Independence Day

I was given the book Independence Day by Richard Ford to read by a friend of mine. It’s a great read and very well written and i liked it a lot. I do feel some odd similarities to the main character, Frank Branscombe. He has a pragmatism towards life and love that i can relate to. While of course we differ in a lot of ways – he being 45 and divorced with 2 children vs. me 30 and not ever been married – i was curious to see what he would do on every page to see if i would react in the same way. In some ways it reads like a guidebook about how to survive as a middle-aged man. On others it’s about the quest to achieve continuity and self-actualization in everyday life. Frank’s life has had its ups and downs but he’s non-apologetic and pretty agreeable as a character.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Sally (FB’s quasi-girlfriend): you just want everything to seem perfect and everybody to seem pleased. And you’re willing to let seem equal be. It makes pleasing anybody be an act of cowardice

This is a huge trait of FB in the book and is definitely MPL material. This is what i do. Interesting….

Sally: You’re too smooth from one thing to the next. I can’t keep up with you very well.FB: I think i’m just more at ease in the mainstream. It’s my version of the sublime.

Sally: And you’re also very cautious, you know. And you’re non-committal. You know that, don’t you? I’m sure that’s what you meant last night by being beyond affection. You’re smooth and you’re cautious and you’re noncommittal.

FB: My judgments aren’t very sound, so i just try not to cause too much trouble. But when i feel something strong, i guess i jump in.

Sally: Or you seem to anyway

The book is also just about FB and his thoughts about life. Some random passages:

  • About renting vs. owning: I felt owning was enough different from renting (except that you couldn’t leave). In my mind a sense of contingency and the possibility of imminent change in status underlay everything, though we stayed for more than a decade, and i stayed longer. It always seemed to me enough just to know what someone loved you and would go on loving you forever and that the mise-en-scene for love only that and not a character in the play itself
  • About the 4th of July: It is an odd holiday, to be sure – one a man or woman could easily grow abstracted about, its practical importance to the task of holding back wild and dark misrule never altogether clear or provable; as though independence were only private and too crucial to celebrate with others; as though we should all just get on with being independent, given that it is after all the normal, commonsensical human condition, to be taken for granted unless opposed or thwarted , in which case unreserved, even absurd measures should be taken to restore or reimagine it. Best maybe just to pass the day as the original signers did and as i prefer to do, in a country-like setting near to home, alone with your thoughts, your fears, your hopes, your “moments of reason” for what new world lies fearsomely ahead.
  • Better to follow old Davy Crockett’s motto (amended for use by adults): Be sure you’re not completely wrong, then go ahead.
  • From RB as he’s falling asleep: Suddenly my heart again goes bangety-bang, bangety-bangety-bang, as if i myself were about to exit life in a hurry. And if i could, i would spring up, switch on the light, dial someone and shout right down into the hard little receiver, “It’s okay. I got away. It was goddamned close, I’ll tell ya. It didn’t get me, though. I smelled its breath, saw its red eyes in the dark, shining. A clammy hand touched mine. But i made it. I survived. Wait for me. Wait for me. Not that much is left to do” Only there’s no one. No one here or anywhere near to say any of this to. And i’m sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

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