Share for friends:

Independence Day (2015)

Independence Day (2015)

Book Info

3.85 of 5 Votes: 1
Your rating
0099447126 (ISBN13: 9780099447122)

About book Independence Day (2015)

Richard Ford’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Independence Day, in my eyes, officially marks the author as the last and possibly greatest GMN* of the twentieth-century. I was impressed but not blown away by the first novel in his trilogy, The Sportswriter, in which we meet Frank Bascombe, a complicated and difficult-to-pin-down ex-marine and failed novelist who turns to sportswriting after the devastating death of his son and his subsequent divorce. The Sportswriter is indebted to Updike’s Rabbit franchise in all the right ways--most notably for its elevation and near religious worship of the quiet, mundane banalities of suburban American life. Like most of Updike’s heroes, Ford’s protagonist Frank Bascombe is manly and solipsistic, but also open-minded and deeply introspective. He is a liberal, though one who will neither censor his thoughts nor succumb to political correctness. In his thoughts Frank is something of a chauvinist, but by his actions he reveals himself to be basically a big softie. Where Ford diverges from Updike, however, is in his creation of intelligent, strong-willed female characters who are fierce and intransigent, providing important counter-points to Frank’s limited outlook and perspective. Independence Day is a departure in many ways from The Sportswriter in that it deals with the complexities and entanglements of a changing United States approaching the millenium. Although Frank’s interaction with this change--which includes race and class tensions, divorce, and fear of an approaching housing-market correction (Frank is now a realtor in Haddam, New Jersey)--is somewhat awkward and forced, the novel feels less claustrophobic and certainly less solipsistic for Ford’s efforts. In this way, Ford evades Franzen’s famous criticism of Updike in the Paris Review--claiming that the author fails to deal with “the bigger postwar, postmodern, socio-technological picture,” rendering him “a classic self-absorbed sixties-style narcissist.” To me, this charge has always seemed a bit unfair. For dealing with rapid and violent change by clinging to stability and escaping into a kind of dreamy, reflective solipsism seems a natural and fairly innocent reaction to new and overwhelming realities. Frank, despite his quiet dreaminess and searching nature, has come a long way since the death of his son Ralph and his divorce, as well as his resignation from sportswriting. He is now determined to right the mistakes of his past, and decides that this should come in the form of helping his delinquent son Paul right his own sagging path. Thus the plot of Independence Day centers on an epic weekend road trip between a flawed father and his troubled son, first to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, then to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The first half of Independence Day, however, focuses on the days leading up to this trip, as we are introduced to “Frank the realtor.” Getting involved with realty is one of the ways Frank, in his mid-life, decides he can “give back” to the community. In an effort to change perceptions and enlighten the WASPish residents of Haddam, New Jersey, Frank even begins buying and fixing up houses in “colored” neighborhoods and recommending them to his closed-minded clients. In fact, realty works as a superb metaphor, and one which Frank uses as a vehicle for examining America and his own community. In The Sportswriter, Frank inhabits a world that, as Barbara Ehrenreich puts it, is “just large enough for his personal tragedies and philanderings and not an iota of anything else.”** In Independence Day, one gets the overwhelming sense that Frank is trying to make room--not for anyone or anything in particular, but for something nonetheless. Despite its preoccupation with social engagement and “making room,” Independence Day is also a kind of hazy, leaf-blown meditation on independence and self-reliance, both in the individual and larger historical sense. Frank even goes so far as to bring Becker’s The Declaration of Independence and Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” along on the Hall of Fame road trip, hoping his son will be inspired enough to soak up some wisdom. But things don’t go at all as planned and both books end up sadly relegated to the back seat of the car. With Independence Day, it is important not to allow the overt themes of independence, self-reliance, change, and civic virtue to cloud the novel’s prodigious aesthetic virtues. Ford, more a poet than a novelist, is able to capture delicate and seemingly mundane nuances with painterly precision and psychological acuity. In language that is almost musical, Ford captures what it sounds like to be stuck in a drab hospital waiting room in Oneonta, New York, as the nurses are changing shifts; what it feels like to be waiting for a response in a phone booth at midnight after telling your partner you love them for the first time; or what it smells like to march in a sweaty Independence Day parade in Haddam, New Jersey. But it’s not just external details. As Frank’s subconscious mind wanders, the reader feels content to follow along gleefully. For example, as Frank sells a home to Phyllis and Joe Markham, a boring and frumpy middle-aged couple, he muses:"I gaze in puzzlement at her ill-defined posterior and have a sudden, fleeting curiosity about, of all things, her and Joe’s sex life. Would it be jolly and jokey? Prayerful and restrained? Rowdy, growling and obstreperous? Phyllis has an indefinite milky allure that is not always obvious--encased and bundled as she is, and slightly bulge-eyed in her fitless, matron-designer clothes--some yielding, unmaternal abundance that could certainly get a rise out of some lonely PTA dad in corduroys and a flannel shirt, encountered by surprise in the chilly intimacy of the grade-school parking lot after parents’ night."The narrative, though not exactly stream-of-consciousness, is delivered in the first-person present. Frank’s voice, no matter what he is doing or relating, is always intimate, but tends to drift in between levels of conscious and sub-conscious thought--in other words, between the stuff not realized, the stuff only discreetly realized, and the stuff that has been fully realized and is therefore fashioned self-consciously to please. Frank, throughout the novel, is engrossed in a new life phase he calls “the existence period,” which sounds rather deep but is really no more than a mature phase, the resigned acknowledgement that there are things in his life he cannot control. All efforts to look backward or forward in life during this period are substituted for an overriding imperative to simply be, to "exist." What we learn in the end is that Frank is becoming an adult. He is looking both inward and outward at the things he may be able to influence and giving these things a sincere effort. In this way, Independence Day gives us a mere slice--a weekend, in fact--of Frank’s breezy, wandering, introspective existence. However, just as independence and a sense of “the mystery of things” are important to Frank, so these qualities seem to matter doubly to Richard Ford; and although we come to share an intimate weekend with Frank Bascombe, there is, as with all great literary protagonists, a kernel of mystery regarding the man’s inner life that is left fully intact, and which the reader can never quite bring into focus. *Coined by the late David Foster Wallace, the term Great Male Narcissist (GMN) has come to signify a class of talented, if mostly self-absorbed post-war writers--including Roth, Mailer, Updike, and sometimes even Franzen--whose novels fixate shamelessly on sex, work, death, and their own self-consciousness.**Not that her review of Independence Day was in any way negative! Ehrenreich, who was critical of The Sportswriter, had this to say about Independence Day:"Most reviewers of Independence Day have concluded that Richard Ford is one of the great American writers of our time. Surely they underestimate him. Anybody who can keep the reader going through 451 pages about a holiday weekend in the life of a New Jersey realtor—a weekend in which nothing much happens except for some pitstops at the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, and other locations that I experience, even in literary form, as personal hell—is more than a great writer of our time. He may be the greatest writer of all time."

