Richard Ford’s taut, brilliant anti-mystery

Normally I don’t get much of a chance to read fiction. Even a book that’s not about the media is a luxury.

Earlier this summer, though, I read Richard Ford’s latest novel, “Canada,” and recommend it highly. I had read and admired two of his earlier works — “The Sportswriter” and “Independence Day,” the latter of which won a Pulitzer Prize. So when the New York Times Book Review gave “Canada” a rave (by Andre Dubus III, no less), I decided to dive in.

“Canada” is divided into two parts — before and after, if you will. The first part is as brilliant and perfect a piece of writing as I’ve read in a long time. Ford plays with and blows apart the notion of suspense with his first two sentences:

First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.

All of part one is given over to Ford’s telling us a little bit more, then a little more, then a little more. Everything is foreshadowed. There are no surprises. And it is brilliant.

Part two, in which the murders take place, is just slightly uneven, at least in comparison to the taut, seamless quality of part one. But without part two, Ford wouldn’t have had a story. And at its best, it is very good indeed.

2 thoughts on “Richard Ford’s taut, brilliant anti-mystery

  1. Jeff Schiffman

    Yes, truly a wonderful book. And Ford, whom I saw read from it in Brookline a few months ago, is a charming and self-effacing man. One of the things he told us is that he often writes down a sentence, looks at it for a long time pondering which better words can replace the ones he has already chosen before moving on. So, he is slow, but boy is it worth it.

  2. Jerry Ackerman

    I just finished it. Ford’s mastery of both language and narrative are extraordinary and wonderful.

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