Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 2, 1996 Form

On Campus:
Pulitzer Prize
Winner Ford
To Speak

Leslie Rice
News and Information
Possibly a perfect antidote for a wintry Friday night: put away the movie list in the paper and instead come listen to one of the country's most celebrated writers read aloud from his wonderfully funny and moving stories.

Richard Ford, winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for his novel Independence Day, will deliver the G. Harry Pouder Lecture Friday, Dec. 6, at 8 p.m. in Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus. The talk is sponsored by the Office of Special Events and the Writing Seminars. It is free and open to the public.

Ford's 1995 witty and powerful novel, Independence Day, won not only this year's Pulitzer Prize but also the prestigious PEN-Faulkner Award for Fiction. He is author of several other critically acclaimed novels, including The Sportswriter, Wildlife, Rock Springs and The Ultimate Good Luck.

"Richard Ford is certainly one of the most important fiction writers in the United States today," said Tristan Davies, a lecturer in the Writing Seminars who helped organize Ford's talk. "I wouldn't necessarily call him a chronicler of his generation per se, because many of his characters are, I suppose, damaged goods. But probably more than any other writer out there, Ford has definitely captured the feelings and psychic concerns of his generation, that is, men in or approaching middle age."

Independence Day is set during Fourth of July weekend in Haddam, N.J., a town Ford modeled after Princeton, N.J. Frank Bascombe, the main character of Ford's earlier work The Sportswriter, is back, this time no longer a sportswriter, but a successful real estate agent struggling to deal with his divorce and a son beginning to get into trouble with the law. In the novel, father and son take a trip where they visit all the major sports museums they can drive to in two days. Bascombe tries to teach his son the essence of independence and to find the vocabulary to tell his son he loves him. The book combines humor with sadness and is made powerful through the voice of Frank Bascombe, a character readers will find easy to relate to as he attempts to cope with his regrets of the past and his reluctance to meet problems head-on.

In an interview with Online NewsHour after he won the Pulitzer last spring, Ford talked about why he chose to revisit the character of Frank Bascombe.

"I never intended to write a sequel, that's for sure," he said. "It seemed to me to be a hazardous thing to do. You fool yourself into remembering how easy that first book was to write, or maybe you just have one book to write and you're going to try to write it over again better. But I spent a year, in essence, thinking about the things that would go into this book and finally at the end, I kept finding that all my notes and all the things I was thinking about were in Frank's voice. And I liked that voice because he was a good negotiator of ethical issues, and I thought he was humorous. I guess I thought he was a good man. I wouldn't want to write about a guy I didn't have some admiration for. And I thought he was funny. I wouldn't want to write a book that didn't have some basis in mirth, as this book does."

The Pouder Lectureship honors the late G. Harry Pouder, executive vice president of the Baltimore Association, who died in 1971. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins Evening College (now the School of Continuing Studies), Pouder wrote several plays and was active in the Homewood Playshop, now Theatre Hopkins. Previous Pouder lecturers have included Tom Stoppard, William Styron, John le Carre, Larry McMurtry and Ray Bradbury.

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