Independence Day by Richard Ford
published 1995 chapter 4
Unmarried men in their forties, if we don’t subside entirely into the landscape, often lose important credibility and can even attract unwholesome attention in a small, conservative community. And in Haddam, in my new circumstances, I felt I was perhaps becoming the personage I least wanted to be and, in the years since my divorce, had feared being: the suspicious bachelor, the man whose life has no mystery, the graying, slightly jowly, slightly too tanned and trim middle-ager, driving round town in a cheesy ’58 Chevy ragtop polished to a squeak, always alone on balmy summer nights, wearing a faded yellow polo shirt and green suntans, elbow over the window top, listening to progressive jazz, while smiling and pretending to have everything under control, when in fact there was nothing to control.
observations: What better for 4th July than a book called Independence Day… by a quintessential American writer (even though his latest book is called Canada), and one who is a master stylist. He is a mesmerizing writer, he just keeps on rolling out sentences like these all the way through, and Frank Bascombe feels like more of a real person than most of the people you know. Even though he doesn’t sound at all like anyone an English person would know - he’s a sportswriter turned realtor, and he visits fortunetellers, a lifestyle that is impossible to imagine in the UK, where, just for starters, being a sportswriter is not the same kind of job as in the US.
He is funny and mournful, and in his elegies on divorce and ex-wife and children he manages NOT to alienate women (unlike – to make a sweeping generalization – John Updike). Most women feel that it is they who, divorced or unmarried in their 40s, would be having a hard time, but Frank and Richard make it work. The first book of the trilogy, The Sportswriter, takes place during Easter week, and this book too seems to have an Easter weekend structure, with suitable changes, to match the 4th July weekend.
This book was still very current when the blockbuster film with the same name was released in 1996, and it would be interesting to know if many people bought it expecting to find an alien invasion in there.
Links up with: Brian in Tales of the City dresses similarly and likes jazz. Other men thinking about their clothes here and here and here.
The photograph is by Frank Kovalchek of Alaska, and can be found on Wikimedia Commons.