Rock Springs

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Overview

In these ten exquisite stories, Richard Ford mines literary gold from the wind-scrubbed landscape of the American West - and from the guarded hopes and gnawing loneliness of the people who live there. A refugee from justice driving across Wyoming with his daughter, an unhappy girlfriend, and a stolen, cranberry-colored Mercedes; a boy watching his family dissolve in a night of tragicomic violence; two men and a woman swapping hard-luck stories in a frontier bar as they try to sweeten their luck. Rock Springs is a...
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Overview

In these ten exquisite stories, Richard Ford mines literary gold from the wind-scrubbed landscape of the American West - and from the guarded hopes and gnawing loneliness of the people who live there. A refugee from justice driving across Wyoming with his daughter, an unhappy girlfriend, and a stolen, cranberry-colored Mercedes; a boy watching his family dissolve in a night of tragicomic violence; two men and a woman swapping hard-luck stories in a frontier bar as they try to sweeten their luck. Rock Springs is a masterpiece of taut narration, cleanly chiseled prose, and empathy so generous that it feels like a kind of grace.

"Richard Ford's stories are as candid as daylight, as inevitable as noon. Experience was never more closely observed." The Washington Post Book World

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The stories in this collection read like textbook exercises in classic short story form: in each, a lifetime of sadness is suddenly crystallized around a momentan image, a discovery, a confrontationafter which a life has been irrevocably, if at first imperceptibly, changed. Ford approaches the genre with reverent precision and delivers an array of haunting, enduring images: a stalled train about to be engulfed in a brushfire; a misdirected collect phone call to a father from a son in trouble; a wounded snow goose swimming circles in a lake that moments before had been covered by the rest of its flock ``like a white bandage laid on the water.'' Together, these portraits of violence and betrayal among the unemployed and unmotivated in rural Montana present an almost relentlessly bleak picture of difficult lives, and the frequent presence of children as witnesses to their parents' disgraces further darkens the vision. It may well be too dark for many readers. The accessible appeal of Ford's most recent novel The Sportswriter is missing here, in large part because the characters lack the wit and perspective that could give voice to their endeavors at self-awareness. Comparisons to Raymond Carver are appropriate, but where Carver's depictions of the basic struggle to make sense out of things strike a universal chord that transcends the narrow focus of the part of the world he examines, Ford's stories only outline that world and remain bounded by its constraints despite their intermittent beauty. First serial to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair; paperback rights to Vintage. September 28
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394757001
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/1988
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Ford
The author of five novels and two collections of stories, Richard Ford was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Independence Day, the first book to win both prizes. In 2001 he received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in short fiction.

Biography

Richard Ford lived with his parents in Jackson, Mississippi, until he was eight years old, at which time his father suffered a near-fatal heart attack. After that, he shuttled back and forth between his parents' home in Jackson and Little Rock, Arkansas, where his maternal grandparents managed a hotel. Ford describes his childhood as happy and contented -- at least until he was 16, when his father died and the young man began to seriously think about his future.

Although he attended Michigan State University with the vague intention of going into hotel management, Ford soon switched over to literature. After graduation, he married his college sweetheart, Kristina Hensley, but was having trouble settling on a career direction. He applied for several jobs (including the police and the CIA!) and even started law school. It was only after none of these panned out that he begin to consider writing for a living. On the advice of a former teacher, he applied to graduate school and was accepted into the University of California at Irvine, where he came under the happy, unexpected tutelage of Oakley Hall and E. L. Doctorow.

He began work on his first novel, the story of two drifters whose lives intersect on a desolate island in the Mississippi River. An excerpt appeared in The Paris Review, and the book was accepted for publication. In 1976, A Piece of My Heart was released to good reviews, but Ford bristled at being pigeonholed by critics as a regional writer. "I'm a Southerner, God knows," Ford said in an interview with the literary journal Ploughshares, "but I always wanted my books to exist outside the limits of so-called Southern writing."

In the early '80s, Ford's wife (who holds a Ph.D. in urban planning) was teaching at NYU, and the couple was living in Princeton, New Jersey. Disillusioned with novel writing, Ford took a job with the glossy New York magazine Inside Sports, but in 1982 the magazine folded, leaving him unemployed again. Tentatively he returned to fiction with the glimmer of a story idea based loosely on his most recent experiences. Several years in the making, The Sportswriter introduced Frank Bascombe, a middle-aged writer from suburban New Jersey who forsakes his promising literary career to pen articles for a glossy New York magazine. Published in 1986, the novel was named one of Time magazine's five best books of the year and was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award.

Ford claims that he never intended to write a trilogy around Frank Bascombe. But, in between other literary projects (including an acclaimed 1987 short story collection, Rock Springs), he found himself inexorably drawn back into the life of his melancholic protagonist. In 1995, the superb sequel, Independence Day, won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Then, in 2006, Ford concluded the saga with The Lay of the Land, a bittersweet set piece nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Although Ford modestly maintained that the only reason he won the Pulitzer Prize was that Philip Roth had not written a novel that year, in fact his angst-ridden suburban Everyman Frank Bascombe ranks alongside Roth's Nathan Zuckerman (or, for that matter, John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom) as one of American literature's most unforgettable, richly drawn characters. For a man who stumbled into writing with very little forethought or design, Richard Ford has indeed come far.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      February 16, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jackson, Mississippi
    1. Education:
      B.A., Michigan State University, 1966; M.F.A., University of California, Irvine, 1970

Table of Contents

Rock Springs 1
Great Falls 29
Sweethearts 51
Children 69
Going to the Dogs 99
Empire 109
Winterkill 149
Optimists 171
Fireworks 193
Communist 215
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 17, 2010

    not one to write reviews, but...

    i was enjoying rock springs so much, i started looking for a new book by richard ford and saw the dismal review by connie-j and had to put in my own two sense to counterbalance: this is a wonderful book. if you like raymond carver, tobias wolf, andre dubus, etc you won't be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2009

    Dull and boring.

    I hate to give up on a book, but couldn't force myself to finish this one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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