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.
It was his third novel, The Sportswriter, that transformed Ford from critical darling into a 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 (which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Prize—the first book to receive both simultaneously), The Lay of the Land, Let Me Be Frank With You, and Be Mine. In Bascombe, Ford has created a quintessential American character to join the likes of Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom and Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman.
“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 epic 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. 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.”
After nearly a decade, Ford delighted readers by revisiting his beloved narrator Frank Bascombe in 2014. A finalist for the 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.”
His latest novel is Be Mine—the final in the Bascombe series, meaning that Frank has appeared every decade for the last half-century. Frank is hitting the road again, and this time the “astonishing core of [the book] is the barbed, tender, despairing bond between father and son” (The Atlantic). In surveying all five books in a review of Be Mine, the Wall Street Journal declared that the Bascombe books are “works of tremendous craft and arrangement, full of tantalizing patterns and recurrences.” As Kirkus Reviews raves in their starred review, “if this is also Ford’s curtain call, he has done himself proud.”
“Ford’s quiet faithfulness to a character’s interior life remains unsurpassed.”
— Shelf Awareness
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 “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 “master” of the short story genre (Paris Review), Ford is also the author of the story collections Rock Springs, Women With Men, A Multitude of Sins, and most recently, Sorry for Your Trouble, praised by The New York Times as “acutely described settings, pitch-perfect dialogue, inner lives vividly evoked, complex protagonists brought toward difficult recognitions.”
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 New Orleans, LA with his wife, Kristina.