Richard Ford (BSS #90)

Richard Ford is most recently the author of The Lay of the Land.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Trying to get the lay of the land.

Author: Richard Ford

Subjects Discussed: Bill Buford’s “dirty realism,” inland vs. coastal territory in the Frank Bascombe books, nautical motifs, Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, the development of Haddam, recurring supporting characters, crafting long, information-heavy sentences, Ford’s dismissal of cyclical metaphors as “a bunch of baloney,” religion and irony, the politics of the Bascombe books, arranging Frank Bascombe’s days, Ford’s violent reactions to reviews, Colson Whitehead, Bascombe’s culinary habits, quotidian details, street names, evading the influence of other writers, the Permanent Period, self-help books, Sally’s letter vs. Frank Bascombe’s voice, roomy novels, writing short stories vs. novels, dyslexia, research and real estate terminology, William Gaddis’s A Frolic of His Own, Frank’s Great Speeches book, making trips to New Jersey, Haddam vs. Updike’s Brewer, memory and perspective, the relationship between Ford and his readers, on pissing the right people off, responding to the “fool” Christopher Lehman, and character conventions.


Ford: I don’t think of [Haddam] as a character. I think of it as just the backdrop of what the real characters, which is to say the human beings in the book, do in the foreground. Setting for me is always just the context that makes what people do more plausible. And I invented Haddam out of what experience I have had and continue having in central New Jersey. And so for me it was an amalgamation of a bunch of different places that I sort of organized under the name Haddam. And it never really was intended to be more than that, except as these books began to develop to be more about American cultural life and American spiritual life in the suburbs, it sort of rose to become a bit of a touchstone subject in and of itself. Because in describing a town’s housing stock, in describing moratoriums, in describing sprawl outwards from these little towns, that became for me a subject I never intended to find but did find and then did use.


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