Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bookish Thursday: The Lay of the Land

I used to call these Bookish Thursdays, so here it goes again. It helps that I finished a book this morning before work.

As I've mentioned previously, I'd been reading Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land. It's on my list of about twenty books that are out of my comfort range, are about topics that I'm not familiar with, and have won some sort of award.

Anyway. I really enjoyed this book. It's the kind of book that has paragraphs and sentences that fly out at you and smash your face in with brilliance. Stuff I had to read out loud to my husband and bring into work to show my boss the next day.

Like other reviewers, I was driven through the book not because of the plot, but because it's a gigantic practice in self-help and self-actualization. It's very difficult to read the book without contemplating the state of your own internal affairs, where your life is right now or what you really want out of life. Sure, you get to know the texture and scope of the main character's soul, but surprisingly, you learn a lot about yourself as well.

Frank Bascombe is called an "everyman." And he is. Although I've never known someone just like him, he reminds me a lot of many different older men I've known throughout my life. His experience with cancer makes me wonder how my dad dealt with his. His realty business and ambition reminds me of the smooth-talking guy who sold us our house. Little bits of his humor remind me of an old boss. But mostly, he's like none other I've ever known. And I'm glad to have met him. Being a young lady in my twenties who has ensconced herself in rural America, I'm not likely to venture out and meet people like him. Older gents don't usually take the time to sit down and divulge their life stories to someone like me, though now I wish I'd open myself up more to people and make myself available for experiences like that.

I'm not going to do a thorough review of the book. I don't have the patience because I'm cranky and have been having a bad morning. But I would recommend this book to anybody. It's dense and slow-moving, but incredibly satisfying. None of the characters are really cookie cutter. It's like Ford made a point to make each one more unusual than the last. And while the book is slow moving, the plot itself is a crazy ride that only takes place over a couple of days. I wasn't ever really bored, because I found Frank's introspections and explanations to be fascinating. It's not often you get to see so clearly inside someone else's messed-up head.

I identified a lot with Frank as he explained why he made bad decisions throughout the years. Like me, his decisions were not reflections of his permanent, developing morality, but rash, not-thinking-clearly, just-going-with-the-moment choices that you have to regret later, in my case, when I was sober. I think growing up and maturing involves not making so many bad decisions like that... and letting your permanent morality and ethics guide your way more and more.