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Richard Ford: Why writing is an act of optimism

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The challenging part for me was to find a diction that wasn’t just a replication of those other books. As far as getting away from Frank, and the kind of extravagances that Frank’s vocabulary imposes, that wasn’t hard at all. I still love to write notes in Frank’s voice. I thought “The Lay of the Land” was the right point to separate myself from Frank Bascombe.

Q. What’s the significance of the title of this book, “Canada”?

I always found as an American, that Canada was a place that attracted me. I felt I could accommodate to Canada extremely well if I had to. I think of Canada as a kind of psychic-moral-spatial refuge, whereas I think America – even though it’s my home – is challenging all the time. I experience America in many ways. It doesn’t make me want to abandon it, but it certainly does make it a very strange place to live sometimes.      

Q. Would you say you are a positive writer who explores existential failures in your books?

I feel that’s exactly what I am – an optimist, who believes with Sartre, that to write about the darker possible things is an act of optimism. But what I’m looking for is drama, which occurs when people are at a loss, and not succeeding. I try to find a vocabulary which makes those things expressible. In the process of making those expressible to a readership, it becomes an act of optimism, because it imagines a future in which these things will be understood, and be mediated in some way. Writing for me is always an act of optimism. I probably wouldn’t do it otherwise, no matter how dark things are.

Q. Do you believe art is an escape from the boredom of life?

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