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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Give Up on Richard Ford

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 11:14 AM

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I had planned to review the new Richard Ford book, Canada, in the paper this week—Ford will be at the downtown Powell's on June 3 at 4 pm—but after about a week I'd only made it through the first 30 pages, and on Saturday I finally gave up. I thought Ford's Frank Bascombe trilogy was great (though was admittedly far less enthusiastic about 2006's The Lay of the Land than I was about the first two), but I found Canada nearly unreadable. It's told from the point-of-view of (I think) an old guy reminiscing about events that took place when he was 15—but Ford also seems to insist that 15 still constitutes childhood, and that children are little more than lumps with eyes. So the protagonist's parents are described with the detail and perceptiveness of adult hindsight, but the protagonist himself totally lacks an inner life. It's also glacially slow, and it was with an incredible sense of relief that I stopped forcing myself to read it. After finding Lay of the Land a bit tedious, Canada pretty much guaranteed I won't be picking up Ford's work in the future. (Counterpoint, for the Ford fans out there still keeping faith: The Guardian thinks it's a masterpiece.)

Discounting authors I just plain grew out of (I'm sure I'd still be reading books about badgers with swords and cats who solve mysteries if I were perpetually 11), I can only think of a few other authors I've given up on. In theory I love Anne Tyler, but I no longer feel the need to actually read her latest book about gently quirky old people; I gave up on Orson Scott Card, but mostly 'cause it turns out he's a bigot. Anybody got any others?

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