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The Lay of the Land: A Novel

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The Lay of the Land: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780679454687
ISBN10: 0679454683
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

The Rooster 2007 Morning News Tournament of Books Nominee

Staff Pick

Richard Ford's anti-hero Frank Bascombe has returned, middle-aged, possibly wiser, more cynical, and heading into a Thanksgiving season without his wife, but with other family members that he might not want to see. Ford is a great writer; in The Lay of the Land, he shows us that acceptance is a good quality to have while giving us the realities of life with sly, deadpan humor.
Recommended by Brodie, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"When publishers, with heavy heart, stamp 'literary fiction' on books nowadays, they generally mean to brand them as serious in intent, not hitching a lift on genre or journalistic trends. The Lay of the Land is literary in that it is an entirely linguistic edifice. What happens? Frank's consciousness happens. Unlike his short stories, which found 'success' only when sold to Hollywood back in the 1960s, it is practically screenproof." James Campbell, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire TLS review)

"The Lay of the Land is longer and weaker than both [The Sportswriter and Independence Day]. This isn't to say that Ford is not one hell of a writer; he is. Master of a smooth and seamless American vernacular, funny as hell, he's always a good read. But sentence for sentence or pound for pound, a slugging middleweight is still a middleweight, and by the end of Lay, Ford's a buckle-kneed, arm-weary middleweight clinching and waiting for the bell." Scott Raab, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

"Carver was...a mentor, friend, and admirer of Richard Ford; yet one can't help wondering whether Ford's verbally awesome but, I fear, fundamentally specious new novel would have had the maestro ducking behind a parapet....For all of its brilliance — Ford's sentence-by-sentence resourcefulness is astonishing — The Lay of the Land never pivots, as its predecessors did, on an engaging drama." Joseph O'Neill, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

With The Sportswriter, in 1985, Richard Ford began a cycle of novels that ten years later — after Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award — was hailed by The Times of London as "an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the story of the twentieth century itself."

Frank Bascombe's story resumes, in the fall of 2000, with the presidential election still hanging in the balance and Thanksgiving looming before him with all the perils of a post-nuclear family get-together. He's now plying his trade as a realtor on the Jersey shore and contending with health, marital, and familial issues that have his full attention: "all the ways that life seems like life at age fifty-five strewn around me like poppies."

Richard Ford's first novel in over a decade: the funniest, most engaging (and explosive) book he's written, and a major literary event.

Review:

"Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor's rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford's magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated 'dreaminess.' He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the 'Existence Period' of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize–winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a 'Permanent Period,' a time of being, not becoming. He's long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women's golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank's undergone treatment for prostate cancer. The novel's action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton ('My President,' he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive 'mainstreamer,' who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who's unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank's quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank's emotional life — until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist — ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant — building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to 'fully occupy' his real estate career ('it's really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about') illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility — in work and in love — to breed doubt: 'Is this it?' and 'Am I good?' Frank wonders. The answers don't come easy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor's rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford's magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated 'dreaminess.' He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the 'Existence Period' of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize — winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a 'Permanent Period,' a time of being, not becoming. He's long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women's golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank's undergone treatment for prostate cancer.The novel's action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton ('My President,' he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive 'mainstreamer,' who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who's unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank's quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank's emotional life — until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist — ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant — building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to 'fully occupy' his real estate career ('it's really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about') illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility — in work and in love — to breed doubt: 'Is this it?' and 'Am I good?' Frank wonders. The answers don't come easy. 150,000 announced first printing. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"The third and most eventful novel in the Frank Bascombe series....Though not as consistently compelling as Independence Day (too many chickens coming home to roost), this reaffirms that Frank Bascombe is for Ford what Rabbit Angstrom is for Updike." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Review:

"Ford manages to become his character and remove authorial boundaries, transforming his novel into a story told to us by an old friend. A fitting way to complete the Frank Bascombe legacy." Library Journal

Review:

"[I]t's a pleasure to see what [Frank's] been up to, and fall back into his dreamy, remarkable voice....[B]ut in Lay for the first time it feels as if Ford tries to make up for the long swatches of inaction by throwing in a lot of hard-to-believe intrigue. (Grade: B-)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"Lay of the Land...is distinct not only for its singular style but also for its generosity. Ford shows that life is never easy and never placid. We will fight and flail, love and lose. Yet we keep moving forward for that occasional moment of pure understanding." Minneapolis Star Tribune

Review:

"[O]ne of its pleasures is the reminder that Ford can do conversation — not just straightforward, revelatory dialogue, but the shorthand, crusty, idiomatic way that guys, particularly business guys, talk to one another." Boston Globe

Review:

