It’s Literally Wednesday

Richard Ford’s Canada

“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”

It’s a great opening to a great novel.  Actually, Canada is comprised of two novels that take place in 1960 followed by a short story told in the present day.  Each are narrated by Dell Parsons who at the beginning is a 15-year-old boy living with his southern-born Air Force father, Jewish northwestern intellectual mother, and twin sister, Berner, in Great Falls, Montana.  Dell has experienced little of the world; his voice strongly reflects his naïveté and the limited aspirations of a rootless small town existence, though the narrator has the hindsight of 50 years.  Dell’s only future desire is to attend the upcoming county agricultural fair, though a sense of foreboding he can recognize, but not fully grasp, is ever present.

The second part takes Dell (no surprise) north to Alberta and an entirely new set of characters, including an American with a dark, hidden past that is rapidly gaining ground and a Métise caretaker who serve as surrogate parents.  This section is less compelling, but often incredibly brilliant in its prose and symbolism as many different kinds of borders are crossed.

The final short story serves as a coda, tying things together in a melancholia.

Goodreads has a nice interview with Ford here, and there’s another in last Friday’s New York Times.

Richard Ford is a superb novelist.  That he joins Toni Morrison (Home) and John Irving (In One Person) with books being released this month is great news for those of us who like some substance mixed in with our fun summer reading.

Recently read: Live By Night, by Dennis Lehane (release date: October 12, 2012).  This work of historical fiction is something of a sequel to The Given Day.  It takes Danny Coughlin’s youngest brother, Joe, to Tampa Bay during Prohibition, where he consolidates mob activity.  Lehane is a very good storytellerer, and placing the book away from big city mobsters offers a different take.

Reading now: Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer (September 25, 2012).  This is the first novel by Moehringer, who gave us the superb memoir The Tender Bar in 2005.  Sutton is a fictionalized account of Willie ‘The Actor’ Sutton, perhaps the most successful bank robber in U.S. history — if you don’t count the fact that half of his adult life was spent behind bars.  I’m loving every page.

This Week

Steve Coll, author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, Wednesday, May 23rd at 7pm, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, free.

Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, authors of The Presidents Club, Thursday, May 24th at 7pm, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, free.

Jeff Shaara, author of A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh, Wednesday, May 30th, 7pm, The Atlanta History Center, free.

5 thoughts on “It’s Literally Wednesday”


  1. Okay, I’m the guy who sent DM the photo of the sign on Ruby Tuesday’s door and I realize that has sucked the air out of the blog room and I only have myself to blame and someone else would have done it and Carl had already tweeted it … but somebody has to have a comment about Richard Ford!!!

    1. I just read both interviews. I haven’t read any Ford, but this sounds right up my alley, so I’ll give it a go! Also interested in that Henry James book, ‘What Maisie Knew”, that he apparently loves.

      And based on your most recent reads, I must ask: will you be blogging about the bank you rob??

    2. “that has sucked the air out of the blog room” — Beautifully put, that’s exactly what happened. It would suit me just fine if there was never another post on DM about a restaurant opening or closing. It’s not like we can’t get that news elsewhere, and I think those threads are not the ones that engage our more thoughtful and thought-provoking angels.

  2. That opening line is fantastic. Sounds intriguiging.

    I’m actually reading a paper book (!), and last week I did a lot of cast iron skillet cooking. Feeling very retro.

    I’m currently reading Zane Grey for some mindless escapism, and I’m struck by how much our accepted views on a topic change in a short amount of time: A virgin valley “longs for a settler’s cabin” and Indians are lazy and unproductive hangers-on. Now we’ve got a planet that fights back against human infection (the god-awful remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still) and native americans are inherently innocent and nobler than gods themselves (Dances with Wolves/ Avatar). What else is changing I wonder? I’m confident my current worldview will one day be ruthlessly mocked by my children.

    Apart from cultural touchpoints, its notable how much the writing has changed – more formal, with a broader vocabulary, and generally much more erudite. We’ve got great writers today, no doubt. But Grey’s reader would not have been the intellectual class – these were written for the masses. How the baseline of American literacy has fallen in 70 years!

Comments are closed.