As I am writing this, I am trying to decide whether I want to finish this book or not…
This was a book club pick, probably based on the fact that Richard Ford was the Princess of Asturias (Spain) award-winning for literature in 2016, but this particular book is a collection of short stories in which the main character, Frank Bascombe, is the character of three previous novels that, needless to say, I haven’t read. So I think this is not the most appropriate choice to start reading Ford.
Now regarding the stories (the book contains four short stories), Ford uses Frank Bascombe as an instrument to explain how it is to be American; and this has a good side and a bad side for a foreign reader. First the bad, which is basically the amount of references to situations or places that I can’t understand because I don’t share the author’s culture on this regard: I don’t know if he is being critic, sarcastic or funny when he addresses a certain neighborhood or town because it is assumed that the reader knows what he is talking about. And I have no idea; I didn’t get many of the points he tried to make. I don’t want to blame Ford entirely, for I am sure that some of the unseen references are plain ignorance of my part, but the cultural gap is there too.
However, what I did understand made me think I was reading a great book on American life. The two stories I read were basically an internal monologue of Bascombe, with no action, and through this character he addresses interesting issues like being black in a white neighborhood, how to be politically correct without being overwhelmed about being politically correct, or the problem with the American soldiers returning from Iraq to find that the idea of themselves and the country they were fighting for was just wrong. Bascombe is amusing because he is unable to act as a normal person, but I got to like the man – I agreed with him most of the time.
Well, maybe I have convinced myself a little towards finishing Let me be Frank with you, but what I am sure of is that I want to try another novel of Richard Ford. Perhaps Canada…
Have you ever experienced this cultural gap with a book? I think it could be solved with a proper work of the translator explaining the things the reader has not knowledge of. It might be tricky because, as I said, I assume the reader’s ignorance plays its part, but not entirely impossible.
Let me be Frank with you