Author Richard Ford Says ‘Let Me Be Frank’ About Aging And Dying

Mike Groll | AP

A house on the central Jersey Shore coast collapsed after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. Richard Ford said he focused on houses in the wake of the storm in his new book, “Let Me Be Frank With You”, because they have an “almost iconic status.” “A house is where you look out the window and see the world,” he says.  ( Mike Groll | AP )

By Teri Gross — “Fresh Air” | NPR
November 12, 2014

Let Me Be Frank With YouWhen Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford was a young man, he says, he had a cynical view of aging.

“I sort of went through life thinking that when you got to be in your 60s that basically you weren’t good for much,” Ford tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That’s a younger man’s view. I know that the AARP phones are ringing when I say that, but now I’m 70 and I don’t think that anymore, OK?”

Not only is Ford older, but the character he’s been writing about for years has aged, too. Frank Bascombe, whom Ford wrote about in The Sportswriter and Independence Day, is now 68.

Ford’s latest book, Let Me Be Frank With You, is a series of four interconnected novellas about Bascombe, who is retired from his work as a real estate broker. It’s 2012, just before Christmas, and just a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy destroyed parts of the Jersey Shore near where Frank lives.

Ford says for this book, he had to bring Frank “up to date” to make him a plausible character.

In the stories, Frank is dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, his aging body, a dying friend and his ex-wife, who has Parkinson’s and has moved to a nearby assisted living facility.

“I really got interested in the consequences of the hurricane, and I got interested in having Frank be my instrumental narrator in assessing those consequences,” Ford says. “So once I figured out how old he would be, then I had to sort of fill in the absences there that weren’t taken care of in the other books. In other words, I kind of backed into it being about aging because he happened to be that age.”

In the stories, Frank is dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, his aging body, a dying friend and his ex-wife, who has Parkinson’s and has moved to a nearby assisted living facility.

“I think these things are surrounding us all the time,” Ford says. “We don’t have experiences to get over [them]; we have experiences so we can sort of deal with them and address them and have, in some ways, some stability towards them.”

Listen to this story on NPR, read transcript, or view interview highlights 

Read excerpt of Let Me Be Frank With You

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Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/3009936030_let_me_be_frank_with_you

IndieBound:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780061692062?aff=NPR

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20828358-let-me-be-frank-with-you?from_search=true

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