This is book two of the Frank Bascombe series by Richard Ford. I think it would more or less make sense to read these out of order, as I was actually thinking of doing, but regardless, they are more or less in order. This series reminds me of the projects of several other writers, especially male American writers where an everyman type American guy stands in for the author’s desire to cast a light on late 20th century American white maleness.
This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but if it’s not your thing, this won’t be your thing.
Frank Bascombe is back, and what is apparent now is that the novels in this series want to provide a snapshot and an update to the life we have intersected with. Now it’s 1988 and Frank is 44. He’s on his way up to Massachusetts to pick up his 15 year old son, who has just been arrested for shoplifting, to take him on a road trip to various Halls of Fame during the Independence Day extended holiday. So like in The Sportswriter it’s a road trip and a holiday together. Frank is no longer reeling from a recent divorce, though it still very much characterizes his life. He’s now a real estate agent instead of a writer and this difference cause him to focus more on life through a capitalist lens.
Of the series similar to this one, this is perhaps the most grounded and sober. Rabbit Angstrom is cartoonish at times in Updike’s novels and Zuckerman/Kepesh are more about extending the cause and project of fiction. So Frank stands in the middle with strong prose, a modest story, an uncomfortable racial and sexual politics of late 80s white liberalism. It’s a solid work that couldn’t possibly be surprising.