06 mayo 2009

Books I Liked


Por "la famosa escritora norteamericana"





THE LAY OF THE LAND. Richard Ford
496 pgs. Knopf (2006)


"Having written his first two tomes in 1986 and 1996, author Richard Ford seems poised to end Frank Bascombe's story as he approaches the age of 60; with a decade's gap. Ford is a marvelous writer of prose, and while much of the book takes place in Bascombe's thoughts, we are treated to dialogue in his encounters with friends and foes from the earlier books, as well as a new character or two - notably his employee, realtor Mike Mahoney, who is a Tibetan Buddhist and a consummate capitalist.
In addition to the ups and downs of normal life, as the book opens Bascombe muses on his own mortality. He has suffered from prostrate cancer for which he is treated at the Mayo clinic with a procedure that sounds like a clinical trial, so incomprehensible is it to me to be walking around with radioactive pellets in your body.

It is this sense of ongoing danger and risk that sets the tone for the musings of Bascombe, as he looks back on his successes and failures during the "permanent period" of his life....where he's reached his destination on the Jersey shore, instead of continuing his journey. But where his thoughts on life and death seemed to spur his actions in the first two novels, in "The Lay of the Land", they seem somewhat incidental to a series of unrelated, ordinary happenings. There are whole sections of the book, that, while descriptive, seem to go nowhere. Eventually, as you bog down and wonder where Ford is taking you, you start to be bothered by his lengthy descriptive passages for ordinary incidentals. In short, where the first two books gave depth and sincerity to writer/realtor Bascombe, this third novel becomes tedious.
I must say I'm disappointed, because after the first chapter, "Are You Ready to Meet Your Maker?", I anticipated loving the book and carved out a weekend to read the whole thing. I loved Ford's dalliance with Frank as a member of the New Jersey "Sponsors" network, an organization that could have spawned the whole novel, of ordinary people giving ordinary advice to complete strangers for ordinary problems. And there are passages where Ford captures his voice and the lyrical quality of his prose is second to none.
I'm not sorry I purchased "The Lay of the Land", but I can't recommend it wholeheartedly, and I certainly shake my head at the thought that it is making a lot of "Top 10" lists for 2006. Methinks it is Ford's reputation, and not the novel itself, that has critics crowing.
Nonetheless, if he keeps writing, I'll keep reading! "

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