‘My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter.’ With those opening words in The Sportswriter (1986), Richard Ford introduced one of American literature’s more unlikely protagonists. In his fictional début, Bascombe is a former short story writer-turned-journalist, aged in his thirties, navigating suburban life in Haddam, New Jersey, after the death of a son and the breakdown of a marriage.
‘Why did I quit writing?’ Bascombe asks in The Sportswriter.
Was it just that things did not come easily enough? Or that I couldn’t translate my personal recognitions into the ambiguous stuff of complex literature? Or that I had nothing to write about, no more discoveries up my sleeve or the pizazz to write the more extensive work? And my answer is: there are those reasons and at least twenty better ones … One thing certain is that I had somehow lost my sense of anticipation at age twenty-five. Anticipation is the sweet pain to know whatever’s next – a must for any real writer.