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Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book

Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book

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Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book

3.5/5 (11 valutazioni)
198 pagine
3 ore
Nov 4, 2014


A brilliant new work that returns Richard Ford to the hallowed territory that sealed his reputation as an American master: the world of Frank Bascombe, and the landscape of his celebrated novels The Sportswriter, the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner winning Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land.

In his trio of world-acclaimed novels portraying the life of an entire American generation, Richard Ford has imagined one of the most indelible and widely discussed characters in modern literature, Frank Bascombe. Through Bascombe—protean, funny, profane, wise, often inappropriate—we’ve witnessed the aspirations, sorrows, longings, achievements and failings of an American life in the twilight of the twentieth century.

Now, in Let Me Be Frank with You, Ford reinvents Bascombe in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In four richly luminous narratives, Bascombe (and Ford) attempts to reconcile, interpret and console a world undone by calamity. It is a moving and wondrous and extremely funny odyssey through the America we live in at this moment. Ford is here again working with the maturity and brilliance of a writer at the absolute height of his powers. 

Nov 4, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi. He has published eight novels and four collections of stories, including The Sportswriter, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land and the New York Times bestseller, Canada. Independence Day was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the first time the same book had won both prizes. Let Me Be Frank with You was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in 2015. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, and most recently was awarded the Prix Femina Étranger in France and the Princess of Asturias Prize for Literature in Spain. Richard Ford lives in Maine with his wife. Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1944. He has published seven novels and three collections of stories, including The Sportswriter, Independence Day, A Multitude of Sins and, most recently, The Lay of the Land. Independence Day was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the first time the same book had won both prizes.

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Let Me Be Frank With You - Richard Ford


I’m Here

STRANGE FRAGRANCES RIDE THE TWITCHY, wintry air at The Shore this morning, two weeks before Christmas. Flowery wreaths on an ominous sea stir expectancy in the unwary.

It is, of course, the bouquet of large-scale home repair and re-hab. Fresh-cut lumber, clean, white PVC, the lye-sniff of Sakrete, stinging sealants, sweet tar paper, and denatured spirits. The starchy zest of Tyvek mingled with the ocean’s sulfurous weft and Barnegat Bay’s landward stink. It is the air of full-on disaster. To my nose—once practiced in these things—nothing smells of ruin as fragrantly as the first attempts at rescue.

I notice it first at the red light at Hooper Ave., and then again when I gas up my Sonata at the Hess, before heading to the bridge, Toms River to Sea-Clift. Here in the rich gas-station scents, a wintry breeze flitters my hair while my dollars spool along like a slot machine in the gathering December clouds. Breeze has set the silver whirly-gigs to spinning at the Grandly Re-Opened Bed Bath & Beyond at the Ocean County Mall (Only new bedding can keep us down). Across its acres of parking, a tenth full at ten A.M., the Home Depot—Kremlin-like, but enigmatically-still-your-friend-in-spite-of-all—has thrown its doors open wide and early. Customers trail out, balancing boxes of new toilet works, new motherboards, new wiring harnesses, shrink-wrapped hinge assemblies, hollow-core doors, an entire front stoop teetering on a giant shopping cart. All is on its way to some still-standing domicile blotto’d by the hurricane—six weeks past, but not lost from memory. Everyone’s still stunned here—quarrelsome, funked, put-upon-but-resolute. All are committed to coming back.

Out here, under the Hess awning, someone’s piped in loud, sports-talk radio for us customers—the Pat ’n’ Mike Show from Magic 107 in Trenton. I was once among their faithful. They’re old now. A booming voice—it’s Mike—declares, Wowee, Patrick. Coach Benziwicki cut loose quite a hurricane of F-BOMBS, I’m telling you. A real thirty-seconds-over-Tokyo.

Let’s listen to it again, Pat says, through a speaker built deep inside the gas pump. "Total disbelief. To-tal. This was on ESPN!"

Another gravelly, exhausted, recorded voice—Coach B’s—takes up, in a fury: "Okay. Let me just tell you so-called F-BOMB sportswriters one F-BOMB thing. Okay, you F-BOMBS? When you can F-BOMB coach a team of nine-year-old F-BOMB grammar school girls, then I might, might give you one shred of F-BOMB respect. Until then, you F-BOMBS, you can DOUBLE F-BOMB yourselves from here to F-BOMB Sunday dinner. You heard it here first."

The vacant-eyed, white-suited young Hess attendant who’s pumping my gas hears nothing. He looks at me as if I wasn’t here.

That about says it all, I guess, Mike concedes.

"And then some, Pat concurs. Just drop your keys on the desk, Coach. You’re done. Take the F-BOMB bus back to F-BOMB Chillicothe."


Let’s pause for a break, you F-BOMB.

