Monday, 27 October 2014

THE SPORTSWRITER by Richard Ford

This book tells the story of one weekend in the life of a divorced man. It won the Pulitzer, and is about more than just a weekend; it's about how you accept the scope - be it limited or large - of your life.

The man's divorce still smarts, and much of the book is about absorbing that loss. Here he is, rather beautifully, on his marriage: "We paid bills, shopped, went to movies, bought cars and cameras and insurance, cooked out, went to cocktail parties, visited schools, and romanced each other in the sweet, cagey way of adults I looked out my window, stood in my yard sunsets with a sense of solace and achievement, cleaned my rain gutters, eyed my shingles, put up storms, fertilized regularly, computed my equity, spoke to my neighbours in an interested voice - the normal applauseless life of us all."

I just love 'in an interested voice' - sometimes I think that's my whole life. He is full of dreadful, despairing wisdom, like:
"For now let me say only this: if sportswriting teaches you anything, and there is much truth to it as well as plenty of lies, it is that for your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or you life will be ruined."
and
"Sometimes we do not really become adults until we suffer a good whacking loss, and our lives in a sense catch up with us and wash over us like a wave and everything goes."

So, full mid-life crisis mode. Curiously, he's only 37. This book was written in the 1980s, and I guess people married and had children sooner then, so also had the mid-life crises early. After a while, I started to find it annoying. I wanted to say: protagonist! you are living through the last golden days of being a middle class American man. Enjoy it! Feminism and China are coming to end it.

But who can fail to enjoy this description of air travel, for which I can forgive him everything: "It must be said, of course, that the interiors of all up-to-date conveyances of travel put one in mind of the midwest. The snug-fitted overhead bins, the comfy pastel recliners, disappearing tray-tables and smorgasboard air of anything-you-want-within-sensible-limits. All products of midwestern ingenuity, as surely as a waltz is Viennese."

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