Born in 1944 in Jackson, Mississippi, Richard Ford writes realist novels focused on the inner landscapes of introspective, often lonely characters, whose lives are suddenly turned upside-down. The Sportswriter, his third novel, is the first of four books to feature genial anti-hero Frank Bascombe. Ford was inspired by his time working as a writer for a sports magazine in the early 1980s. He’d returned to writing fiction after the magazine folded


Set over an Easter weekend, The Sportswriter follows the fortunes of thirty-eight-year-old Bascombe as he approaches a crossroads in his unspectacular life. He has lost his way as a sports journalist and while he tries to be a good person, he repeats old mistakes. Beneath his cheerful demeanour and optimistic outlook, he hides feelings of sadness and loss.

“If sportswriting teaches you anything, and there is much truth to it as well as plenty of lies, it is that for your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or your life will be ruined.”

“Se scrivere di sport può insegnare qual- cosa – e scrivendo di sport si ha a che fare con molte verità, oltre che con parecchie menzogne – è che se si vuole che la vi- ta abbia qualche valore, bisogna essere preparati ad affrontare, presto o tardi, l’evenienza del rimpianto più terribile e amaro. E bisogna essere capaci di sfuggirvi, perché se no si corre il rischio di rovinare la propria esistenza.”


Bascombe is now divorced, but at one time he and his wife (who he refers to throughout the novel as X) were looking to buy a home together. The couple eventually settled in the (fictional) town of Haddam in New Jersey. This is the home where Bascombe now lives alone.

“For lack of a better idea I cast my vote for New Jersey: a plain, unprepossessing and unexpectant landscape [...] And for Haddam with its hilly and seminary niceness [...] where a fellow might sit down with good hope and do a serious piece of work.”

“In mancanza di un’idea migliore, votai per il New Jersey: un paesaggio piatto, che in nulla allettava e nulla esigeva. E per Haddam, con la sua grazia collinare ed ombrosa di città seminariale [...] e uno si sarebbe potuto mettere tranquillo a lavorare sul serio”.

the wrong life

The death of his young son leads to a period of dreaminess in Bascombe’s life, which precipitates his divorce. Even as he starts a new relationship with a young nurse called Vicki, the feeling of detachment remains. A trip to Detroit seems full of promise, until late one night in their hotel room, Vicky discovers Bascombe searching through her handbag.

‘“So what is it you were lookin’ for in my bag?’ she says [...]
‘I wasn’t looking for anything, really. I wasn’t looking.’ I was looking, of course. And this is the wrong lie, though a lie is absolutely what’s needed [...]
‘I don’t keep secrets,’ she says now in a flat voice. ‘I suppose you do though?’
Sometimes I do.’ I lose nothing admitting that.
‘And you lie about things, too.’”

“Allora, cosa stavi cercando nella mia borsa?” dice lei. [...]
“Non cercavo niente. Davvero.” In realtà stavo cercando qualcosa. E questa è la bugia sbagliata, anche se una bugia era assolutamente indispensabile [...] “Io non ho segreti,” dice lei con voce piatta. “Ma suppongo che tu sì.”
“Ogni tanto.” Non ho niente da perdere, facendo questa ammissione. “E dici anche delle bugie.”


Home from his trip to Detroit and after an unsuccessful interview with a wheelchair-bound American football star, Bascombe should be enjoying Easter dinner with Vicki and her family. Instead, he receives a phone call from the police. A tragedy has occurred. That same evening, as darkness falls, Bascombe finds himself outside an empty house on the outskirts of Haddam with X. 

“‘You’re not a real bad man. I’m sorry. I don’t think divorce has worked wonders for you.’ She puts the car into gear so that it lurches, yet doesn’t quite leave. ‘It was a bad idea I had.’
‘Your loved ones are the ones you’re supposed to trust,’ I say. ‘Who’s after that?’
She smiles at me a sad, lonely smile out of the instrument panel twilight.
‘I don’t know.’ I can see her eyes dancing with tears.
‘I don’t know either. It’s getting to be a problem.’”

“Mi spiace. Non sei veramente cattivo. Non credo che il divorzio ti sia servito a molto.” Innesta la marcia: l’auto ha come una scossa, ma non parte ancora. “Era solo un’idea sbagliata.”

“In teoria, quelli che ami sono quelli di cui ti devi fidare. Di chi, se no?”
Mi rivolge un sorriso triste e solitario, alla luce crepuscolare del pannello dei comandi. “Non lo so.” Vedo delle lacrime danzare nei suoi occhi. “Non lo so neanch’io. Comincia a essere un problema.”

real estate

The Sportswriter brought Ford acclaim as a writer; its sequel, Independence Day, written almost a decade later, won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize. In subsequent novels Lay of the Land (2006) and Let Me Be Frank With You (2014), Ford’s protagonist Frank Bascombe ages gracefully, moving from a writing career to real estate