Me? You’re the F-BOMB. Ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-ha.

IN RECENT WEEKS, I’VE BEGUN COMPILING A PERSONAL inventory of words that, in my view, should no longer be usable—in speech or any form. This, in the belief that life’s a matter of gradual subtraction, aimed at a solider, more-nearly-perfect essence, after which all mentation goes and we head off to our own virtual Chillicothes. A reserve of fewer, better words could help, I think, by setting an example for clearer thinking. It’s not so different from moving to Prague and not learning the language, so that the English you end up speaking to make yourself understood bears a special responsibility to be clear, simple, and value-bearing. When you grow old, as I am, you pretty much live in the accumulations of life anyway. Not that much is happening, except on the medical front. Better to strip things down. And where better to start stripping than the words we choose to express our increasingly rare, increasingly vagrant thoughts. It would be challenging, for instance, for a native Czech speaker to fully appreciate the words poop or friggin’, or the phrase We’re pregnant, or What’s the takeaway? Or, for that matter, awesome when it only means tolerable. Or preemie or mentee or legacy. Or no problem when you really mean You’re welcome. Likewise, soft landing, sibs, bond, hydrate (when it just means drink), make art, share, reach out, noise used as a verb, and . . . apropos of Magic One-Oh-Seven: F-Bomb. Fuck, to me, is still pretty serviceable as a noun, verb, or adjective, with clear and distinct colorations to its already rich history. Language imitates the public riot, the poet said. And what’s today’s life like, if not a riot?

YESTERDAY, JUST PAST EIGHT, AN UNEXPECTED PHONE call disrupted my morning. My wife, Sally, answered but got me out of bed to talk. I’d been lying awake in the early sunlight and shadows, daydreaming about the possibility that somewhere, somehow, some good thing was going on that would soon affect me and make me happy, only I didn’t know it yet. Since I took leave of the real-estate business (after decades), anticipation of this kind is the thing I keenly miss. Though it’s the only thing, given how realty matters have gone and all that’s happened to me. I am content here in Haddam, aged sixty-eight, enjoying the Next Level of life—conceivably the last: a member of the clean-desk demographic, freed to do unalloyed good in the world, should I choose to. In that spirit, I travel once a week up to Newark Liberty with a veterans’ group, to greet the weary, puzzled, returning troopers home-cycling-in from Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t truly credit this as a commitment or a true giving back, since it’s hardly inconvenient to stand smiling, hand outstretched, loudly declaring, Welcome home, soldier (or sailor or airman)! Thank you for your service! It’s more grandstanding than serious, and mostly meant to demonstrate that we’re still relevant, and thus is guaranteed to prove we’re not. In any case, my personal sensors are on alert for more I can do that’s positive with my end-of-days’ time—known otherwise as retirement.

Frank? It’s Arnie Urquhart, a gruff, male, too-loud telephone voice crackled through distant girdering, automotive-traffic noises. Somewhere in the background was music—Peter, Paul & Mary singing Lemon Tree from faraway ’65. Le-mun tree, ve-ry pritty / and the lemun flower is sweet . . . Where I was standing in my pajamas, staring out the front window as the Elizabethtown Water meter-reader strode up the front walk to check on our consumption, my mind fled back to the face of ultra-sensual Mary—cruel-mouthed, earthy, blond hair slashing, her alto-voiced promise of no-nonsense coitus you’d renounce all dignity for, while knowing full well you wouldn’t make the grade. A far cry from how she ended life years on—muu-muu’d and unrecognizable. (Which one of the other two was the weenie-waver? One moved to Maine.) . . . but the fruit of the poor lemun is im-poss-i-bul to eat . . .

Turn something down, Arnie, I said through the noise-clutter to wherever Arnie was on the planet. I can’t hear you.

Oh yeah. Okay. A slurping wind-noise of glass being powered closed. Poor Mary went silent as the stone she’s buried under.

The connection was clearer, then went vacant a long moment. I don’t talk to people on the phone that much anymore.

Why do weathermen all wish for a fuckin’ sunny day? Arnie said, now at a distance from the phone. He’d put me on speaker and seemed to be talking out of the past.

It’s in their DNA, I said from my front window.

Yep, yep. Arnie sighed a great rattling sigh. Cars were audibly whizzing past wherever he was.

"Where are you, Arnie?"

Pulled over on the goddamned Garden State, by Cheesequake. Heading down to Sea-Clift, or whatever the fuck’s left of it.

I see, I said. How’s your house?

"Do you see, Frank? Well, I’m glad you fuckin’ see."

