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Miss Peach

Like putting a good belt on a cheap dress

A Literary Friday Five

Friday, December 01, 2006

I recently picked up The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. He’s won a Pulitzer for his fiction, and several people I know (who, I should say, have literary taste I trust without question) have said I should to read him, and that The Sportswriter is the place to start. So for Thanksgiving, I took a copy with me to the midwest, along with a book about the Anglo-American tradizzzzzzzzzzzz and a novel called Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, which appealed to me because I liked the title.

I didn’t actually start The Sportswriter until last night, on the subway downtown to meet someone for dinner. I wanted to start with Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, because I just needed something accessible and fast, and Ford’s Pulitzer made me think he might be a struggle to get into. Love… was fine, and quick, and achingly sad at times. And unexpectedly informative about Central Park. But by the time I finished it, I only had another day of break, and I spent it doing other things. Like watching football. NFL football. I hate the NFL. But I was in Ohio with a slew of alpha males, and that is what Americans do over Thanksgiving. They watch ESPN and theorize on the merits of the BCS system, and who am I to question such a fine national tradition?

I’ve now read a mere 30 pages of The Sportswriter, and I don’t understand how I haven’t read this before. I’m blown away by this book. It’s straightforward. It’s true to life. Things are stated in a way that make you stop and think, “this man is a phenomenal writer.” But it isn’t show-offy. I can’t stand authors who insist on two metaphors instead of one, or whose sentences seem to need diagramming before they can be processed and understood. And you won’t (well, from what I’ve read) find that here.

I haven’t read a book in a long time that has made me ask myself why it is, exactly, that I don’t carry highlighters around in my purse. This is a question I’ve now asked three times in 20 hours.

So here is my Friday Five. Five great lines/passages from the first thirty pages of The Sportswriter by Richard Ford.

1: “I do my work and do it well and remain expectant of the best without knowing in the least what it will be.”*

2: “A woman I met at the college where I briefly taught, once told me I had too many choices, that I was not driven enough by dire necessity. But that is just an illusion and her mistake. Choices are what we all need. And when I walk out into the bricky warp of these American cities, that is exactly what I feel. Choices aplenty. Things I don’t know about but might like are here, possibly waiting for me. Even if they aren’t. The exhilaration of a new arrival. Good light in a restaurant that especially pleases you. A cab driver with an interesting life history to tell. The casual, lilting voice of a woman you don’t know, but that you are allowed to listen to in a bar you’ve never been in, at a time when you would otherwise have been alone. These things are waiting for you. And what could be better? More mysterious? More worth anticipating? Nothing. Not a thing.”

3: “Sometimes we do not 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.”

4: “I suppose our life was the generic one, as the poet said… 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 neighbors in an interested voice—the normal applauseless life of us all**.”

5: “I know that you can dream your way through an otherwise fine life, and never wake up, which is what I almost did. I believe I have survived that now and put dreaminess behind me, though there is a resolute sadness between X and me that our marriage is over, a sadness that does not feel sad. It is the way you feel at a high school reunion when you hear an old song you used to like played late at night, only you are all alone.”

Thank god it's Friday. More time to read. Especially since we're getting 60 mile an hour winds here tonight. Wheeeeee!

* Possible tagline?
** Definitely a tagline coming to this site soon.

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