Some People Do It Better: Richard Ford

Finished The Sportswriter . It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel, I felt, that so clearly sums up what I’ve always suspected. I’m not a man, not a sportswriter, have never lost a child nor been divorced and I hope to God I never will – but Bascombe and I – is this the writer’s connection? – definitely see eye to eye on many things. Maybe it has something to do with where you are in life – I’m 25, 15 years younger than Frank Bascombe’s 40, but isn’t it a fact of life that women reach these conclusions much earlier than men do, and even if men get there first, they don’t really know they’ve arrived until someone (usually a woman) points it out to them. This seems to be the case for Bascombe, even though he doesn’t say, or refuses to.

I’ve put the book down on my reread list. I’ll pick it up again when I’m forty to see if I still agree. I have a hunch I will. Someone less careful would write it off as cynicism: “Bascombe thinks like this because he’s divorced, can’t find love, has lost a son, is not passionate about his job…” Regardless, he sees life lived, he wonders, is amazed in an understated way people generally wouldn’t categorize as such. But even if my lips are pursed and my eyes seem unfocused, I’m still awed by the sheer force of life. Where it does and does not take us.

Why I love airports, hotels, traveling:

“It is not bad to sit in some placeless dark and watch commuters step off into splashy car lights, striding toward the promise of bounteous hugs, cool wall-papered rooms, drinks mixed, ice in the bucket, a newspaper, a long undisturbed evening of national news and sleep. I began coming here soon after my divorce to watch people I knew come home from Gotham, watch them be met, hugged, kissed, patted, assisted with luggage, then driven away in cars. And you might believe I was envious, or heartsick, or angling some way to feel wronged. But I fount it one of the most hopeful and worthwhile things, and after a time, when the train had gone and the station was empty again and the taxis had drifted back up to the center of town, I went home to bed almost always in rising spirits. To take pleasure in the consolations of others, even the small ones, is possible. And more than that: it sometimes becomes damned necessary when enough of the chips are down. It takes a depth of character as noble and enduring as willingness to come off the bench to play a great game knowing full well that you’ll never be a regular; or as one who chooses not to hop into bed with your best friend’s beautiful wife.

Why I’m being open about many things, most prominently: the job hunt and members of the opposite sex. 

“…I enjoy this closeness to the trains and the great moment they exude, their implacable hissing noise and purpose. I read somewhere it is psychologically beneficial to stand near things greater and more powerful than you yourself, so as to dwarf yourself (and your piddlyass bothers) by comparison. To do so, the writer said, released the spirit from its everyday moorings, and accounted for why Montanans and Sherpas , who live near daunting mountains, aren’t much at complaining or nettlesome introspection… All alone now beside the humming train cars, I actually do feel my moorings slacken, and I will say it again, perhaps for the last time: there is mystery everywhere, even in a vulgar, urine scented, suburban depot such as this. You have only to let yourself in for it. You can never know what’s coming next. Always there is the chance it will be – miraculous to say – something you want.

Lastly. 

“As I’ve said, life has only one certain closure. It is possible to love someone, and no one else, and still not live that person or even see her. Anything or anyone else who says different is a liar or a sentimentalist or worse. It is possible to be married, to divorce, then to come back together with a whole new set of understandings that you’d never have liked or even understood before in your earlier life, but that to your surprise now seems absolutely perfect. The only truth that can never be a lie, let me tell you, is life itself – the thing that happens.”

Until 40, Mr. Bascombe. (Though I’ll likely read the other two books in the trilogy before then).

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