Back in the bonanza days of the now-popped realty bubble, I sold Arnie not just a house, but my house. In Sea-Clift. A tall, glass-and-redwood, architect-design beach palace, flush up against what seemed to be a benign and glimmering sea. Anybody’s dream of a second home. I saw to it Arnie coughed up a pretty penny (two-point-eight, no vig on a private sale). Sally and I had decided to move inland. I was ready to take down my shingle. It was eight years ago, this fall—two weeks before Christmas, like now.

In my defense, I’d made several calls up to Arnie’s principal residence in Hopatcong, to learn how his/my beach house had weathered the storm. I’d called several old clients, including my former realty partner. All their news was bad, bad, bad. In Haddam, Sally and I lost only two small oak saplings (one already dead), half the roof on her potting shed, plus a cracked windshield on my car. A big nothing, as my mother used to say, before making a pppttt farting noise with her lips and laughing out loud.

I called you, probably three times, Arnie, I said, feeling the curdling, giddy sensation of being a liar—though I’m not, not about this.

The Elizabethtown guy gave me the thumbs-up as he headed out to his truck. Our water usage for November—not a problem.

That’s like calling the corpse to say you’re sorry he’s dead. Arnie’s speaker-phone voice faded out and in from Cheesequake. What were you going to suggest, Frank? Take me to lunch? Buy your house back? There’s no fuckin’ house left down there, you jackass.

I didn’t have an answer. Patent gestures of kindness, commiseration, fellow-feeling, shared sorrow and empathy—all are weak sisters in the fight against real loss. I’d only wanted to know the worst hadn’t happened—which, I saw, it hadn’t. Though Sea-Clift was where the big blow had come ashore like Dunkirk. No chance to dodge a bullet.

"I’m not blaming you, Frank. That’s not why I’m on the blower here." Arnie Urquhart is an ancient Michigan Wolverine like me. Class of ’68. Hockey. Rhodes finalist. Lambda Chi. Navy Cross. We all talked like that in those breezy, troubled days. The blower. The crapper. The Z-machine. The libes. The gazoo. Boogies. Gooks. Hogans . . . it’s a wonder any of us were ever allowed to hold a paying job. Arnie owns and runs—or did—a carriage-trade seafood boutique in north Jersey and has made a mint selling shad roe, Iranian caviar, and imported Black Sea delicacies the FDA doesn’t know about—all of it delivered in unidentifiable, white panel trucks—to Schlumberger execs for exclusive parties no one hears about, including President Obama, who wouldn’t be invited, since in the high-roller Republicans’ view, chitlins’ and hog-maws wouldn’t be on the menu.

How can I help, Arnie? I was watching the Elizabethtown truck motor away down Wilson Lane. Clients’ first target of opportunity when a home sale goes sour—no matter when—is almost always the realtor, whose intentions are almost always good.

I’m on my way down there now, Frank. Some Italian piece of shit called me up at home. Wants to buy the lot and the house—whatever’s left of it—for five hundred grand. I need some advice. You got any? More cars whizzing.

I’m not using any of mine, Arnie, I said. What’s the situation down there?

I, of course, knew. We’d all seen it on CNN, then seen it and seen it and seen it ’til we didn’t care anymore. Nagasaki-by-the-sea—with the Giants and Falcons just a tempting channel click away.

You’ll get a kick out of it, Frank, Arnie said, disembodied in his car. Where is it you live now?

Haddam. Sally had come to the door from the kitchen in her yoga clothes, holding a tea mug to her lips, breathing steam away, looking at me as if she’d heard something distressing and I should possibly hang up.

A loud truck-horn blare cracked the silence where Arnie was. Ass Hole, Arnie shouted. Haddam. Okay. Nice place. Or it was once. Arnie bumped something against the speaker. "My house—your house—is sixty yards inland now, Frank. On its side—if it had a side. The neighbors are all worse off. The Farlows tried to ride it out in their safe room. They’re goners. The Snedikers made a run for it at the last minute. Ended up in the bay. Barb and I were at Lake Sunapee at my son’s. We watched it. I saw my house on TV before I saw it in person."

I guess that could be good news.

Arnie didn’t respond.

What d’you want me to do, Arnie?

"I’m driving down to meet the cocksuckers. Flip companies. You heard of them? Speculators." Arnie had started speaking in some kind of tough-guy, Jersey gangster growl.

I heard about them. I’d read about it all in the Times.

So you see the whole deal. I need your advice, Frank. You used to be honest.

I’ve been out of the realty business a while, Arnie. My license is expired. All I know is what I read in the newspaper.

It’ll make you more reliable. Take away the profit motive. I’m not planning to shoot you, if you’re worried about that.

I hadn’t quite gotten to there, Arnie. Though I had. It had already happened. Once in Ortley Beach, once in Sea Girt. Listing agents shot sitting at their desks, typing out offer sheets.

So. Are you gonna show up? I could say you owe me. Another truck’s withering horn went blasting past. "Jesus. These fucks. I’m gonna get killed out here. So?"