  You know this American thing about writing books/making movies about y'all average, non-royal people's everyday's lives (which works out great in  films, but not necessarily in literature)? It's at its best in Independence Day. It was a pleasure going on this journey with Frank Bascombe, with his interesting philosophy in life, his unashamed honesty about his past and his failures, his struggle to get his act together on different levels and the way he clearly speaks his mind to the reader and to other characters. There is always something mesmerizing about excelling at fitting complex, indivisible emotions and thoughts into the limited and partitive molds that language has to offer: words. And Ford aces it so much I find it hard to believe Frank is a fictional character. Or all his characters for that matter, even though real people hardly ever speak their minds so decisively and eloquently.   I like to believe, though, that this book is part of the journal of a non-fictional Frank Bascombe, a witty guy with a little more than his share of sorrow, who brushes it all off with a little cynicism and good humor. (Richard Ford barely even crosses my mind while reading). Frank is tweaked to be a little too observant, too analytical--Sherlock-Holmes-style analytical and observant-- to be real. Which, I think, is made to serve the American "thing" of making y'all normal people interesting as hell. Actually, the aforementioned wit, good humor, cynicism and Sherlock-Holmes streaks, besides, of course, the aliveness of the other characters, their own personal self-defining struggles and their overlap with Bascombe's, qualify the book to be an Oscar-winning film material. It'll be such a pity if it isn't made into a movie anytime soon. With George Clooney as Frank and everything.   Being someone who views life as one big bulk--things are either super or totally amess, it was, I daresay, slightly life-changing being exposed to Frank's (Ford's) approach to life as something resembling a puzzle, where it's normal and essential to try out different pieces in different places, where it's necessary that you fail and try again. That I should relate to and learn from the struggles of a middle-aged American resident of New Jersey does some good to my spirits. It serves as proof to the hypothesis that we are, underneath all our differences, human and that we have much more in common than we usually want to see, that this struggle towards self-discovery, wisdom and long-lasting happiness is universal. Beliefs I still hold despite all the madness the world is witnessing nowadays. The interaction between Frank Bascombe and his son, Paul, is yet another universal theme in the book: a father who loves his troubled son but can't quite "cure" him. Because he has his own uncertainties and so much he is yet to figure out. Very human. Very unlike Mr-Know-It-All father figures and much more interesting, too. And yet, I have his advice to his son - not to be the "critic of his age" and not to think he isn't supposed to be happy - framed in my mind forever.

Do You like book Independence Day (2015)?

I received this book as a bday gift and really wondered if I would like it. I was heartened by the fact that it was a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I still wasn't sure how much I would enjoy reading about a divorced man starting a second career as a real estate agent! In the end, I found the writing incredibly captivating. The uses of internal dialogue and everyday situations made each of the characters come to life. I found myself never really connecting to the main character, but still being fascinated by the intimate details of his life -- a sign of truly great writing as far as I'm concerned!

I rarely find myself thinking "wow, I hated that book." Often times the last few sentences of a book I've struggled through make me seriously reconsider whether or not I actually disliked it at all. But I can confidently say that this is by far the most aggravating, pretentious and boring book I've ever read. The entire book is essentially monologue and inner-workings, which I'm typically more than happy with, but the stuff Ford presents fells absolutely contrived and ridiculous. The main character is stale and has typical middle aged thoughts, while simultaneously being incredibly delusional about father-son relationships. His son's motivations make little to no sense and I never, ever, EVER, want to talk about real estate with anyone again. Ever. Please god, don't pick this up. Don't do it. Don't let the fancy award draw you in. I speak not its name as I can't believe its designation was bestowed upon this heinous book.

I read this when I was 14 and hated it, probably because I identified more with his teenage son than the main character Frank Bascombe. After reading, and loving, the other two Frank Bascombe books - The Lay of the Land and The Sportswriter -this year, I decided to reread this one.And I loved it. (further proof my 14 year old self was an idiot.) The back of my edition was covered with quotes talking about 'genius', 'masterpiece' etc etc and for once they were spot on. One described this book as actually about the grace in everyday life, and that really rings true. I've never read another series of books that so clearly shows the beauty in day to day life, and gets the melancholy and moments of feeling lucky so perfectly proportioned.I also love how Richard Ford so relistically describes the landscape of american small towns and suburbs, but not in an 'american beauty' kind of way - more showing them to be full of people just doing their best, and seeing that as noble, but nothing to get worked up about.Highly recommend!

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author Richard Ford

Other books in series frank bascombe

Other books in category Middle Grade & Children's