Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Friday, February 3, 2023
This Pulitzer winner turned out to be another remarkably readable book. Two in a row. Amazing. The Garland County Public Library does have the next book on the list sitting on its shelves. I'm wondering if I should tempt fate by having Tammi check it out, too. Although I am going to give myself a short break before tackling it and indulge in some mind candy first, like reading one of the books in the Murderbot Diaries, before going back to more serious prose.
Independence Day is the middle book in a series of three novels that Richard Ford wrote about Frank Bascombe, a former sports writer and current real estate agent in this particular work. It won the Pulitzer for Fiction in 1996.
The book covers three days in the life of its hero. It's the 4th of July weekend in 1988 when Frank tries to juggle his responsibilities as a divorced dad, a realtor with clients he's trying to reel in, issues with his ex-wife, and a changing relationship with a current female friend. To be honest, if I wasn't working my way up a list and had read a plot summary that said the book chronicled a holiday weekend in the life of middle aged real estate sales guy I would not be real interested in pulling it off the library shelf.
Of course, I hadn't read a synopsis before starting the book. I try to go into each Pulitzer winner not knowing much, if anything, about it. I do occasionally end up doing some Googling to learn a little more, like if I'm thinking a book is pretty much a complete waste of paper and ink I'll go looking to see what reviewers had to say about it. Not surprisingly, my reaction to a book tends to be a bit different than the ones who get paid to review books for the New York Times. Professional reviewers have a bad habit of mistaking an incoherent piece of crap for a masterrpiece.
Not that Independence Day is incoherent. It's actually quite well written and fairly easy to read. I got sucked right into it despite it being essentially one middle-aged guy musing on life as he takes care of various chores in the lead up to the Independence Day weekend: shows a house to potential buyers, tries to collect rent money from a difficult tenant, checks on a small business he owns. It helped that Ford gave his protagonist both a wry sense of humor and a dislike of right-wing politicians.
Independence Day reminded me a little bit of the piece of unreadable dreck that won the 1982 Pulitzer, John Updike's Rabbit is Rich, in that it looks at what's going on in the head of a pretty average middle class white male, There is, however, one huge difference: Frank Bascombe is likable, he seems like a decent guy, and you find yourself hoping things work out for him. Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, in contrast, came across as a rather sleazy weasel.
So how would I rate this book and do I recommend it? The overall quality merits a high 7, maybe a low 8, and, yes, I recommend it. It's decent reading. Not super exciting but not boring either.
Next up on the list: Martin Dressler, which is yet another book by an author I'd never heard of before starting the Pulitzer Project. The local library does have it on the shelves so now I get to decide if I want Tammi to check it out tomorrow or if I indulge in a little more escapist genre fiction first.