Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Richard Ford’s “sinewy and distinctively American voice contains the echoing tones of many [literary] ancestors” (The New York Times). Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway often come to mind when discussing Ford’s work.
In person, Ford’s voice is similarly impressive; his Mississippi beginnings yield a generosity of spirit, a honed eccentricity, and an absolute abhorrence of pretension. He is warm, open, and accessible, and his talks bring a career-long repertoire of distinctive, insightful, and witty ruminations 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.
It was his third novel, The Sportswriter, that launched Ford from a critical darling to a household name. The Sportswriter was named one of Time magazine’s five best books of 1986 and is on their list of the 100 best English-language books published since the inception of the magazine. Called “transcendent…large-spirited,” by The Boston Globe, the novel introduced readers to protagonist 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 earned Ford both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Prize—the first book to receive both awards 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 follows 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 it “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.”
An eagerly anticipated film adaptation of Ford’s novel Wildlife, directed by Paul Dano and starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, is out October 19, 2018.
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, under the tutelage of Oakley Hall and E.L. Doctorow, he earned an MFA in writing. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ford has taught at Williams, Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, and Bowdoin College. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Granta, Le Monde, and The New Yorker among other magazines and journals. He lives in Maine with his wife, Kristina.