Reviews for Independence Day
Kirkus Reviews 1995 May
~ Ford follows his much-celebrated The Sportswriter (1986), picking up the story about six years later, as Frank Bascombe, now in his 40s, emerges from the midlife crisis depicted in the earlier book. No longer a writer of any kind, Frank sells real estate in Haddam, New Jersey, during the boom period of the `80s. His promise as a fiction writerstill dwelled upon at lengthcan be the only explanation for his compulsive introspection as a realtor, a job he endows with all sorts of metaphysical qualities. Also a landlord and local entrepreneur, Bascombe is proof that the overexamined life may not be worth living. (He can't do anything without chewing it over first in Ford's typically turgid prose.) But Bascombe's suburban existentialism is more pathological than philosophic, an excuse for his failures as father, husband, and lover. But he is quite convinced of his moral and intellectual superiority: He scorns the local country-club Republicans, considers himself a small-scale social engineer of higher purpose, and finds solace in the wisdom of Emerson. Ford punctuates the slow-moving non-events of this overly long narrative with bland recitations of historical bites, valiantly trying to invest this fiction with profound social overtones. In reality, though, for all his ``oracular'' abilities, Frank is mute when it comes to ``the intricate language of Love.'' He nearly blows a fine, post-bimbo relationship with a smart, sultry widow; and his ironic banter with his troubled son, who lives with his remarried mother, seems to hasten the odd teen's decline. Bascombe is part angry white male, and part new sensitive guy, but mostly just a smug fool, who lingers over every detail of his life with Harold Brodkey-style obsession. Humorless and full of sham insight (``We're all free agents''), though fans of the first installment will not be disappointed. (First printing of 50,000) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1995 April #4
Ford is the author now of five novels and a book of short stories, but he is probably best known for The Sportswriter (1988), widely praised as a realistic, compassionate and humorous view of American life as seen through the eyes of a highly intelligent and deeply involved observer. The man was Frank Bascombe of Haddan, N.J., and for those who came to see him as a new kind of American fiction icon, the good news is that he's back. Independence Day is an often poetic, sometimes searing, sometimes hilarious account of a few days around the Fourth of July in Bascombe's new life. Divorced, working with genuine enthusiasm and insight as a real estate salesman (not even John Updike has penetrated the working, commercial life of a contemporary American with such skill and empathy), embarked on a tentative new relationship with Sally, who lives by the sea, narrator Frank struggles through the long weekend with a mixture of courage, self-knowledge and utter foolishness that makes him a kind of 1980s Everyman. He desperately tries to find a new home for some brilliantly observed losers from Vermont, has some resentful exchanges with his former wife, takes a difficult teenage son on what might have been an idyllic pilgrimage to two sports Halls of Fame, bobs and weaves uneasily around Sally and, as the Fourth arrives, achieves a sort of low-key epiphany. This is a long, closely woven novel that, like life itself, is short on drama but dense with almost unconscious observations of the passing scene and reflections on fragmentary human encounters. In fact, if it were possible to write a Great American Novel of this time in our lives, this is what it would look like. Ford achieves astonishing effects on almost every page: atmospheric moments that recall James Agee, a sense of community as strong as those of the great Victorians and an almost Thurberesque grasp of the inanities and silent cruelties between people who are close. Even as a travel writer, evoking journeys through summertime Connecticut and New York, Ford makes his work glow. Perhaps the book's only fault is a technical one: that so many key conversations have to be carried out, in rather improbable length and complexity, on the phone. But it's difficult to imagine a better American novel appearing this year. First printing 50,000; simultaneous Random House Audio; author tour. (June) Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1996 May #3
In this sequel to The Sportswriter, Ford follows his middle-aged American everyman, Frank Bascombe, through the transformative events of a Fourth of July weekend. (July) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.