Share for friends:

The Lay Of The Land (2006)

The Lay of the Land (2006)

Book Info

3.9 of 5 Votes: 3
Your rating
0679454683 (ISBN13: 9780679454687)

About book The Lay Of The Land (2006)

A digressive, long-winded, over-adjectived, frequently-hyphenated contemplation of the middle-aged, middle-classed, middle-of-the-road American...Frank Bascombe sets out to have a meeting with his ex-wife. Five immensely tedious reading hours later and nearly a third of the way through the book, he hasn't yet got there. But he has digressed endlessly on those subjects that seem to obsess the white, middle-class, middle-aged American male – their health, the fact that they don't understand their children, their ex-wives (almost always plural), their sexual prowess or lack thereof, and the way the country is going to the dogs. I admit defeat – I can't take any more.I feared right from the beginning that I was going to struggle with this book. Straight away, Ford gets into existential crisis mode with our narrator, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer, fearing that he is not ready to make his maker. Five hours later, I was unsympathetically thinking that he shouldn't worry – he has plenty of time left since he has the ability to turn every hour into a yawning eternity of angst. It took me four days to read that five hours' worth, because I had to keep stopping to remind myself that actually life isn't a dismal wasteland of pretentious emptiness – or at least, if it is, then I prefer my own pretentious emptiness to that of the tediously self-obsessed Frank Bascombe.Each line of sparse and unrealistic dialogue is separated by two or three paragraphs analysing the one before and anticipating the one to come, while every noun is preceded by roughly eight, usually-hyphenated, increasingly-convoluted-and-contrived, unnecessary-except-to-fill-up-the-space adjectives......elderly, handsome, mustachioed, silver-haired, capitalist-looking gentleman in safari attire......a fetid, lightless, tin-sided back-country prison......a smirky, blond, slightly hard-edged, cigarette-smoking former Goucher girl... (what on earth is a Goucher girl? All those words and yet he still fails to communicate his meaning.)And frankly, until I tried to read this book, I thought I was fairly fluent in American. After all, I coped with Twain's dialect in Huckleberry Finn and Steinbeck's in The Grapes of Wrath. But it appears not. Even my Kindle's built-in US-English dictionary didn't recognise more than half of the words I looked up. Has he invented this language? Or is it a kind of slang that was fashionable a decade or so ago and has now been already forgotten? Whatever, if it's comprehensible to Americans then that's what matters, of course, but I think I'd have to wait for the translation to become available. Though I'm in no rush for it......skint black lunch and afternoon plat-map confab......against every millage to extend services to the boondocks...My life in Haddam always lacked the true resident's naive, relief-seeking socked-in-ed-ness(!!!)...It's not just made-up words and jargon related to the property market that's a problem for the non-US reader, it's also his use of brands as a shortcut to description – fine if the brands mean something to the reader, otherwise irritating. And he constantly does the same with what I assume are cultural references...He knows I bleed Michigan blue but doesn't really know what that means. (Nope, nor me.)This means a living room the size of a fifties tract home. (So... tiny? Huge? Average?)Mike frowns over at me. He doesn't know what Kalamazoo means, or why it would be so side-splittingly hilarious. (Again, nope – pity, because by that stage I could have done with a laugh.)I'm not blaming the book for being 'too' American – why shouldn't it be? - but it did make it impossible for me to get into any kind of reading flow, since I was constantly either looking things up or trying to work out the meaning from the context. I'm quite sure that was a large part of why I found it such a stultifying read, but I'd have tolerated it if I'd felt the book was shedding light on anything that interested me. But I'm afraid the trials of the well-off educated American male don't, particularly. Shall I eat wheat-grain or indulge my wicked side with a 'furter? Let me list all the things I wear so you can understand my social position. I spent $2000 dollars on Thanksgiving lunch – cool, eh?Buried amidst the heap of unnecessary wordiness, there is probably some insight on what it is to be middle-aged, middle-classed, middle-of-the-road and male in Millenium America, and there may even be bits that are funny. Sadly I lost my ability to laugh at around page 5, but am hoping it may return now that I've abandoned it. Is there a plot or a story? Not that I noticed, but maybe it becomes a gripping read once he gets to the meeting with his ex-wife, if he ever does. I guess I shall never know...So how did it do on the Great American Novel Quest? *laughs hollowly* I think we all know the answer to that