Okay, I’ll come, I said, just to get Arnie off the road shoulder and on to the scene of destruction.

Eleven o’clock tomorrow. At the house, Arnie said. "Or where it used to be. You might recognize it. I’m driving a silver Lexus."

I’ll be there.

Are we gonna have NHL this year, Frank? Hockey. Destruction’s great leveler.

I haven’t really kept up, Arnie.

The shit-for-brains players, Arnie said. They got the best deal they’ll ever get. Now they’ll have to settle for less. Sound familiar? As always, Arnie was on management’s side. Hail to the Victors, Frank.

Champions of the West, Arnie.

Mañana en la mañana. Which seemed to be how Arnie said thanks.

OUT ON LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD CHAMPIONS BOULEVARD, Toms River, nothing looks radically changed stormwise. In a purely retinal sense, the barrier island across the bay has done its god-given work for the inland communities, though much lies in ruins here, back in the neighborhoods. Traffic is anemic along the once–Miracle Mile, headed toward the bridge. It’s plain, though, that Toms River has claimed some survivor’s cred. A beardless Santa sits on a red plastic milk crate in front of the Launch Pad coffee hut (he’s clearly a Mexican), a red, printed-cardboard sign resting against his knee. COFFEE GIVES YOU COURAGE. FELIZ NAVIDAD. I wave, but he only stares back, as if I might be giving him the finger. Farther on, the Free At Last Bail Bonds has only a single car parked in front, as do a couple of boxy, asbestos-sided bars set back in the gravel lots. Days were—before The Shore got re-discovered and prices went nuts—you could drive over from Pottstown, take the kids and your honeybee for a weekend, and get away for a couple hundred. All that’s a dream now, even after the storm. A big sign—part of its message torn off by the winds—advertises the Glen Campbell Good-bye Tour. Half of Glen’s smiling, too-handsome face remains, a photo from the ’60s—before Tanya and the boozing and the cocaine. A paper placard in front of one of the bars—stolen off someone’s lawn after the election—has been re-purposed and instead of Obama-Biden now announces, We’re Back. So Fuck You, Sandy.

Driving, I’ve got Copland’s Fanfare filling the interior space at ten thirty. I bought the whole oeuvre online. As always, I’m stirred by the opening oboes giving ground to the strings then the kettle drums and the double basses. It’s a high-sky morning in Wyoming. Joel McCrea’s galloping across a windy prairie. Barbara Britton, fresh from Vermont, stands out front of their sodbuster cabin. Why is he so late? Is there trouble? What can I do, a woman alone? I’ve worn out three disks this fall. Almost any Copland (today it’s the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by some Israeli) can persuade