"Where The Lay of the Land excels is when Ford draws us out of Frank's head and into the world....Yet even this is not enough to sustain the novel....The Lay of the Land hints that there must be more to the story, but it never quite connects with what that is." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"By turns hilarious and sad, The Lay of the Land is a fitting end piece...but for those who have been following Frank's peregrinations since 1986, it's not without regret that we watch him shuffle off....It will be a while before we see his like in fiction again." Denver Post

Review:

"[T]here are some wonderful, deeply moving passages...buried beneath pages and pages of self-indulgent self-analysis and random ruminations...not the makings of a fitting follow-up to The Sportswriter and Independence Day, only the stale ingredients of an unnecessary and by-the-numbers sequel." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Review:

"[A] big, glorious, messy evocation of a life lived, if not always to its fullest, at least as best as it can be under the circumstances." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Ford has crafted a near-perfect vernacular for Frank, one that manages to make him simultaneously opaque and transparent." Miami Herald

Review:

"There is plenty of comedy, of a low-key, whimsical kind, and the usual assortment of odd characters" A. O. Scott, New York Times

Synopsis:

With The Sportswriter, in 1986, Richard Ford commenced a cycle of novels that ten years laterafter Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Awardwas hailed by The Times of London as “an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the story of the twentieth century itself.” Now, a decade later, Frank Bascombe returns, with a new lease on life (and real estate), more acutely in thrall to lifes endless complexities than ever before.

His story resumes in the autumn of 2000, when his trade as a realtor on the Jersey Shore is thriving, permitting him to revel in the acceptance of “that long, stretching-out time when my dreams would have mystery like any ordinary persons; when whatever I do or say, who I marry, how my kids turn out, becomes what the worldif it makes note at allknows of me, how Im seen, understood, even how I think of myself before whatever there is thats wild and unassuagable rises and cheerlessly hauls me off to oblivion.” But as a Presidential election hangs in the balance, and a postnuclear-family Thanksgiving looms before him along with crises both marital and medical, Frank discovers that what he terms the Permanent Period is fraught with unforeseen perils: “All the ways that life feels like life at age fifty-five were strewn around me like poppies.”

A holiday, and a novel, no reader will ever forgetat once hilarious, harrowing, surprising, and profound. The Lay of the Land is astonishing in its own right and a magnificent expansion of one of the most celebrated chronicles of our time.

About the Author

The author of five previous novels and three collections of short fiction, Richard Ford's honors also include the PEN/Malamud Award. He lives in Maine and New Orleans.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

erickson.bruce, September 3, 2007 (view all comments by erickson.bruce)
Where have I been? How did I miss Richard Ford's first two books ("The Sportswriter" and "Independence Day") in this trilogy akin to Updike's "Rabbit" series? In "Lay of the Land," Ford draws a life-like portrait of his divorced, aging, prostate cancer victim and protagonist, Frank Bascombe, with Proustian detail and a lot of humor, insight and eloquence.
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(19 of 35 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780679454687
Author:
Ford, Richard
Publisher:
Knopf
Author:
Ford, Richard
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Humorous
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st
Publication Date:
October 24, 2006
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
496
Dimensions:
9.50x6.64x1.51 in. 1.86 lbs.

