This Day In Writing History
On February 16th, 1944, the famous American writer Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi. His father, Parker Ford, was a traveling salesman for a starch company. When Richard was eight years old, his father had a serious heart attack. While Parker recovered and afterward, Richard spent a lot of time with his grandfather, an ex-boxer turned hotel owner, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He would lose his father to a second heart attack when he was sixteen.
As a boy, Richard Ford suffered from partial dyslexia. To cope with his learning disability, he learned to read slowly, but thoroughly. This led him to develop a passion for literature. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the University of Michigan to study hotel management. He soon switched his major to English. At university, he met Kristina Hensley, whom he would marry in 1968.
After graduating from university, Richard became a middle school teacher in Flint, Michigan. He enlisted in the Marines, but was discharged after contracting hepatitis. He then enrolled in law school, but dropped out to enroll in the creative writing program at the University of California, Irvine, where he earned a Master's degree in Fine Arts.
In 1976, Richard Ford's first novel, A Piece of My Heart, was published. His second novel, The Ultimate Good Luck, was published five years later. Neither novel was successful, so he gave up writing and became a journalist. He took a job as sportswriter for Inside Sports magazine. A year later, the magazine folded. When Sports Illustrated wouldn't hire him, Richard Ford returned to writing. He based his next novel on his experiences as a sportswriter.
The Sportswriter (1986) proved to be a breakthrough novel that made Richard Ford's name as a writer. In it, Frank Bascombe, a 38-year-old failed novelist turned sportswriter, suffers an emotional crisis when first his son dies, then his marriage crumbles after his wife (whom he refers to only as X) finds proof of his infidelity. The novel made Ford a finalist for the PEN / Faulkner Award for fiction. It was named one of the five best books of 1986 by Time magazine.
Nine years later, Richard Ford published Independence Day, a sequel to The Sportswriter. It won both the 1996 PEN / Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize, becoming the first novel to win both awards in the same year. Independence Day finds Frank Bascombe, now a real estate agent, evaluating his life over a long July 4th weekend as he visits his ex-wife and troubled teenage son, as well as some clients and renters of one of his properties. Frank wrestles with the question of whether he should rekindle his relationship with his ex, or stay with his current girlfriend.
In 2006, Ford published the third novel in his Frank Bascombe trilogy. The Lay of the Land finds Frank preparing for Thanksgiving dinner at his home in Sea Clift, New Jersey. Attending the dinner will be his bisexual daughter Clarissa, his son Paul, now a greeting card designer, and Paul's girlfriend. Frank's second wife, Sally, has left him and reunited with her ex-husband, who went AWOL and was presumed dead. Meanwhile, Frank has started his own real estate company and is fighting a tough battle with prostate cancer.
Richard Ford's next novel, Canada, is due for release soon, as is his fifth short story collection. He lives with his wife in East Boothbay, Maine. Since 2008, he has been Adjunct Professor at the Oscar Wilde Centre with the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin, where he teaches on the Masters Programme in creative writing. In the fall of 2011, he plans on returning to the United States, where he will become the new senior fiction professor at the University of Mississippi.
Quote Of The Day
"Writing is the only thing I've ever done with persistence, except for being married." - Richard Ford
Today's video features a reading from Richard Ford's novel The Lay of the Land, performed live by David Strathairn. Enjoy!