‘Nothing to Declare’ by Richard Ford

There was a period (for ‘period’, read: a couple of decades) in my life when I read quite narrowly. American authors. Big American Authors writing Big Books. John Irving. William Styron. Margaret Atwood. Donna Tartt. Brett Easton Ellis. Stephen Amidon. Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe books: a trilogy (ish) that began with The Sportswriter in 1986. And, of course, his short stories, which form the foundation of the later long-form work. I didn’t expect a great deal from his 2020 collection Sorry for Your Trouble. My tastes had broadened considerably by now and I had no real enthusiasm, going in. So, what a surprise to find late Ford so beguiling. The opening story, ‘Nothing to Declare’, rehashes standard Ford setting (old lovers chance upon each other, reminisce, pull at the gauze of memory) but the execution dazzles. I’d forgotten what a sentence-level delight he could be, how pleasing the athleticism of his prose. This from one page in, as MacGuinness, at a bar with friends, chewing over who he might have spotted:

They were at the Monteleone, the shadowed old redoubt with a bar that was a carousel. It wasn’t crowded. Outside the tall windows on Royal a pride was shoving past. Boom-pa-pa. Boom pa-pa. Then the trumpets not altogether on key. St. Paddy’s was Tuesday. Now was only Friday.’ Bravo. (GK)

Published in Sorry for Your Trouble, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020

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