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The Lay of the Land: A Novel Used Hardcover
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$3.95 In Stock
Product details 496 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780679454687 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Richard Ford's anti-hero Frank Bascombe has returned, middle-aged, possibly wiser, more cynical, and heading into a Thanksgiving season without his wife, but with other family members that he might not want to see. Ford is a great writer; in The Lay of the Land, he shows us that acceptance is a good quality to have while giving us the realities of life with sly, deadpan humor.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor's rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford's magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated 'dreaminess.' He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the 'Existence Period' of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize–winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a 'Permanent Period,' a time of being, not becoming. He's long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women's golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank's undergone treatment for prostate cancer. The novel's action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton ('My President,' he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive 'mainstreamer,' who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who's unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank's quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank's emotional life — until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist — ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant — building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to 'fully occupy' his real estate career ('it's really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about') illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility — in work and in love — to breed doubt: 'Is this it?' and 'Am I good?' Frank wonders. The answers don't come easy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor's rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford's magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated 'dreaminess.' He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the 'Existence Period' of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize — winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a 'Permanent Period,' a time of being, not becoming. He's long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women's golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank's undergone treatment for prostate cancer.The novel's action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton ('My President,' he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive 'mainstreamer,' who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who's unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank's quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank's emotional life — until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist — ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant — building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to 'fully occupy' his real estate career ('it's really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about') illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility — in work and in love — to breed doubt: 'Is this it?' and 'Am I good?' Frank wonders. The answers don't come easy. 150,000 announced first printing. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "When publishers, with heavy heart, stamp 'literary fiction' on books nowadays, they generally mean to brand them as serious in intent, not hitching a lift on genre or journalistic trends. The Lay of the Land is literary in that it is an entirely linguistic edifice. What happens? Frank's consciousness happens. Unlike his short stories, which found 'success' only when sold to Hollywood back in the 1960s, it is practically screenproof." (read the entire TLS review)
"Review A Day" by , "The Lay of the Land is longer and weaker than both [The Sportswriter and Independence Day]. This isn't to say that Ford is not one hell of a writer; he is. Master of a smooth and seamless American vernacular, funny as hell, he's always a good read. But sentence for sentence or pound for pound, a slugging middleweight is still a middleweight, and by the end of Lay, Ford's a buckle-kneed, arm-weary middleweight clinching and waiting for the bell." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review A Day" by , "Carver was...a mentor, friend, and admirer of Richard Ford; yet one can't help wondering whether Ford's verbally awesome but, I fear, fundamentally specious new novel would have had the maestro ducking behind a parapet....For all of its brilliance — Ford's sentence-by-sentence resourcefulness is astonishing — The Lay of the Land never pivots, as its predecessors did, on an engaging drama." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "The third and most eventful novel in the Frank Bascombe series....Though not as consistently compelling as Independence Day (too many chickens coming home to roost), this reaffirms that Frank Bascombe is for Ford what Rabbit Angstrom is for Updike."
"Review" by , "Ford manages to become his character and remove authorial boundaries, transforming his novel into a story told to us by an old friend. A fitting way to complete the Frank Bascombe legacy."
"Review" by , "[I]t's a pleasure to see what [Frank's] been up to, and fall back into his dreamy, remarkable voice....[B]ut in Lay for the first time it feels as if Ford tries to make up for the long swatches of inaction by throwing in a lot of hard-to-believe intrigue. (Grade: B-)"
"Review" by , "Lay of the Land...is distinct not only for its singular style but also for its generosity. Ford shows that life is never easy and never placid. We will fight and flail, love and lose. Yet we keep moving forward for that occasional moment of pure understanding."
"Review" by , "[O]ne of its pleasures is the reminder that Ford can do conversation — not just straightforward, revelatory dialogue, but the shorthand, crusty, idiomatic way that guys, particularly business guys, talk to one another."
"Review" by , "Where The Lay of the Land excels is when Ford draws us out of Frank's head and into the world....Yet even this is not enough to sustain the novel....The Lay of the Land hints that there must be more to the story, but it never quite connects with what that is."
"Review" by , "By turns hilarious and sad, The Lay of the Land is a fitting end piece...but for those who have been following Frank's peregrinations since 1986, it's not without regret that we watch him shuffle off....It will be a while before we see his like in fiction again."
"Review" by , "[T]here are some wonderful, deeply moving passages...buried beneath pages and pages of self-indulgent self-analysis and random ruminations...not the makings of a fitting follow-up to The Sportswriter and Independence Day, only the stale ingredients of an unnecessary and by-the-numbers sequel."
"Review" by , "[A] big, glorious, messy evocation of a life lived, if not always to its fullest, at least as best as it can be under the circumstances."
"Review" by , "Ford has crafted a near-perfect vernacular for Frank, one that manages to make him simultaneously opaque and transparent."
"Review" by , "There is plenty of comedy, of a low-key, whimsical kind, and the usual assortment of odd characters"
"Synopsis" by , With The Sportswriter, in 1986, Richard Ford commenced a cycle of novels that ten years laterafter Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Awardwas hailed by The Times of London as “an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the story of the twentieth century itself.” Now, a decade later, Frank Bascombe returns, with a new lease on life (and real estate), more acutely in thrall to lifes endless complexities than ever before.

His story resumes in the autumn of 2000, when his trade as a realtor on the Jersey Shore is thriving, permitting him to revel in the acceptance of “that long, stretching-out time when my dreams would have mystery like any ordinary persons; when whatever I do or say, who I marry, how my kids turn out, becomes what the worldif it makes note at allknows of me, how Im seen, understood, even how I think of myself before whatever there is thats wild and unassuagable rises and cheerlessly hauls me off to oblivion.” But as a Presidential election hangs in the balance, and a postnuclear-family Thanksgiving looms before him along with crises both marital and medical, Frank discovers that what he terms the Permanent Period is fraught with unforeseen perils: “All the ways that life feels like life at age fifty-five were strewn around me like poppies.”

A holiday, and a novel, no reader will ever forgetat once hilarious, harrowing, surprising, and profound. The Lay of the Land is astonishing in its own right and a magnificent expansion of one of the most celebrated chronicles of our time.

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