WOMEN WITH MEN by Richard Ford

WOMEN WITH MEN

Three Stories

KIRKUS REVIEW

A reader meeting Ford via these three pieces might wonder why laurels of the Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner kind have befallen this (The Sportswriter, 1986; Independence Day, 1995) particular writer. He here offers two grinding tales of distasteful Americans in Paris and one clone-of-Hemingway story about a boyhood in Montana. In "The Womanizer," Martin Austin, married but childless, becomes interested in a Frenchwoman named Josephine when he's in Paris on business. The difficulty is--for Austin and for the reader--that he seems not to know what he wants either with her or from her, with the result that Ford offers page after page of clunky vacuity as if simply to put something between start and the end of the story ("He wasn't looking for a better life. He wasn't looking for anything. He loved his wife, and he hoped to present to Josephine Belliard a different human perspective from the ones she might be used to"). More revelatory in this unrelenting non-tale is what Ford says of Austin later--that "very little pleased him much at all." The main character in "Occidentals" is, if anything, even more dreary than Austin. Ex-academic Charley Matthews has written a novel about his divorce and is now quite joylessly in Paris--with mistress Helen--to meet his French publisher and translator. Trouble is, as he quickly discovers, both are out of town for a few days, so he'll have to wait. Helen--a lively ex-dancer who's suffering from cancer--tries to cheer him up; he grows only more hatefully dour, though, until she takes things--perhaps believably to some--into her own hands. "Jealousy" makes for a breath of fresh air with its Montana landscape and Hemingway-esque economies--as a boy, accompanied by his attractive young aunt, witnesses a saloon killing on a snowy night before catching a train to Seattle. Scraps and leavings, seemingly, caught between the labored and the imitated.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45469-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997




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