Sunday, October 09, 2011

Richard Ford: novels were never a sacred calling

Richard Ford, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and author of the Sportswriter trilogy, tells James Walton that his illustrious career only took off because of a single piece of bad luck.

Richard Ford
Richard Ford Photo: REX FEATURES
By all known criteria, Richard Ford is officially a Great American Novelist. Six years ago, his 1986 breakthrough book, The Sportswriter, made it onto Time magazine’s list of the 100 best novels in English since 1923 (when Time began) – where it took its alphabetical place between William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The 1995 sequel, Independence Day, became the first novel in American history to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award in the same year.
And yet the man who greets me at his hotel in London couldn’t be less grand. Tall and athletic-looking (now that he’s 67, the word “craggy” may be hard to avoid), he takes a warmly solicitous interest in my interviewing comfort. He then answers every question not only with a flattering degree of thoughtfulness – complete with the “piercing eyes” that several people had warned me about – but also with a lack of pretentiousness that often shades into startling self-deprecation.
Stranger still for a Great American Novelist, he praises plenty of other living authors. (“If there has to be one best writer working in English today it’s Shirley Hazzard.”) He points out possible flaws in his own books, including his last one, The Lay of the Land, the final book in the Sportswriter trilogy, which he fears may be too long. (“I think that’s a bad sign. I think it means my ability to distinguish good from bad is not as clear as it used to be.”) He doesn’t even seem to regard literature as a sacred calling. Instead, he reckons, it’s something he’s ended up doing largely through luck – and not all of it good.
Full story at The Telegraph.

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