction
for The Sportswriter, as well as the PEN/Faulkner
Award and the Pulitzer for Literature for his novel Independence
Day. With these awards and novels, Richard Ford has
become one of the best-known authors in Mississippi. He published
a novel called Women with Men in the summer
of 1997. In April of 2000 he collaborated with Jane Kent to
publish a portfolio of seven etchings with letterpress text
and his short story "Privacy."
*Note: In August of 2001, author Richard Ford, who grew up
in the same neighborhood
as Eudora Welty, was a pallbearer at Eudora Welty's funeral
and is the literary executor of her work, charged with making
editorial decisions about her old and new works. Both
Welty and Ford have not only the same elementary school in common
(although years apart--Ford is 57 and Welty was 92 when she
died), but also the Pulitzer Prize!
UPDATE: In 2007, Richard Ford published The
Lay of the Land, which became a National Book
Critics Circle Award Finalist and A New York Times
Best Book of the Year. It continues the story
of the main character Frank Bascombe.
Ford's Trilogy became a six-hour miniseries on HBO.The series
will be based on Richard Ford's trilogy of books: The
Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The
Lay of the Land. See more below.
Winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, Ford had been adjunct professor at the Oscar Wilde Centre with the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, where he taught on the master’s program in creative writing. Ford assumed the post of senior fiction professor at University of Mississippi in 2011, replacing the late Barry Hannah. His latest novel, Canada, was published in 2012. He is now the Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Professor of the humanities and professor of Writing at the Columbia University School of the Arts. In 2013 Richard Ford was awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction.
Biography of Richard Ford
By Park Zhou (SHS)
Richard Ford, well-known Mississippi writer, is the winner
of both the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer
Prize in Literature for his novel Independence Day.
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, on February 16, 1944, Richard
Ford is the son of Parker Carrol and Edna Ford. While growing
up, Ford, like Grisham, always wanted to be a lawyer. He attended
law school for several years, but he quit and began to write
fiction ( Bowden 243).
Richard Ford can be best described as one of our reigning interpreters
of "achy, bittersweet familial melancholy" ( Cryer). Some of
his earlier works include A Piece of My Heart, The
Ultimate Good Luck, Fifty Great Years of Esquire Fiction,
Wildlife, and The Sportswriter. All
of Ford's novels feature restless and alienated male protagonists
who are haunted by painful experiences that render them incapable
of emotional commitment. The novels are deeply emotionally involving,
and they have a keen sense of place, vivid description power,
and cynical humor ( Matuz and Marowski 156).
Ford, who lived for a while in New Orleans, has moved to Jamestown,
Rhode Island, to work on books away from the distractions of
home (Clay). Published by Vintage Books, Independence
Day is considered to be Richard Ford's best and most
successful novel yet. For it, he received the PEN/Faulkner Award
and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. His most recent novel
is entitled Women with Men, but he has edited
the Granta publication and done a portfolio with Jane Kent that
includes his short story "Privacy."
2008 UPDATE: Richard Ford published The Lay of
the Land to wide acclaim in 2007. See above for more recent updates.
A Review of Independence
by Park Zhou (SHS)
Independence Day by Richard Ford is a powerful
and exhilarating novel. The book is a sequel to The Sportswriter.
The narrator, Frank Bascombe, a former sportswriter, is
divorced and lives in Haddam, New Jersey. A real estate agent,
Frank is going through what he calls "the Existence Period."
Meanwhile his ex-wife, Ann, has married Charley O'Dell, an architect
. She is now Mrs. Charley O'Dell of 86 Swallow Lane, Deep River,
CT. Both his children live there too, though as Frank says,
"I'm not certain how happy they are or even should be" (7).
Frank's 15-year-old son, Paul, is an emotionally troubled teenager
who faces a court date for shoplifting.
The novel begins on a Fourth of July weekend as Frank is trying
to close a house sale. Frank's clients, the Markhams, are an
indecisive couple from Vermont who are not satisfied with anything.
"The house I could show them all fell significantly below their
dream" (39). Actually, the Markhams never really want to buy
a house; they just want "reality to set in."
Just as Frank is ready to spend his evening with his sometime
lover, Sally Caldwell, he receives a message from his ex-wife.
It turns out that Paul has
whacked his stepfather in the jaw with an oarlock. Frank decides
to take Paul for a father-son trip to visit the Basketball Hall
of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Baseball Hall
of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The trip at first is quite
successful as Frank tries to get his son to regain his interest
in life and forget about all the troubles. "It's totally relevant--in
my view--to Paul's difficulty in integrating his fractured past
with his hectic present so that the two connect up in a commonsense
way and make him free and independent rather than staying disconnected
and distracted and driving him crazy" (259). Tragedy soon hits,
however, as Paul gets knocked in the eye by a baseball going
75 miles-per-hour. Frank states, "Paul . . . turns his face
to the machine, which, having no brain, or heart, or forbearance,
or fear . . . squeezes another ball through its dark warp .
