Let Me be Frank with You by Richard Ford

One of Richard Ford’s greatest gifts to modern literature is Frank Bascombe. Frank’s dryly humorous voice first appeared in The Sportswriter, which is widely regarded as Ford’s breakthrough novel, both commercially and critically. Frank has reappeared three more times since then: in the Pulitzer prize-winning Independence Day, in The Lay of the Land and now, in the newly released Let Me Be Frank With You.

Set during the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Let Me Be Frank With You comprises four parts, linked thematically. In one story, Frank visits his former home which has been destroyed by the hurricane along with the man who he sold it to; in another he visits a friend on their deathbed. The plots act mostly as springboards for the unfolding of Frank’s thought process and early on he warns us, ‘[W]hat I mostly want to do is nothing I don’t want to do’. This stance of non-disruptiveness and observation weaves its way throughout the entire book. All of the wry humour that marked Frank’s appearances in earlier works is here, though now with a darker edge.

While these stories could easily be read independently of one another, when placed together the experience is enriching. For me, Let Me Be Frank With You feels like a meditation on the bemusement that comes with growing older. To Frank, it seems that death is everywhere and he thinks about it constantly, though his archness never allows his thinking to feel despairing: ‘‘‘What is it about falling?” he says. ‘“He died of a fall.’ ‘The poor thing never recovered after his fall.’ … In years gone by I’d fall on the ice, hop back up, and never think a thought. Now it’s a death sentence.”’

Chris Somerville works for the online team at Readings.