Richard Ford brings back Frank Bascombe |

Richard Ford brings back Frank Bascombe


When the final novel in the Frank Bascombe trilogy was published in 2007, its author made it plain that a fourth book about the introspective sportswriter-turned-real estate broker wasn’t even a remote possibility.

But now, seven years later, Richard Ford has resurrected his anti-hero in a collection of four loosely connected novellas in which Bascombe is a 68-year-old retiree living in inland New Jersey with his second wife, Sally.

In a stroke of luck, Frank had unloaded his multimillion-dollar oceanfront home before Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, turning the redwood-and-glass property into rubble in as dramatic a fashion as the financial crisis had upended the economy.

Frank has entered life’s final phase, “my end-of-days’ time — known otherwise as retirement.” He travels once a week with a group of veterans to the Newark airport to greet troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and reads for the blind on a local radio station. He spends his remaining time ruminating about life and doing pretty much what he pleases.

Frank’s relative contentment is shaken up by four odd encounters that shape the book: a strange meeting near the wreckage of his home with its unlucky buyer; a surprise visit to his current home by a black woman whose family lived there decades ago, prior to a horrendous tragedy that unfolded in the basement; Frank’s pre-Christmas visit to deliver an orthopedic pillow to his Parkinson’s stricken ex-wife in assisted living; and a visit to a long-forgotten acquaintance who is dying of cancer.

The stories serve as vehicles for Frank’s witty, sad, poignant and incisive ruminations on life in America in the early 21st century. Whereas Sally views life as a natural sequence of events, Frank looks at it “in terms of failures survived, leaving the horizon gratifyingly — but briefly — clear of obstructions.”

Frank, who has been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, shares concerns common to the elderly. He deflects his orthopedist’s suggestion about a test for his prospects of Alzheimer’s disease because he doesn’t know what he would do with the information.

He still has the same wry approach to life. He is prone to making inappropriate comments . As always, Frank tends to overthink stuff, from New Jersey real-estate values to opposition to President Obama, and it’s those thoughts that make him such an engaging companion.

Readers of the Bascombe trilogy — “The Sportswriter,” “Independence Day,” for which Ford won the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner, and “The Lay of the Land” — are sure to be delighted at this opportunity to renew their acquaintance with Frank and see how he’s coping with life’s changes.

Jerry Harkavy is a staff writer for the Associated Press.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.