Bittersweet Downshift In Life Expectations , 13 Nov 2006 "This novel showcases many of Mr. Ford's gifts: his ability to capture the nubby, variegated texture of ordinary life; his unerring ear for how ordinary people talk; his talent for conjuring up subsidiary characters with a handful of brilliant brushstrokes. MICHIKO KAKUTANI, New York Times Frank Bascombe, real estate manager, aka sportswriter and novelist is in the prime of his life. He is on what he describes as ""the permanent phase" of his life, the period when life "starts to look like a destination rather than a journey". He is 55, his second wife has left him for her first husband, he has prostate cancer, his daughter is moving from her lesbian phase to what exactly? His son has a girlfriend and wants a relationship with his father. But Paul, the son is overbearing and what was it that Frank did not give him? His first wife, Anne, calls and wants to start another relationship, But, do they really love each other? These and other life problems all emerge within three days of this 500 page novel. These three days take place in 2000. I began to see the irony of Frank's thinking his life is going down a permanent road, when the election of Bush has just taken place. There is no peace in America or in Frank's life at this time. We find that events and tragedy's spring up around us at all times. Frank realizes he has fear for 'The Lay of the Land' in 2000, and, as we all know 9/11/2001 is just around the corner. We have the luxury of looking back as Frank tells his story. Some parts of this novel are too limiting, the explosion in the local hospital and one of the police officers must question him as a suspect but that never occurs. His first wife has but a small part in the novel and it is confusing, but I wonder if her part is to explain that we are all looking for love and may be confused about where we will find it. The next door neighbors are strange and the final chapter leaves no explanation. people come and people go in these three days and we learn allot. Frank is a man that we feel some sympathy for but do we really like him? Yes, he has his faults, and I see some of mine in him. This is a book to ponder and re-read. Frank is wondering what his last days will be like, he wonders as he is ordering a complete Thanksgiving dinner that is organic and elite and is it edible. I consider this book to be one of the best of the year. Like Cormac McCarthy's book, 'The Road' the other great book of this year. 'Lay of the Land' looks back to look at what has happened while "The Road" looks to the future so we can contemplate where we are. "Yet while the melancholy settles in deeper this time, Bascombe remains what he always has been: a funny, kind and gentle man, a possessor, as one critic observed, of the "mysteriousness of the agreeable, nice person, harder to describe than the rake, miser or snob". Which is to say, he is not merely pleasant. Ford has kept Emerson in mind throughout: "Your goodness must have some edge to it -- else it is none." Bascombe is willing to speak difficult truths and does so; but he doesn't enjoy it and says so. " BRIAN McCLUSKEY, The Scotsman Highly, Highly Recommended. prisrob 11-13-06

Do You like book The Lay Of The Land (2006)?

A hard book to explain or even recommend in some ways, I actively disliked it for the first 50 pages, but once I settled into the rhythms of it, I came around to the idea that this is the most stylistically over the top naturalistic book I've ever read. Ford details every thought and action of Frank Bascombe for three days and it's often very funny, very acerbic and always stunningly written. The music might sometimes seem convoluted or even grating, but once you settle into it, you realize how beautiful that music is. I don't think it's a perfect book but I do think it's a great one.

Few writers can detail just three days in some 500 pages and still keep the reader interested but Richard Ford can. This novel is unsentimental, humorous, distinct prose: the third about Frank Bascombe, although this is definitely a stand alone book. I have not read the two previous in the set but this didn't detract from my understanding and appreciation of this wonderful novel. There is not an extraneous sentence, not a word too many, not a character irrelevant in The Lay of the Land. Frank Bascombe, the fifty-five yr old NJ real estate salesman; recent sufferer of prostrate cancer, once divorced-twice married father of two whose current wife has just left him for her legally dead husband and Frank is about the experience three days like never before. Superb reading: will go on my Best of the Best shelf.5★
—B the BookAddict

In this, the last in the trilogy, Frank is still the ever-thinking everyman, now age 55. He recently returned from the Mayo Clinic with less than full assurances, has seen his second wife leave him under odd circumstances, and has taken two steps forward and one step back (or is it one forward and two back?) with his first wife and their two grown kids. Frank has plenty to mull over. But then Ford offers up quite an assortment for readers to chew on, too. 1) Is there such a thing as a life too-well-examined? (Frank is as reflective as they come, but his insights are so interesting, we rarely begrudge him his self focus.)2) Is the Permanent Period that Frank described himself to be in, "when few contrarian voices mutter doubts in your head, when the past seems more generic than specific, when life's a destination more than a journey and when who you feel yourself to be is pretty much how people will remember you once you've croaked -- in other words, when personal integration . . . is finally achieved," de rigueur around that age? 3) Is awareness of one’s own foibles a helpful step in dealing with them? (Frank is full of admissions like the following to fuel the debate: “It’s loony, of course, to think that by lowering expectations and keeping ambitions to a minimum we can ever avert the surprising and unwanted. Though the worst part, as I said, is that I’ve cluttered my immediate future with new-blooming dilemmas exactly like young people do when they’re feckless and thirty-three and too inexperienced to know better.”)4) Are great writers like Ford just naturally better at dealing with deep, personal issues—things like Frank’s suppressed despair from a loss years ago? (This was a very effective scene made all the better by a rare show of emotion that Frank himself, in the first person account, didn’t see coming.)5) Speaking of great writing, could this be Ford at the height of his powers? (All the prizes went to Independence Day, the second in the series, but I think the prose in this one is even better—-long and lush sentences, words flowing like music, acoustically pure.)While I wouldn’t consider Frank a role model, he comes by his opinions honestly. Did I pay more attention because I’m getting close to his age? Is his search for meaning less clichéd for its lack of a spiritual basis? Does his contemplative inner life make him an island? He’s a complex character; these are questions to weigh with him in mind.About two-thirds of the way into the book, it occurred to me that there was a lot Frank needed to wrap up before the trilogy’s end. I consciously slowed down so I wouldn’t miss any bit of how he did it. Five-star books like this give us data we should measure well to include in our eclectic samples.

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 Historical Fiction