The Ultimate Good Luck


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KIRKUS REVIEW

He lives in Maine, a region he describes in his book, A Multitude of Sins, as "small in scale, profusely scenic, annoyingly remote, exclusive and crowded". Yet he seems happy enough in his broad, timbered house overlooking the bay. Vitamin pills clutter the dressing table, while in the kitchen sits the latest edition of the New York Times and a copy of a Martin Amis novel, somewhat soggy round the edges where the dog has chewed it.

Ford's story begins in the south. Edna and Parker Carroll Ford were born in Arkansas, shortly before the depression. Together they - and I always say it about my wife Kristina and me - they made one whole person. They settled in Jackson, Mississippi , where their only child was born on February 16 While Parker maintained his itinerant lifestyle until his death, Edna invested her efforts in raising their son.

His was a contented upbringing. They did not foster in me any bad attitudes.

Any bad attitudes I have, I have fostered on my own. Not very curious about very much. But my father died at a crucial time and I was kind of left to my own devices. If he hadn't died then we would've stayed quite an insular, nuclear little family. Even today, his speech is sprinkled with the sugar-dipped mannerisms of a gent from the deep south - "sweetheart", "honey".

Ford grew up in the same neighbourhood as fellow Pulitzer winner Eudora Welty. He attended the same high school odd years after her.

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In August , Ford was a pallbearer at Welty's funeral and he remains her literary executor. Welty and William Faulkner are two of the literary figures whom Ford feels have exempted him from writing about his birthplace. Mississippi is already well on the literary map. Though it was well-received and nominated for the Ernest Hemingway best first novel award, Ford was irked by the critics' readiness to file him neatly under southern writer. Later, and most successfully, he would turn his attentions to New Jersey. I wanted to set stories there, to purloin the place, put it down there on the page and say 'that's Haddam, New Jersey'.

But I didn't feel any obligation to be faithful to the place. If you're in Mississippi and you want to be a writer, you have an inescapable obligation to Faulkner. He claims only to get to know a place to a certain degree. Sometimes I'll meet somebody and they'll say something, and I'll want to put it in my notebook and bring it back in another incarnation. But do I - when I go here, or to New Jersey - go hungrily into the place? When I leave here I don't feel as much a part of it as the lobsterman. But this is how my life has been conducted. But I do that rather than go plundering around trying to find nice little ancient graveyards, or going down to the historical society.

I do the normal routine things - go to the hardware store to buy hornet spray, get my tyres rotated, go have lunch.

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Whatever is around in the ambience here I'll find it, without having to go at it. Fred Hobson, Lineberger Professor of the Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says, "He doesn't wish to be considered a southern writer, and I think he is astoundingly insightful in capturing contemporary America, both north and south. He writes within the earlier high tradition of, for example, Faulkner, but tends to parody that.

For example, in The Sportswriter, the idea of lofty ancestors is a very conscious playing on tradition seen in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Absalom Absalom.

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Ford's father died of a heart attack when Ford was 16, and he was sent to Arkansas to live with his grandmother and her second husband, a former boxer, who were running a hotel. It proved educational, allowing the sort of glimpses into other people's lives which have since become Ford's stock in trade. A lot of things go on in great big hotels, behind closed doors, and I saw behind those doors. Recklessness and mistakes, y'know?

His grandmother's husband sought to harness the boy's enthusiasm for the hotel business, researching colleges where he might study hotel administration. By his own admission, he was not an outstanding student.

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He was a slow reader, hindered by dyslexia, and had no aptitude for maths. His grades placed him in the middle of his class. He applied to Cornell, without really knowing what or where Cornell was, and to Michigan State University.

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He excelled at Michigan, spurred on by the apathy of his peers and by a girlfriend he was "wildly in love with". I can't do a lot of other things at the same time. I have concentration for one thing at a time. It's not such a bad way to be, and it's not such a bad thing to learn. Graduating in , Ford hovered over various professions - the police, teaching, working for American Druggist magazine, applying to the CIA. For a while, he settled on law, heading off to Washington University in St Louis for a term before returning, disillusioned, to Arkansas to teach.

And a little window, which was writing stories, opened up and I just went through it. He was not, he claims, the finest writer in his class, though he is now its most successful graduate. Although his early novels were greeted warmly, writing brought little financial reward or personal satisfaction, and in he decided to abandon novel writing. For a few years he had been sporadically teaching creative writing at the University of Michigan, Williams College and Princeton, though he was unwilling to consider academia as a permanent career.

I've got a pretty good memory, and I read literature as food. I remember lines, specific poems. But I could never hope to have this Christopher Hitchens-like command, [people] who know everything, but fundamentally don't know jack shit - who have a heart basically made of coal. Literature hit me amidships. When I read Absalom Absalom - the first novel I ever read - it just took me over. In a way it left me with a reverence for literature which does not require an encyclopaedic knowledge. I read what I read really closely. People always know more than I do, but what I know I know.

He sought work as a sportswriter with a New York publication named Inside Sports. But all I was qualified to do, all I was trained for, was being a writer.

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And I knew a lot about sports - I'd been a boxer, a would-be athlete. A year later, the magazine folded, and he once again found himself unemployed. Here the line blurs between Ford and his most famous protagonist, Frank Bascombe. First introduced to us in The Sportswriter, Bascombe is a year-old who abandoned a promising writing career to report on sports for a glossy magazine. Set in the fictional town of Haddam, New Jersey, the story takes place over Easter weekend Four years earlier, his eldest son had died, and like some latter-day Rip Van Winkle, Bascombe fell into a spell of "dreaminess" only to emerge to a changed world, in which he is divorced, albeit amicably, from his wife, known throughout as X.

Aged 23, Ford married his college sweetheart, Kristina, and they moved into a one-bedroom apartment in New York. I always thought that, given my Irish background, I wouldn't get married till I was about 35, that someone would drag me kicking and screaming to it. The setting is Oaxaca, Mexico, where Harry Quinn has come to free his girlfriend's brother, Sonny, from Jail and, ideally, to get him away form the suavely sadistic drug dealer who suspects Sonny of having cheated him.

Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in He has published five novels and two previous collections of stories. Convert currency. Add to Basket. Book Description Houghton Mifflin. Condition: New. Seller Inventory NEW More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Houghton Mifflin, A clean, tight book in a bright dust jacket with no flaws.

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