There are four books in the Frank Bascombe trilogy which makes me think Richard Ford, the writer who created him, must feel the same admiration for Frank that I do. The books follow Frank through his delicious slide from writer-with-serious-potential, to sports reporter, to New Jersey realtor, to retiree. And what makes this delicious? Because Frank’s slide through one tragic loss and a lot of crazy injustices have the effect of making him into a grown up. A wry, wise, grown up. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to him on this morning of Trump’s inaguration.
It’s the old-man Frank that I love best. Having a writer as great as Richard Ford talk about life at my age is such a kick because he describes a phenomenon that is so subtle, sometimes I feel like I’m making it up. I’m talking about the way things that used to seem as dangerous as a powder-dry pine tree falling on a raggedy power line have changed for me. Now, at 70, I often perceive such things as fascinating, humorous,and not really dangerous after all.
“When you grow as old as I am, you pretty much live on the accumulations of life anyway,” says Frank, and he’s accumulated some doozies. People, mostly – an old college friend, very financially successful, who keeps marrying younger women and getting more “work” which has left him grotesque and coming to Frank for some kind of assurance – he has no idea what. Or there’s the acquaintance Frank never really liked who summons him to his death bed to confess he slept with Franks ex-
wife. There’s the Ex-Wife herself, still brooding, 30 years after the divorce. There’s the never-ending grief for his first child who died. And the roller coaster splash downs of his living grown children. Frank keeps showing up for all of these people and not even doing that good of a job. But standing with them as they stand with him in a way that is so much more complex and true than guilt, or obligation, or who’s right, or who’s to blame – that subtle complex thing of age, explosively electric yet finally benign.
And then, of course, there’s Hurricane Sandy, she shows up too.
Thank God, Frank has his wife, Sally, a grown-up woman, smart and lovely and big hearted. He sure went through hell to secure their marriage in The Lay of the Land.
I find myself picking up these stories today, though I’ve read them over and over. I already know what’s going to happen, that’s not the point. It’s like calling a good friend – I just love the sound of his voice. Especially on this morning when childishness seems to trump the subtle and useful wisdom that can come with years.
Tomorrow, I will March. But today, I reach for a wise and favorite book. What are you reading here in Trumpland?
Originally posted 2017-01-20 15:04:34.