Richard Ford

Richard Ford

Infobox Writer
name = Richard Ford
imagesize =
caption = deletable image-caption
pseudonym =
birthdate = Birth date and age|1944|2|16|mf=y
birthplace = Jackson, Mississippi
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist, short story writer
nationality = United States
period = 1976 - present
genre = Literary fiction
subject =
movement = Dirty realism
influences =
influenced =

website =

Richard Ford (born February 16, 1944) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. His best-known works are the novel "The Sportswriter" and its sequels, "Independence Day" and "The Lay of the Land", and the widely anthologized story collection "Rock Springs".

Early life

Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi, the only son of a traveling salesman for Faultless Starch, a Kansas City company. When Ford was eight years old, his father had a major heart attack, and thereafter Ford spent as much time with his grandfather, a former prizefighter and hotel owner in Arkansas, as he did with his parents in Mississippi. Ford’s father died of a second heart attack in 1960.

Ford received a B.A. from Michigan State University, where he also met Kristina Hensley, his future wife; the two married in 1968. Despite mild dyslexia, Ford developed a serious interest in literature. He has stated in interviews that his dyslexia may, in fact, have helped him as a reader, as it forced him to approach books at a slow and thoughtful level.

Ford briefly attended law school but dropped out and entered the creative writing program at the University of California, Irvine, to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree, which he received in 1970.

Later life and works

Ford published his first novel, "A Piece of My Heart", the story of two unlikely drifters whose paths cross on an island in the Mississippi River, in 1976, and followed it with "The Ultimate Good Luck" in 1981. Despite good notices the books sold little, and Ford retired from fiction writing to become a writer for the New York magazine "Inside Sports".

In 1982 the magazine folded; when "Sports Illustrated" failed to hire Ford, he returned to fiction writing with "The Sportswriter", a novel about a failed novelist turned sportswriter who undergoes an emotional crisis following the death of his son. The novel became Ford’s "breakout book", named one of "Time" magazine's five best books of 1986 and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Ford followed the success immediately with "Rock Springs" (1987), a story collection that includes some of his most popular stories, adding to his reputation as one of the finest writers of his generation.

Reviewers and literary critics associated the stories in "Rock Springs" with the aesthetic movement known as Dirty realism. This term referred to a group of writers in the 1970s and 1980s that included Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff—two writers Ford was closely acquainted with—as well as Ann Beattie, Frederick Barthelme, and Jayne Anne Phillips, among others.

However misleading, the term "dirty realism" is still applied to Ford and other writers who write about the sadnesses and losses of ordinary people. Since the "Rock Springs" collection, Ford's fiction, particularly the "Frank Bascombe" novels ("The Sportswriter", "Independence Day", and "The Lay of the Land"), enjoy material affluence and cultural capital not associated with so-called "dirty realist" style and subject matter.

Although his 1990 novel "Wildlife", a story of a Montana golf pro turned firefighter, met with mixed reviews and middling sales, by the end of the 1980s Ford's reputation was solid. He was increasingly sought after as an editor and contributor to various projects. Ford edited the 1990 "Best American Short Stories", the 1992 "Granta Book of the American Short Story", and the 1998 "Granta Book of the American Long Story", a designation he claimed in the introduction to prefer to the novella. More recently he has edited the 2007 "New Granta Book of the American Short Story", and the Library of America's two-volume edition of the selected works of fellow Mississippi writer Eudora Welty.

In 1995, Ford’s career reached a high point with the release of "Independence Day", a sequel to "The Sportswriter", featuring the continued story of its protagonist, Frank Bascombe. Reviews were positive, and the novel became the first to win both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In the same year, Ford was chosen as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, for outstanding achievement in that genre. Ford’s recent works include the story collections "Women with Men" (1997) and "A Multitude of Sins" (2002). "The Lay of the Land" (2006) continues (and, according to Ford, ends) the Frank Bascombe series.

Ford lived for many years in the French Quarter and then in the Garden District of New Orleans, Louisiana, where his wife Kristina was the executive director of the city planning commission. He now lives in Maine where he teaches at Bowdoin College.


"Elephants feel the fatal footfalls of poachers a hundred miles off. Cats exit the room when oysters are opened. On and on, and on and on. The unseen exists and has properties." - "The Lay of the Land"

"Never tell anyone you know how she or he feels unless you happen to be, just at that second, stabbing yourself with the very same knife in the very same place in the very same heart she or he is stabbing. Because if you're not, then you don't know how anybody feels." - "The Lay of the Land"

"In Haddam, summer floats over tree-softened streets like a sweet lotion balm from a careless, languorous god, and the world falls in tune with its own mysterious anthems. Shaded lawns lie still and damp in the early a.m." - "Independence Day"

"The most important things of your life can change so suddenly, so unrecoverably, that you can forget even the most important of them and their connections, you are so taken up by the chanciness of all that's happened and by all that could and will happen next." - 'Optimists', "Rock Springs"

"When I woke in the dark this morning, my heart pounding like a tom-tom, it seemed to me as though a change were on its way, as if this dreaminess tinged with expectation, which I have felt for some time now, were lifting off of me into the cool tenebrous dawn." - "The Sportswriter"



* "A Piece of My Heart" (1976)
* "The Ultimate Good Luck" (1981)
* "The Sportswriter" (1986)
* "Wildlife" (1990)
* "Independence Day" (1995)
* "The Lay of the Land" (2006)
* "Canada" (forthcoming)

tory collections

* "Rock Springs" (1987)
* "" (1997)
* "A Multitude of Sins" (2002)
* "Vintage Ford" (2004)
* "Untitled short story collection" (forthcoming)

As contributor or editor

* "The Granta Book of the American Short Story" (1992)
* "The Granta Book of the American Long Story" (1999)
* "The New Granta Book of the American Short Story" (2007)

External links

** [ "Leaving for Kenosha"] , The New Yorker (2008)
** [ "How Was it to be Dead?"] , The New Yorker (2007)

** [ Bibliography] , University of Mississippi
** [ Profile] , Ploughshares

** [] Transcript of interview with Ramona Koval ,The Book Show , ABC Radio National 31st December 2007
** [ Interview for public radio in Maine (2006)] , Maine Humanities Council
** [ Interview (1996)] ,
** [ Interview on Writer's Voice (2006)] with radio host, Francesca Rheannon.
** [ Interview (2002)] , []
** [ Interview (2006)] , The New Yorker
** [ Interview (2006)] ,
** [ Interview and book reading video streams (2006)] , University of Pennsylvania

** [ Overview of Ford's recent career, and critique of short stories] in The Walrus magazine
** [ Review of "A Multitude Of Sins"] ,

** [ Richard Ford Collection] owned by the University of Mississippi Department of Archives and Special Collections.

NAME=Ford, Richard
DATE OF BIRTH=February 16 1944
PLACE OF BIRTH=Jackson, Mississippi

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