Independence Day. Richard Ford.

Ford, Richard. Independence Day. Vintage Canada 2001 (original 1995) F;03/12

Another book that I seem to miss by a small margin for some reason. There must be a literary name for this type of character: lost in middle age. He’s divorced, trying to find his way, and with troubled teenage kids, still-loved wife with asshole second husband, and pretty girlfriend he’s ambivalent about. But all played out in offhand entitled pseudo-patrician style. Two or three predecessors come to mind: Walker Percy, and whoever wrote the novel I read about 40 years ago with the main character called Joshua Bland.

These guys can’t find themselves, keep talking as if they are looking for answers, but all the while making sure we understand that they’re perfectly comfortable, everything is really okay, and I sense we’re supposed to take from that that the world really is like Frank Bascombe’s “Existence Period”. You’re not supposed to come up with answers, you’re not supposed to know what the hell is going on, and it’s okay just to be a realtor, cause after all you’re your own original cool New England version of a yoga guru easy going kind of guy (preferably rich and a lifelong Democrat). Pfui.

So much of the backdrop is Yankeedoodle: the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Fourth of July, the high school band. And unless my hearing aid is causing a bad tin ear, none of that is ironic. So we diffident old Canucks (and Englishman and Europeans and south Americans and, for that matter, African-Americans, Latinos, people from the West coast or Midwest, everybody who isn’t… what’s his name?) get to feel like guests at the dinner table who were forgotten during an embarrassing self-congratulation session that should have been confined to the family.

Ford absolutely has the gift for a figure of speech, and that’s charming. And maybe the whole thing is some sort of emblematic haiku or tone poem that’s supposed to hypnotize us into spiritual appreciation of… independence? If so why couldn’t it have been done in less than 450 pages, and with some emotion?

Could be I’m just getting past middle age. 7.0

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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