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  • (3/5)
    I love Richard Ford, and especially when he speaks through Frank Bascomb. Every writer falls down once in a while though, and this was Ford's banana peel moment. The three star is a gift becuase I love him too much to give him a lower rating. (It's like when they gave Pacino the Oscar for Scent of a Woman because he had not won before even though its a terrible movie in which he chews every piece of scenery.)One of things I have most loved about Bascomb is his sense of humor, which is always engaged and always really dark and odd. I should have guessed from the cheesy-pun title of this book that Frank's sens of humor had grown flaccid. Mostly he sounds like Andy Rooney (not a compliment.) Most everything serves for him to vent his silly affluent baby boomer white guilt. Black folks are all salt of the earth, everyone who didn't vote for Obama is a buffoonish racist, a white person can't hold a conversation with a black person without Tourrette's like racist emissions. Oddly, for a book so desperately PC, there is one scene with a trans woman that is so offensive it is painful to read. He implies that a person has to be uncomfortable in her skin unless she has had bottom surgery. Its so jarring and pathetic. Ford ties up some loose ends which is satisfying for those of us who have read the other three books, but unless you are a Frank Bascomb completist, there is not much reason to read this.
  • (4/5)
    "Let Me Be Frank With You" (LMBF) is an entirely different book from Ford's "Canada" which, as my first exposure to the author, I greatly enjoyed about three years ago. Reading LMBF as a Frank Bascombe newbie, I arrived at this movie well after it was underway. LMBF paled in comparison to "Canada" (which I thought was masterful) but was good enough to pique my interest in reading one or more of the earlier books at some point in the future.What I liked most about LMBF was the author's awesome powers of observing and depicting contemporary American society and mores. The awful hurricane destruction of the New Jersey seaside was a wonderful setting for that, and Ford's observations about it bound the stories together into a cohesive whole. In addition, Ford demonstrated well-observed, acute empathy for any number of not-very-nice characters -- a knack that was also evident in "Canada". In the final story in particular, I enjoyed and appreciated the author's masterful pacing, language, and powers of description as evidenced in Bascombe's driveway meeting with evangelist Fike Birdsong. Brief though it was, this delicious episode was well worth the investment of time and energy to read the book.
  • (2/5)
    I think if I were twenty years older I would better understand and probably love this book. It's for an older demographic, in terms of the subjects, humor, references and characters.
  • (4/5)
    An older man contemplates the difficulty and humor of aging and death. Listened to interview with author on "Fresh Air,' Oct 30, 2015. Sounds entertaining and instructional.Amazon: "A brilliant new work that returns Richard Ford to the hallowed territory that sealed his reputation as an American master: the world of Frank Bascombe, and the landscape of his celebrated novels The Sportswriter, the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner winning Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land.In his trio of world-acclaimed novels portraying the life of an entire American generation, Richard Ford has imagined one of the most indelible and widely discussed characters in modern literature, Frank Bascombe. Through Bascombe—protean, funny, profane, wise, often inappropriate—we’ve witnessed the aspirations, sorrows, longings, achievements and failings of an American life in the twilight of the twentieth century.Now, in Let Me Be Frank with You, Ford reinvents Bascombe in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In four richly luminous narratives, Bascombe (and Ford) attempts to reconcile, interpret and console a world undone by calamity. It is a moving and wondrous and extremely funny odyssey through the America we live in at this moment. Ford is here again working with the maturity and brilliance of a writer at the absolute height of his powers."
  • (3/5)
    There is a sense of quality about the writing here - not a single sentence is allowed on the page until it is perfect in every way. There is a also a sense of time being taken by a now retired narrator who has plenty of time on his hand - to appreciate and analyse everything around him. I would perhaps have enjoyed it more if I had read the previous books about this character, but on the other hand it didn't give away too much about those previous books meaning I could still go back and do so. Of the four loosely linked stories I enjoyed the second one the most, but all had their good points
  • (3/5)
    Let Me Be Frank With You is a collection of four connected stories narrated by Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of a series of four novels by Richard Ford. Unfortunately, this is the first novel of the series that I've read and it is the last one that has been published so far. I had read Ford's really great novel Canada, which is not part of the series, so I thought I could just pick this one up when I saw it. As it turns out, I did not really enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Canada. Now I cannot say whether this is due to not having read the previous three novels or whether I would not have found it all too interesting anyway. Since I do like the character of Frank Bascombe I assume that the book will unfold its potential if read after the prequels. As it is, three stars.
  • (4/5)
    I was very much enjoying this novel despite not having read the earlier books in the series. The narrator is both looking forward and back in his late 60s with a great deal of insight into both his life and that of those he knows. Because of my personal experience with both storms (this is set just after Sandy has hit the NJ coast) and northeastern attitudes, I found many of Frank's attitudes both familiar and pointed -- particularly his relationship, however reluctant, with his first wife. However, I was highly disconcerted about 80% thru the book (I read it on a Kindle) by a section that repeated many of the background details set out early in the book. Bad editing? Nonetheless, I found the book more than interesting enough to order a set of the earlier installments. I'd like to find out how Frank approached those times as he lived them, rather than in retrospect. Couldn't get into "Canada" -- glad I gave this one a chance.
  • (5/5)
    I like Richard Ford. I enjoyed all of the Frank Bascombe trilogy and these four stories of the now 68-year-old retired Frank suited me down to the ground as I lay on my hospital bed recovering to become (I hope) a 'prostate survivor' like Mr Bascombe. Sure, I identified very much with the particular circumstances in which Frank Bascombe and his friends and colleagues find themselves, but there is a much deeper story here. Ford is asking significant questions about the role of friends, marriage partners, work, money and possessions. These issues are seen with a different perspective as we approach the end of life, as a number of Ford's characters are doing - and so too am I. Yes, he does approach from a white middle-class western cultural direction, but that's where I've come from too, so I'm happy for Ford to share his insights with me.
  • (4/5)
    I was looking to read a "period" piece. I wanted to read about a character who I could identify with, particularly when it comes to age. Frank Bascombe is 68 years old – – a little older and a bit more cynical than I am. I have not read any of Richard Ford's other books so I plunged into this without the advantage of reading any of the previous stories. One of the neat things about the book is that the action takes place in New Jersey and shortly after the arrival and destruction from Hurricane Sandy. I also enjoyed his comments and thinking about retirement and getting older. For example,

    "Life's a matter of gradual subtraction, aimed at a solider, more nearly perfect essence, after which all mentation goes and we had off to our own virtual Chillicothes."

    "end of days time otherwise known as retirement..."

    " Being 'older' makes you worry that you reek like a monkey's closet."

