For those of you who haven’t checked out the June 10, 2012 NYT Book Review, I feel compelled to share the cover page paragraph with you:
Willa Cather once wrote that “a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.” By that measure, and any other, Richard Ford is doing his very best in his extraordinary new novel, Canada,…Here, Ford is clearly writing within the range and character of his deepest sympathies–in this case, from the point of view of an abandoned 15-year-old boy–and he’s doing it with a level of linguistic mastery that is rivaled by few, if any, in American letters today.
This review, written by highly acclaimed author Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog), salivates to the point of drooling. Please, Andre, wipe your chin.
It’s not that I disagree; I haven’t read Canada–yet. I just recall trying to read The Sportswriter (or was it Independence Day?? Made quite an impression, didn’t it?) and finding myself unable to continue after slugging through just a few pages. I think I even tried to read it twice over a period of a year! I was so bored and depressed during those endless minutes that no amount of caffeine and chocolate could keep me awake.
Variously described as dreamy, cool and flat in tone, and compulsively cerebral and self-absorbed by reviewers, the book never made it to (my) first base.
You must understand that I’m not afraid of dense prose. Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury are two of my all-time favorites. In fact, they spill a substantial amount of Southern Discomfort in my dreams when I re-read them.
So we have this gushing front page review in the NYT for Ford’s Canada. And we have Lorrie Moore’s review in the New Yorker titled “Canada Dry” and subtitled: The Terse Poetry of Richard Ford. Even Lorrie Moore? Hmmm.
At first glance, the folks across the pond appear to be traveling down this long and fawning road. But one paragraph in the UK Guardian (June 2, 2012) saves the novel for me. Sean O’Hagan writes:
In Canada, the writing is leaner, tighter and less concerned with the inner significance of everyday things. Ford can still stretch a sentence, often beautifully, to paragraph length, but his writing is much more straightforwardly descriptive than it has been for a long time.
In a way, this is a return to the so-called “dirty realism” of earlier books…
Hey hey! Let’s hear it for “dirty realism”! That’s hitting the sweet spot, isn’t it? Perhaps I could get into Ford’s book after all. I’ll slouch down to my favorite neighborhood bookstore (Christopher’s), pick up a copy, and give it at least the time of day while I lean against the wall. If those first few pages click, I’ll bring the book home for a sleepover and see if it hits a home run.