“The Sportswriters” by Richard Ford: A review

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Though in the end, this is all I ask for: to participate briefly in the lives of others at a low level; to speak in a plain, truth-telling voice; to not take myself too seriously; and then to have done with it. Since after all, it is one thing to write sports, but another thing entirely to live a life.

No mad passion, no heights of glory, no sentiment, and no mockery — this phrase from the book is the most fitting description of the lead character, Frank, a late 30’s sportswriter recently faced with several life upheavals. And my choice of this phrase is one that I know would meet with Frank’s, and the author’s, approval.

The Sportswriter was not an easy read for me. For the first time in 40+ years I could actually believe that there are basic, fundamental differences between men and women that go beyond the mere physical; differences so strong as to make Frank seem alien to me. Outside of my comprehension.

When I finished the book, I didn’t particularly like Frank, though I appreciated the skill and talent of Richard Ford’s writing. However, during my road trip I would think about specific scenes — Frank first provoking and then delighting in a punch to the face, the car in the basement, meetings with X — and I found the character growing on me. If I couldn’t actually understand Frank, I could acccept him. There is something about Frank’s plainly honest assessment of what he is — his disengaged interest, the reluctant self-reliance, the lack of great ambition, and most of all, his ‘dreaminess’ as he refers to it — that is noble. And sad. And, ultimately, both foreign and familiar to me.

The book covers Frank’s experiences over an Easter week, beginning with the anniversary of his son’s death, and ending with other dramatic events. During this week, Richard Ford draws Frank into a series of meetings with people who are most likely quite ordinary, but with Ford’s skill, become transformed into something extraordinary. Every chance occurrence is an event, including Frank’s brief encounter and conversation with a store attendant who gives him float to help the pain of a bruised jaw and bloody knee:

“Did you ever like write about skiing?” she says, and shakes her head at me as if she knows my answer before I say it. The breeze blows up dust and sprinkles our faces with it.
“No. I don’t even know how to ski.”
“Me neither,” she says and smiles again, then sighs. “So. Okay. Have a nice day. What’s your name, what’d you say it was?” She is already leaving.
“Frank.” For some reason, I do not say my last name.
“Frank,” she says.
As I watch her walk out into the lot toward the Ground Zero, her hands fishing in her pocket for a new cigarette, shoulders hunched against a cold breeze that isn’t blowing, her hopes for a nice day, I could guess, are as good as mine, both of out in the wind, expectant, available for an improvement. And my hopes are that a little luck will come both our ways. Life is not always ascendent.

It was Ford’s ability to make even the most plain and everyday event into something interesting (not necessarily exciting, spectacular, life changing, or passionate) that make this book into an exceptional reading experience. Each person who reads this book will read something different in the actions and the thoughts and the characters, and the discussions resulting from these differences can be illuminating in their own right.


Though The Sportswriter is written from a distinctly masculine perspective, I would strongly recommend this book to all women over 40. No, better make that 35. It helps to know more about the aliens that walk among us.

Book: The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford. Published in 1986. Recommended by Jonathon Delacour.

Just Shelley

All things squid

I share with PZ Myers’ a love of all things cephalopod, though I tend to favor anything related to squids, giant preferably.

Ethan sent me a link to SquidSoap, which I’ll have to try out, of course. My thanks for Ethan for thinking of me.

Just a hint to others: If anyone comes across anything related to cephalopods in general and squid and giant squid in particular, please email me. I love this stuff.


Switching comments

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m updating my PHP system, which is breaking dotcomments. So, I’m in the process of converting comments over to Movable Type. Until I’m finished, you won’t be able to post new comments.

Update: The comments system has now been converted over to Movable Type comments. You’ll have to check out the styles of the comments in both the main page and on the individual pages. Let me know if they don’t display well in your OS and with your browser.

I also listened to the discussion about calendars and I was so inspired, I removed my calendar from the main page without a second thought. Jonathon, you’re such a trendsetter, a weblogging stylist head of the pack. Alpha Designer.

You can still access previous postings through the monthly or category archives, though I only see the category archives used. Perhaps the next step is to remove the monthly archives and add in searching.

Now, on to muck up my PHP environment to add namespace parsing of XML.


Black and White picture show

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I pulled together some of the black & white photos from the trip into a little show.

I don’t have a particular ‘style’ of photography, but I do know that I’ll never be a ‘people’ photographer. When I run into interesting people, the camera sits forgotten as I chat, watch, listen.

In Bozeman I ran into a group of kids, modern day flower children, outside a gas station. They were playing music, dancing, trying to get enough money to buy gas to make their way home. One of the women, girl really, had long blond dreadlocks, gauzy skirt and tops, and with absolutely beautify tattoos over her stomach and over both arms. Intricate, traditionally colored tattoos with a strong Eastern accent.

If I were a ‘people’ photographer, I would have taken her picture and pictures of the others. But I didn’t. What I did do was sit with them for a while, hear their stories, listen to their not particularly good guitar playing, and give them a few bucks when I left. As I was driving away, one of the boys, mohawk haircut artfully colored, flashed me a huge smile and waved, and another of the girls ran up with a flower for me that she had plucked from the gas station flower bed. I left to the faint sounds of “Take care, sister!”—driving away with a smile that lasted at least 200 miles.

So, no pictures of dread locked tattooed blond innocence, or the looks on the faces of the people walking past, or the quiet giant in linen shirt and jeans who silently held out a can in one hand and an empty gas container in the other, or the boy singing folk songs as the others danced about.

I guess my photography will go in other directions. For now.


Overheard at IRC

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

(Note, names have been changed to protect the deliciously guilty…)

[12:19] Shelly: “Postscript: You know, there are no women involved in
the RDF/RSS working group or the RDF working group. I think this should change. Perhaps I should lurk less and talk more. Any other lady techs in the audience wish to join me?” Good point!
[12:20] you know, I didn’t know Shelly was a girl.
[12:20] i thought that was a last name.

(Reprinted with permission.)