    "the gramps shuffle being the unmasked final journey approach signal."
  • (4/5)
    Ever since 1968 Richard Ford has been gracing American letters with his portrait of the reflective Frank Bascombe. I've read all four of these novels that started with the Sportswriter. He then won a Pulitzer Prize with Independence Day. In his latest novel called Let Me Be Frank with You, our narrator is now a 68-year-old retired real estate agent. We see him in four different chapter scenarios. First, he visits his old shore house which has been wiped out by hurricane Sandy, luckily after he sold it to someone else. In the second part he is visited by a woman who used to live in his current house in Haddem, New Jersey. In the third chapter he brings a bamboo pillow to his former wife who now resides nearby in a fancy assisted living community. And in the final chapter an old friend by the name of Ernie pleas with him to come visit; he is dying from prostate cancer and dying to confess something before he passes. Four chapters, each providing a forum for reflection. That's what Frank does. He says one think but thinks another, wishing he could take it back. I feel like I have known Frank Bascombe for 30 years as he illuminates the American existence, the dreams unfulfilled and a possible satisfaction that comes from a life doing as little harm as possible. From NYT:Droll, bemused, hyper-observant, occasionally exasperating and punctuated by sighs of both resignation and contentment (often at the same time), Bascombe’s voice has offered a running commentary on the last four decades of, as he put it in “The Sportswriter,” “the normal applauseless life of us all."Like Updike's Rabbit novels, Richard Ford has left us one of the defining characters in American Literature.
  • (5/5)
    A satisfying and fitting conclusion to Ford's landmark Frank Bascombe series. In four vignettes Ford manages to touch lightly on the themes and threads of the three prior volumes.
  • (5/5)
    Richard Ford is simply a great writer. This book is the 4th Frank Bascombe book. For those of you familiar with New Jersey and the Jersey Shore, you will find this a good story. It would probably help to have read the previous 3 Bascombe books but this one can stand on it own. It is really 4 stories that link together. They take place in December following Hurricane Sandy. It is told in the first person and it is a joy to get into the head of Frank Bascombe. His life philosophy told from his 68 year old retiree perspective struck a chord with me. He is funny and cynical in his head but his actions turn out be more generous than what goes on inside his head. This is a short book and a great introduction into one of our best writers. If you like this, then go out and read the other 3 Frank Bascombe novels that Richard Ford has written.
  • (5/5)
    If Frank Bascombe, Richard Ford's Everyman, showed up to read the Facebook Privacy Rules, I'd pull up a front row chair and listen. Although you'd be a better person for having read the 3 prior Bascombe novels, you can jump right into this group of 4 connected stories. Richard Ford's genius is in recreating what Frank is thinking (most of which is the same as you would think in his situations) and WHAT THE HELL WAS FRANK THINKING? Frank is a man's man, and as a woman I treasure the reveal of his thoughts. In the first story, he meets up with a former real estate client as they ponder the destruction of Hurricane Sandy and Frank's old house, which he sold to Arnie and which is now gone, baby, gone. In the second, Frank shows his own home to a former resident who has the most horrific of reasons to want to see those rooms again. The third finds Frank delivering a special orthopedic pillow to his ex-wife Ann at her "Carnage Hill" senior living apartment, and the final story has Frank paying a final deathbed visit to his old friend Eddie, who needs to unload one last secret onto his acquaintance.Each of these stories is chock full of what we enjoy most about Richard Ford and his (maybe) doppelganger: the strongest honesty and wisdom about suburban life, with small doses of fear and self pity serving as the spice. Live on, Richard Ford, live on.
  • (3/5)
    I like Richard Ford's writing. I like the way he reminds me that the world is just people trying to muddle through, doing their best and occasionally getting it wrong. I like that I recognise myself in the women in his books. I like his character Frank Bascombe. I like the way Ford writes him, and the way I get an insight into how the male mind works, and how men see women. Men like Frank, anyway, who is a man like my father, my brother, a little bit my husband. This time around, though, Frank makes me uncomfortable. I don't remember him being so plainly racist in the other books. The way he describes Charlotte Pines, his attitude to the Mexican and Chinese people who live in his town, dressed up in the bluff of telling it how it is that seems a universal characteristic of people over a certain age, makes me want to look away. He is, or Ford is, acknowledging the conflict he feels as a white man speaking to a person who doesn't share his ethnic background, who isn't racist but is keen to prove himself not racist and so ends up being racist. Unlike Fawlty Towers' 'Don't mention the war', this doesn't make me laugh. It makes me cringe.There's also the habit Ford has of making Frank tell us things more than once. It doesn't always come off as a trope, as a nod to people getting older and forgetting what they've said and to whom. At times it seems as though Ford has forgotten what he'd written already just a few pages before, or as though a bad editing job has been done on the book. Some passages read like plot development notes that Ford forgot to delete.But still, I like Frank and, despite its minor faults and awkwardnesses, the slight feeling of disappointment it gave me for not living up to my expectation, the book is still an engaging read.
