Ford in the great white north

It’s cold out here on the back porch this morning. Good weather for thinking about Richard Ford’s Canada, which I’ve just finished.

The first half is as compelling as anything I’ve read in awhile, and though infected by a touch of Cormac McCarthy-esque bleakness the second holds up better than Michio Kakutani said.

But to my taste it’s not up to the very high literary and temperamental mark set by his Bascombe trilogy. Could that have something to do with my finding it easier to relate to a middle-aged narrator/protagonist wrestling with existential challenges, than to a fifteen-year old orphan exiled to Saskatchewan? But as he asks his students, in later life, does everything always have to be about you?

No. That’s why we read (or write) fiction, isn’t it? To get out of our own heads and circumstances, to project ourselves imaginatively and emotionally into other lives and possibilities, and in the process to discover the universality of the human condition across many boundaries? Even into the great white north, eh?

So thanks, Richard Ford. You’ve once again stretched my mental landscape. As the ending implies, living beyond familiar scenes and situations is something we all must try if we’re going to try really living at all.

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