One of the great joys of my life as a reader is discovering a wonderful writer that I had not read before. That's happened to me several times within the last year, and one of my favorite discoveries was Richard Ford. It's not that I was unaware of Mr. Ford, who has been a superstar in the American firmament of writers for many years now. But I had just never gotten around to reading him.
Finally, last year, I read his Frank Bascombe trilogy: The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land. From the first pages of The Sportswriter, it was clearly evident to me what all the shouting was about. The man can write! He has a love of language and of finding just the right word for expressing what he wants to say that shines through in every sentence. It was also clear to see why the second book in the series, Independence Day, had won all those prizes. It is still the only book ever to have won both the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner awards.
For a couple of weeks now, I've been reading about Ford's new book, Canada. It has gotten very positive reviews and it looks like it will be another success for him. I had been thinking that I need to put it on my "To be read" list. I was delighted, then, to learn that the writer would be interviewed about his new book this morning on the Diane Rehm Show and I settled down to listen. (You, too, can listen to the interview here.)
The first thing that I noticed about Ford was the Mississippi in his voice. He has a very slight accent that sounded like home to me. Moreover, he is a wonderful storyteller, orally as well as in writing, and Rehm is a skilled interviewer. It made for a very entertaining hour.
Ford talked a little about his childhood in Jackson. He grew up on the same street where Eudora Welty lived and he went to the same elementary school that she had attended. In fact, in spite of the fact that there was 35 years difference in their ages, they had had one of the same teachers! With influences like that, how could he not grow up to be a writer?
His new book follows the story of a 15-year-old boy whose family is ruptured by a crazy and criminal act by his parents. The boy winds up in Canada - thus the name of the book - where he finally manages to make a good and decent life for himself. The book follows him through that life. Ford read a couple of passages from the book during the interview. The language was luminous.
Listening to Rehm and Ford talk for this hour, I realized that my first instinct had been correct. Canada goes on my TBR list today!