  • (5/5)
    Library copy.Canada is the only other Richard Ford book I have read. I liked it very much. Let Me Be Frank With You is very different. It covers a short period in the life of sixty something year old Frank Bascombe. It's divided into four parts, each one could stand alone as a short story or novella.Frank muses about his life, marriages, children, and acquaintances. He claims that in his retirement he doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do--then he proceeds to tell about four things he's doing that he really doesn't want to do. He has an uncomfortable meeting with a former associate whose house (which he bought from Frank) on the shore has been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Next, he lets a woman who used to live in the house Frank now lives in enter the house for a "look around" and he listens to her story (which he really doesn't want to hear). Then he visits his ex-wife who is in a retirement home suffering from Parkinson's disease. In the final chapter/story he visits a dying man-a former acquaintance that Frank never really liked.All this is related with humor and wisdom (or not) and there are some likeable characters, but not too many and I'm not sure Frank is one of them. It is a fun read, but I'm uncertain about reading more Frank Bascombe books. I do want to try one of Ford's short story collections. I waver between four and five stars on this one, perhaps because I liked Canada better.
  • (1/5)
    I found the book depressing and deceptive. I felt physically accosted by the author’s political views and personally insulted by them. If he wants to impugn the reputation of a former President or former presidential candidates, let him do it in a forum other than a novel meant to entertain. I found the book insulting to my intelligence and the intelligence of his readers. An author may write a novel about anything, but to insult the reader for having different views using verbal abuse and vile language is not worthy of any reader’s time or energy.I finished the book simply to give the author more respect than he gave to me in the hope that at some point the story would legitimately prove me wrong and illustrate a good reason for the invective, illustrate the point that he was trying to prove, but instead it turned into a gratuitous political attack in the guise of a story about an angry, unpleasant, unfulfilled, 68 year old retired realtor. If he is an example of a liberal Democrat, it is not an attractive picture. He is selfish and self-centered. Under the guise of a book that seeks to address the unfairness of life and death, the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, failed marriages, the loss of a child, illness at the end of life, among other things, we have a diatribe condemning the Republican with such blatant insults and filthy language, that the book is definitely not worth reading, unless of course, you are a bleeding heart Liberal! Then by all means, read it and enjoy the trashing of those who don’t agree with you. While it is an immature way to deal with disagreements, it seems to be the common approach of many liberal authors. I didn’t ever think I would have to give a litmus test to the authors of prospective books, but now I may have to research their politics before I choose to read their books. Perhaps he is a liberal who falls at the feet of Obama, but not all his readers are of that ilk, and whether or not they are, it is improper for him to imply that those who disagree with his views are “asinine” or brown shirts or racists.This is the third in a series and I have no desire to refresh my memory about the other two. I am truly sorry, I read this one. If the author wants to voice his political opinion he should run for office or write a non-fiction piece informing the reader of his intent.If I wanted a book about political partisanship, I would have searched for one. He intentionally disparages the Tea Party, Mitt Romney, former President Bush, among others, while he lays wreaths at the feet of Obama. If it weren’t for the abject pandering to liberals and their views, there might have been some saving grace in the novel, but as it stands now, there was not. The book was dry with inappropriate comparisons of events and inappropriate moral equivalents. I failed to find the humor in it satisfactory or appealing, rather it was bleak.The author used his pen to voice his political beliefs calling Governor Christie the candied yam and comparing members of the Tea Party to Brown Shirts, describing them as Jew hating, white lovers. If name-calling is the calling card of the Democrat, don’t count me among them and definitely save me from anymore of these disguised political treatises. This author owes many of his readers an apology.
  • (5/5)
    Richard Ford has blessed us with an original Frank Bascombe book every decade. Each work stands on its own and is a brilliant depiction of Frank's individual state of mind at the particular age of the protagonist, and a grander and just as interesting commentary on the zeitgeist of the era in question. LET ME BE FRANK WITH YOU appears eight years after THE LAY OF THE LAND. Frank is essentially retired, which gives him even more occassion to ruminate on the challenges of getting older and watching the inveitable destruction of people (his friends and ex-wife, Ann), places (his former house at the Jersey Shore) and things (the very foundation of American civilization). These four interconnected novellas, which I enjoyed in the AudioBook version through the magnificant voice-over work of Richard Poe who has come to embody every aspect of Frank Bascombe's personnae, are resonant with the foreshadowings of death and departure...not unreasonable for the inner musings of a 68 year olf retiree who sees so much devastation at every turn. The magnificence of the Ford's presetation of the workings of Frank Bascombe's inner self is the