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The Grit And Realism Of “The Sportswriter”

The Sportswriter has that gritty, realistic feel of an Updike novel.

To this point, it’s not near as dark as Rabbit Run, but the overall “feel” is the same.

Frank Bascombe is a failed novelist-turned successful sportswriter, divorced with 3 kids, one of whom recently passed. His background is sad, but he’s by no means given up on life. More than anything, he seems to be floating through life—simply responding to what comes his way.

The novel just has such an intuitive grasp of the human condition—on the slightly cynical side of things. I love how Frank describes selflessness and friendship in this passage, which follows a meeting with an acquaintance, Walter, who awkwardly reveals he’s gay.

Once when our basset hound, Mr. Toby, was killed by a car that didn’t bother to stop—right on Hoving Road—X [his ex] , in tears, said she wished that time could be snatched back. Precious seconds and deeds retrieved for a better try at things. And I thought, while I dug the grave behind the forsythias along the cemetery fence, that it was like a woman to grieve over a simple fact in that hopeless, extravagant way. Maturity, as I conceived it, was recognizing what was bad or peculiar in life, admitting it has to stay that way, and going ahead with the best of things. Only that’s exactly what I crave now! A precious hour returned to me; a part of Walter’s sad disclosures held over till a later date—hardly the best of things.

What’s friendships realest measure?

I’ll tell you. The amount of precious time you’ll squander on someone else’s calamities and fuck-ups.

Well, that’s one way to put it. Kind of blunt, yes?

And that’s just one example of the type of reflecting that Frank, the narrator, does a lot of in The Sportswriter. 

This is a good read so far. More to come on this novel next week.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love this book. It was given to me (as a present) by a kind, thoughtful wordsmith who was going through a painful divorce. In return I gave him A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley which was as much a reflection of my (then) lifestyle as The Sportswriter was about my friend’s. We both got an awful lot out of reading each others’ book and neither of us is quite as much like the two main characters anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 14, 2014
  2. Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:
    Here’s another great review by Robert of 101 Books. He’s reading his way through Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses). It includes an excerpt and I like his idea that this book has the feel of an Updike novel. Updike has some books on my “to read” list, especially since seeing the movie Words and Pictures that had so many intriguing allusions to Updike. Hope you enjoy my Sunday reblog!


    August 17, 2014

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