Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Richard Ford’s “sinewy and distinctively American voice contains the echoing tones of many [literary] ancestors” (The New York Times), among them Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway.
In person, Ford’s voice is similarly impressive; his Mississippi beginnings yield a generosity of spirit, an affable candor, and an amused resistance to pretension. Warm and witty, his talks bring a career’s worth of insightful, revelatory storytelling to life.
Ford’s first two novels, A Piece of My Heart and The Ultimate Good Luck, both achieved critical success. Recognized for his “immaculate” dialogue, “confident and rich” storytelling, and “piercingly clear” prose (The New York Times), Ford quickly established himself as one of the great American writers of our time. In addition to his beloved novels, Ford has written three collections of short stories.
His third novel, The Sportswriter, transformed Ford from critical darling into household name. Time named The Sportswriter one of the 100 best books written in English since the magazine’s inception. In this “transcendent…large-spirited” novel (The Boston Globe), Ford introduces us to Frank Bascombe, a New Jersey novelist turned sportswriter turned real estate agent, who would reappear in the sequels Independence Day, The Lay of the Land, and Let Me Be Frank With You. In Bascombe, Ford has created a quintessential American character to join the likes of Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom and Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman. Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Prize—the first book to receive both simultaneously.
“Frank Bascombe…has become our unlikely Virgil, guiding us through the modern American purgatory of big-box stores along frontage roads, slowly decaying town squares and leafy, secret-harboring suburbs. He’s there to remind us that glimmering meaning is hiding everywhere, even in the ugliest or most banal of places.”
— The Washington Post
Twenty years in the making, Ford’s 2012 novel Canada centers on fifteen-year-old Dell, who is left to make a new life for himself when his parents are imprisoned for bank robbery. Canada follows Dell on his journey across America’s northern border. A visionary tale of vast landscapes, complex identities, and fragile humanity, it questions the fine line between the normal and the extraordinary, and the moments that haunt our settled view of the world. Andre Dubus III, writing in The New York Times Book Review, called the book “a masterwork by one of our finest writers working at the top of his form.”
In 2014, Ford delighted readers by revisiting his beloved narrator Frank Bascombe after nearly a decade. A finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Let Me Be Frank With You is comprised of four novellas narrated by Bascombe and set against the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy. The New York Times calls Let Me Be Frank With You “an apt vitrine for Mr. Ford’s talents: his journalistic eye for the revealing detail, his knack for tracing the connections between the public and the personal, his gift for capturing the precariousness of daily life.”
In 2017, Ford published Between Them, a memoir of his parents. Writing in The New York Times, Cheryl Strayed praised “this slim beauty of a memoir” for its ability to “bring the private realities of their existence most palpably to life.” She continued, “It’s through this innate desire to know, paired with Ford’s exceptional abilities as a prose craftsman, that these two ordinary people are made vital and vivid to us on the page. His depictions and examinations of his parents before and after he was born—their mannerisms and bearings, their wounds and silences, their squabbles and pleasures—offer a master class in character development and narrative economy.”
A film adaptation of Ford’s novel Wildlife, directed by Paul Dano and starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, premiered in 2018. The Houston Chronicle called the film “intimate and powerful”. Ford is currently at work on a new novel–the final in the Frank Bascombe series–as well as a new collection of stories Sorry for Your Trouble, forthcoming in May 2020.
Born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1944, Richard Ford grew up between there and Little Rock, Arkansas. He is a graduate of Michigan State University. After college, he spent one uncomfortable semester in law school at Washington University in St. Louis before finding his way to the University of California, Irvine, where he earned an MFA in writing under the tutelage of Oakley Hall and E.L. Doctorow. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ford has taught at Williams, Princeton, and Harvard, and is at present Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Irish Times, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among other places. He lives in Maine with his wife, Kristina.