. . and hit my son full in the face and knocks him flat down
on his back with a terrible, loud thwock "(361).
Even though he is a good father, Frank is reluctant to have
a solid commitment with the women in his life. "'And you're
noncommittal . . . You're smooth and you're cautious and you
're noncommittal. That's not a very easy combination for me'"
The novel stresses the idea of personal independence. Both
Frank and Paul try to obtain independence from the nightmares
which hold them captive. Frank has gone through a son's death,
a divorce, and the ruin of his sportswriting career. Similarly,
Paul has to face his parents' divorce, the death of his brother,
and the death of his dog, Mr. Toby. The book itself, however,
is lengthy and exhausting. It is perfect for someone who has
a lot of patience and time. Still, Independence Day
is an astonishing novel with compelling characters.
A Review of The Sportswriter
by Brandon Patton (SHS)
Richard Ford's fiction novel, The Sportswriter,
is a definite page turner. This novel is written in first person
and is an example of great character development. This novel
is full of life and a great achievement for Ford. This is a
book anyone can relate to; it's the sport everyone plays.
Frank Bascombe is the sportswriter who lives in suburban New
Jersey. This story takes place during Easter week in the late
1950's or early 1960's. Frank and his ex-wife decide to meet
at a graveyard to visit their deceased son Ralph. When this
meeting is over , the reader begins to discover what kind of
man Frank Bascombe really is. I got the impression that Frank
was a man without any morals because he was constantly talking
about hundred dollar whores . Frank finally does meet a lady;
her name is Vicki. He takes Vicki on a business trip to Detroit
where they spend about two days. Frank begins to fall in love
with Vicki on this trip.
Later in the novel Frank decides to spend Easter with Vicki's
family in Dallas, Texas. Frank is introduced to Vicki's entire
family ;and through these country folks, Frank is taught a new
Frank leaves Dallas; and as he gets into New Jersey, he calls
a woman named Selma Jassim. While he is standing in the phone
booth talking, a young man hits a shopping cart which flies
into the phone booth, shattering one side of the glass and cutting
Frank. Frank on his way home runs into an eighteen year old
girl. She helps stop the bleeding from his cuts. They start
a conversation about her career goals. Frank shows a different
side of himself by saying, "Well, I'll make some calls and help
This was one of the best novels I've read in a longtime. The
character development is so great that you can't help but turn
the pages. If you haven't read The Sportswriter
by Richard Ford, it's definitely one to read.
A Review of Wildlife
by Phillip Murphy (SHS)
Richard Ford's coming of age novel Wildlife tells
the story of sixteen year-old Joe Brinson and his family's struggles.
In this novel, Joe Brinson is living in a new place and does
not have many friends. He is close to each one of his parents.
He is especially close to his father Jerry, who is Joe's best
friend. Things start to unravel when Joe's father loses his
job. His father then leaves to go fight a raging forest fire
near their home. While he is gone, Joe's
mother has an affair with a man named Warren Miller. When Joe's
father returns home three days later, his wife tells him what
she has done. Jerry then goes over to Warren Miller's house
and promptly sets it on fire. In the very end of the book, Warren
decides not to press charges against Joe's father, and that
is where the book ends.
Ford tries to keep the reader interested in his boring novel,
but he does not do a very good job of it. He put in too many
unnecessary things. Although he provided a few amusing anecdotes
in his book, the boring, unnecessary parts out-weigh the interesting
ones. Also, I am not big on books filled with affairs of wives
cheating on husbands and vice versa. I did like Ford's use of
irony in this novel. It was rather amusing the way Joe's father
went off to fight fires to help his community out and then returned
to set a man's house ablaze. Other than that part, the novel
seemed dull. This is a good book for people who like to read
somewhat slow-paced novels with few humorous insights in it.
at Guild Hall 1996 announce Ford wins both Pulitzer and
PEN/William Faulkner Award.
RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE
"1996 Pulitzer Prizes Announced." Bookweb. December13,1996.
Bowden, Jane A., ed. "Richard Ford." Contemporary Authors.
vol. 69-72. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1978. 243.
Clay, John. "Richard Ford Reference." Gunnar Bittersmann. December
1, 1996. (user.cs.tu-berlin.de/~gunnar/bruce/lt/1995.3/0062.html).
Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Volume
Cryer, Dan. "Independence Day." Newsday Direct. December 3,
Ford, Richard. Wildlife. New York: Atlantic
Monthly Press, 1990.
Marowski, Daniel G., and Roger Matuz, ed. "Richard Ford." Contemporary
Literary Criticism. Vol. 46. Detroit, MI: Gale Research
Company, 1988. 156.
"Richard Ford 's Novel Independence Day Takes
PEN/Faulkner Along with Pulitzer." Virtually Northwest. December