Sunday, September 04, 2005

A lexicon of grief ... Five years ago, in the basement of the Harvard Book Store, I stumbled across The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. It's not often that a Pulitzer Prize winner will take on a subject better suited for Sports Illustrated, so I figured I'd give it a go.

It didn't disappoint: the listless sportswriting of the protagonist, Frank Bascombe, gradually reveals just how ill-equipped he is to mourn the loss of his child. Only when Ford begins to suffuse the book with his own vocabulary of grief is Bascombe able to approach any kind of resolution. To the end the extraordinary beauty of that vocabulary remains as reserved as it is effectual, and as such calls to mind many another southern writer, particularly Walker Percy.

I bring up The Sportswriter because in today's Times Richard Ford has created an even more resonant language of grief.

Technically it's an op-ed column, but in truth the essay is an elegant meditation on what it means to lose a city, a place, a past. Read it.


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