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Independence Day [Paperback]

Richard Ford
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 4 1996
After the disintegration of his family, the ruin of his career and an affair with a much younger woman, Frank Bascombe decides that the surest route to a normal American life is to become an estate agent in Haddam, New Jersey. Frank blunders through the suburban citadels of the Eastern Seaboard and avoids engaging in life until the sudden, cataclysmic events of a Fourth of July weekend with his son jolt him back.

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From Amazon

A visionary account of American life--and the long-awaited sequel to one of the most celebrated novels of the past decade--Independence Day reveals a man and our country with unflinching comedy and the specter of hope and even permanence, all of which Richard Ford evokes with keen intelligence, perfect emotional pitch, and a voice invested with absolute authority.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant internal monologue May 21 2002
I agree with the reviewer (...) who raved about Richard Poe's brilliant reading of an unabridged, audio version of this book. Having read many of the divergent opinions listed here by Amazon readers, and remembering some of my own struggles to read authors like Tim Parks (whose narrators internalize much of the story and who digress often), it occurs to me that perhaps this story is better enjoyed on tape. I couldn't wait to get in my car every day and listen to Poe's witty, heart-felt rendition of Ford's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Independence Day is essentially an internal monologue, set on the long July 4th weekend of 1988. It is a sequel to Ford's earlier novel The Sportswriter, which I have yet to read, but I never got the impression I was missing anything due to lack of familiarity with the earlier novel. The protagonist is Frank Bascombe, a divorced, well-educated former sportswriter who now makes his living selling real estate in the affluent New Jersey town of Haddam, while supplementing his earnings with a couple of rental properties he owns in the town's African American neighborhood.
Bascombe is at something of a mid-life crisis. We learn that he has lost a son, and while he has been divorced from his wife for years, he still has feelings for her and secretly hopes for a reconciliation. At the same time, he is seen carrying on a half-hearted affair with a presumed widow whose husband left years earlier and never came back. Bascombe has planned to spend the long weekend with his troubled teenage son Paul, who is apparently battling some sort of mental illness or depression; for some unknown reason Bascombe decides to pick up his son in Connecticut, and drive to the basketball and baseball halls of fame in Springfield, Mass. and Cooperstown, N.Y.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Most boring book I have ever read. Feb. 12 1999
By A Customer
If the purpose of this book was to make the reader experience three of the most boring days, in the most excruciating details, with a pompus, pretentious, and simpleminded idiot, it was a success. I couldn't stand this book. And I didn't even have to read it, I listened to it on tape. After 5 tapes I skiped to the 10th, then quickly to the last tape. I don't feel as though I missed out ony any important information in the book, just my life. What a waste of my time.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Meandering, boring May 14 2002
Maybe it's because I'm not 40 something, divorced, on a second career, with two estranged kids but I just didn't get much out of this book. I like the introspection and character development but the book meanders (kind of like life I guess) and is long-winded. Disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've ever read March 4 2002
In some respects, "Independence Day" is the best book I've ever read. Richard Ford is simply brilliant at capturing the uncapturable.
He is definitely the most skilled writer I've ever read when it comes to translating onto the page just what goes on in the human mind and heart as they struggle to cope with pain, loss, disappointment, and ultimately regeneration.
"Independence Day" is an interior monologue chronicling three days in the life of Frank Bascombe, former sportswriter turned realty agent, who is attempting to make some sort of real connection with his estranged teenage son. At the same time, Frank is struggling to be reborn from a self-imposed but seemingly inevitable cocoon of mid-life, post-divorce complacency, which he has termed "the existence period".
Ford's perception and empathy are his greatest tools as a writer. There are brilliantly beautiful moments of emotional honesty in this book that resonate like the searing afterimage of sunlight glimpsed on a stretch of side-of-the-road evening rail.
I cannot say enough good things about Richard Ford. I am in awe of him and would like to thank him for his wonderful contributions to my reading life. I highly recommend him to anyone who cares deeply about character and getting at what it means to be human. Ford once wrote, "If loneliness is the disease, the story is the cure." Nothing could be more true of this wonderful book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read it Feb. 8 2002
By A Customer
I'm writing this to summarize what the other reviewers have said:
If you believe that a great plot makes a great book and want to "like" your protagonist, stick to Oprah's book club. Or better yet, go see a movie.
If you value brilliant prose, read this book.
Much of the humour involves references/allusions. Maybe some people didn't get it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A suburban classic Nov. 15 2001
By A Customer
For those of you who have read Rand Johnson's wonderful Arcadia Falls, this equally entertaining book offers an interesting parallel. Both feature a direct writing style, middle-aged male protagonists, and suburban New Jersey settings. However, compared to Arcadia Falls, Independence Day offers a less sharply dramatic resolution to the problem of survival in the shadow of the millenium, one where resigned equanimity replaces active retreat into the fantasy of an idealized past. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My fifth "reading"...eek Sept. 25 2001
I am on my fifth "reading" of Independence Day. To clarify:
I keep getting the Recorded Books, Inc. version out of the
library, read spectacularly, artfully, sympathetically,
sensitively by the great reader, Richard Poe. I identify with the reviewer below who said that his writing was influenced by this book. I keep wanting to hear Ford's
words, his rhythms, because they give rise to my own
"voice" and they are so natural.
I think I love books like this because they have a sort of
intimacy you don't get anywhere else. It's as if Frank Bascombe is confiding in you, and that is so charming.
Charming is the word for this book, and I am a sucker for
it. Can't get enough of it. It's my "book of choice" for life,
along with a handful of others. Thanks, Richard Ford, for
the gift I can only repay by striving to become a writer of integrity - and charm - myself.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Independence Day
OK. It got a Pulitzer Prize so it had to have some redeeming features. It did. The writing was excellent in most places. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Ronald E. Dines
2.0 out of 5 stars Write more stories please, Mr. Ford
This book is entirely too long, too boring, too plagued by a main character so paralyzed by introspection he can't narrate a sentence or two without a parenthetical aside (and I'm... Read more
Published on June 6 2002 by Jack Williams
1.0 out of 5 stars Richard Ford Has Friends in High Places!
This was a Pulitzer Prize winner? It only goes to show you that in the world of books as in other fields it's not whether one is able to write, but who one knows in the world of... Read more
Published on Dec 27 2001 by Joyann Sanz-agero
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring.
Yes, Richard Ford can construct a nice sentence and he has a fine command of the English language. However, if this book is an example of his story-telling abilities, he's missing... Read more
Published on Sept. 8 2001
As an author with my first novel in initial release, I found myself influenced enough by Richard Ford's INDEPENDENCE DAY to set my first book to open on the Fourth of July. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
3.0 out of 5 stars You feel for the guy, but you don't understand him
I read the Sportswriter, and thought it was a 4-star book. The sequel tells about the Independence Day weekend a few years later, when Frank Bascombe has settled more into his... Read more
Published on June 20 2001 by Charles Deckers
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
Ford's masterpiece. The life and times of one of the best characters in American fiction, written by a master. Highly recommended.
Published on Feb. 18 2001
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