Richard Ford’s enduring voice

Richard Ford has been well covered in the blogosphere recently, with the third installment of Frank Bascombe in The Lay of the Land, and that’s not territory I can one-up, so I’ll cover slightly different ground.

Reading Ford alongside Raymond Carver, as I’ve been doing the last few months, has been a lesson in the power of minimalism. How the sparse word is potent. But what has stuck in my head from Ford (among many things of course, but some things really stick, you know what I mean), has been the pronouncement he made when announcing the winner of the Story Quarterly contest (I know, rather odd). This was back in 2003, issue 39, and the contest was the Robie Macauley award for fiction. Sylvia Sellers-Garcia won for A Correspondence. This was what he wrote:

A Correspondence’ is excellent and is my selection. This story is sustained and serious, and the complex fictive world it reveals is entirely persuasive and pleasingly under the writer’s authority. Importantly too, it is a very interesting story to read.

I must have read it twice, perhaps by accident, and it kept with me through the next few days. Those passive verbs! Five in three sentences. By using so many he inverted their usual weakness into a strength. And the trio of adverbs – what a mistake . . . that works.

It has to be a testament to the power of his voice that even a paragraph announcing a contest winner remained with me, haunted me, and echoed about in my head until I gave in to its cadences.

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