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Independence Day – Richard Ford

Independence Day by Richard Ford


Back in my college freshman years, I brought my copy of this book to one of my classes. Our instructor arrived earlier than usual. We had a little chitchat, and he made a little comment on the book that was on my armchair. He said that the movie was great. I looked at him with utter confusion. Then he mentioned Will Smith.

So he was talking about a different movie. I explained that they were different. The animation in his face flushed out. And my seatmate at that class, who became one of closest friends as far as books are concerned, turned out in the future, which is now, to have poignant feelings for this book. And why is that?

The Rhapsody

This novel is part of a series. I think it’s the second of the Bascombe Trilogy. I haven’t read the first installment because I had no idea of this series when I bought it.

Frank Bascombe may be one of the most popular figures in contemporary literature, but I only have vague images of him. I imagine that he is, or used to be, a writer. And I am only drawing that conclusion because of the title of one of his books, The Sportswriter, which is the first installment of the trilogy.

But I am sure that he has a son. His relationship with his son was detailed in Independence Day, where Bascombe was trying to make some time with him at the height of his divorce with his son’s mom. That sounded a little complicated, but you know how relationships can get muddled once divorce sets in.

And the day out with his son. That’s what I mostly remember. Going to museums, to baseball games, to whatever place that Bascombe thought his son would like. And during these travels, he realized how far his assumptions were from his real, in-the-flesh son. He was, after all, trying to patch the distance that he has with his son, and along that process, Bascombe realized that the rift between them was bigger than he expected.

And there’s the ending, which is memorable because I share this memory with that friend whom I was seatmates with back in college. I sometimes wonder whether we really share the same feelings about the ending or I am just borrowing his memory. Memories are indeed mysterious. You can never say that you have your memories, that you own them alone, just like this memory I have with the book.

Anyway, so there was this celebration. And ta-da! It’s the Fourth of July, Independence Day. Everyone was out on the streets, waiting for the fireworks or just plain kibitzing and joining in the general gaiety of the day. It was crowded, a little too crowded for everyone placed at the risk of bludgeoning each other with your limbs. Frank Bascombe was smacked at the middle of this crowd, just drifting to where the movement of the crowd would take him. He was literally and figuratively lost.

Then his mobile phone rang. He answered it. Hello? Hello? No answer. But someone was there. He could faintly hear the breathing. He could feel the force restrained at the other end of the line. He listened on. Then he said he’s alright. He hanged up. The fireworks began. The crowd went wild. It’s Independence Day.

And this is my friend’s recollection. Deep inside, I know I have the memory of having read through this, but I just can’t shake off the feeling that it’s not really my own. It’s like a dream that is slowly slipping away upon waking up and being engulfed with conscious thoughts regarding the day’s activities.

2 star - it was okFinal Notes

So yes, my friend found the ending utterly beautiful despite the impending solitude and loneliness that it presented for Frank Bascombe. My friend would say that he was left hanging, that he was slapped from cheek to other cheek with the beauty of Ford’s prose. He even argued that the person who called was his ex-wife. There was no reference to it, so it was more of a wishful thinking on my friend’s part.

My cynical side would tell him that it was just a prank caller or a collections agent. It could be anyone, really, given that Bascombe was in a crowded area during the time of that call. Bad reception is possible even if you are in the US. I know that for certain because I used to work for the largest telecommunications company in that part of the world.

But yes, it would be nice and romantic to think that it was his ex-wife. It’s his Independence Day; she might be trying to reach out to him and know how things were going on in the new chapter of his life without her.

But would she really be out of his life? Why divorce your husband when you cannot get him out of your mind? Does divorce end everything in a relationship? Do all the tender feelings that a husband and wife have for each other fade as soon as they sign various papers and the court approves of their wish to part ways, to break their vows, to put each other behind?

Is Independence, with that capital letter, supposed to be a cause for merry-making?


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