beauty and artistic accomplishment of these fine pieces of fiction. The thoughts which are voiced by Bascombe are not meant to be shared publicly...thus, the offense taken by reviewer "thewanderingjew", is not just a misperception of Ford's intent, but seems to entirely miss the point and artistry of these "slice of life" small sections of Frank Bascombe'e present life. I do believe that the pastiche presented demands a familiarity with Ford's prior trilogy and cannot possibly be truly enjoyed absent a full knowledge of the extraordinary life path (extraordinary only in its uniqueness as each of our life paths are unique) of Frank Bascombe. I am deeply saddened to feel that Frank is about at the end of that road and that there may not be a follow-up in due course to the Christmas Holiday events of LET ME BE FRANK. But, that fact, too, would be consistent with the history of Mr. Bascombe. Not a great work, nor Pulitzer worthy, but a valuable semi-coda to a most engaging and interesting mind and life.
  • (4/5)
    This collection of four novellas describes the latest stage in Frank Bascombe's life now that he's 68 and feeling old. Beginning with a story about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey Shore, we become familiar with Frank's musings, as irreverent and thoughtful as they are. In turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, this collection is a unified whole about a guy we wish we knew--or maybe we do.
  • (4/5)
    3.5 Frank now retired and no longer living on the coast, is quite happy not having anything to do, and looks forward to his own quiet, introspective life. As we know though, life very seldom let's us alone and so in these five vignettes Frank is approached by five people from his past, people he finds himself unable to say no to, one being his ex-wife.As minds tend to do, his mind constantly wanders and so, even if involved in one thing, off we go with his wandering mind to another. He has so shortage of opinions, memories and pontifications. Though since these were after hurricane Sandy, it was heartbreaking reading about all the destruction to property and coast.So many of these lines were humorous, this man is funny and so are his thoughts. But, at times it got tiresome, seriously I don't even find my mind wanderings all that interesting. Well interesting to me maybe, but not to others who have not been there or done or saw that. So that became my problem, loving many of his comments, as I posted them, but getting overloaded with anothers thoughts. Still well worth the read for all the amusing bits, just don't expect a straightforward or on task story.ARC from publisher.
  • (5/5)
    “A few good words,” observes Frank Bascombe at the end of the final novella of Richard Ford’s, Let Me Be Frank With You, and “the day we have briefly shared is saved.” It summarizes Frank Bascombe’s near elegiac take on grief, death and the fear of death, and what makes life worth living. And it perfectly captures my take on Richard Ford’s latest.For those who have followed Frank Bascombe from The Sportswriter, through Independence Day and on to The Lay of the Land, there was always one more holiday looming. The earlier novels took place, over the course of Frank’s life, at Easter, July 4th, and Thanksgiving. So it will come as no surprise that the four linked novellas, or long short stories, here mark the the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. Frank is now 68, retired, living once again in Haddam with his second wife, Sally. It is the aftermath of hurricane Sandy and the destruction that followed in its wake has peeled back the skin of The Shore. Vast amounts of real estate are destroyed, including Frank and Sally’s old house (they sold up and moved inland 8 years previous). The survivors, one way or another, are receiving grief counselling. And maybe all of us, including Frank though he denies it, are in such need. Endings are in evidence. Indeed, as Frank notes, “that things end is often the most interesting thing about them.” Frank’s end is still being postponed, though death surrounds him, suffusing even the house in which he and Sally live (due to a horrific scene that occurred there 30 years earlier), placing its determinate finger on Frank’s first wife, Ann, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and rattling its last rasp in the form of Eddie “Ole Olive” Medley, a former friend of Frank’s from the years shortly after his divorce. Only the reassuring presence of Ezekiel Lewis and those few good words of Christmas cheer and fellowship can stem the tide. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is enough.Ford’s Bascombe has moved on from his Permanent Period to the Next Level, which is characterized as much by letting go (of friends, real estate, cares and concerns) as by Frank’s identification with his Default Self. But of course Frank can never really hold to his stated intentions. Perhaps his true essence just keeps seeping through, as Ann might say, or maybe it is just hard for someone without an essence, as Frank would claim, to hold on to things, especially things as insubstantial themselves as intentions.It might sound odd to describe Ford’s return to Frank Bascombe as a breath of fresh air. But fresh is exactly how this feels. A few good words, indeed. Highly recommended.
  • (3/5)
    Decent, but it is largely missing the Richard Ford touch. It takes a long time for the writing to warm up. Eventually it is starting to get there, with Bascombe's pithy, occasionally contradictory but always considered, thoughts on life–but then the story ends! It's too short, especially when the first 50-100 pages could be cut off without losing much. > Character, to me, is one more lie of history and the dramatic arts. In my view, we have only what we did yesterday, what we do today, and what we might still do. Plus, whatever we think about all of that. But nothing else—nothing hard or kernel-like.