Planet Princeton

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford to speak at People & Stories benefit

Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of “Independence Day”, “Rock Springs”, “The Sportswriter” and “Canada”, will read from his work at the People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos annual spring benefit at 7:30 p.m. on March 24 at the Princeton Nassau Club. Proceeds will support People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos, a reading and discussion program offered in English or Spanish for adults and young adults who have had limited opportunities to experience the power of great and enduring literature.

Ford has been called “a born storyteller with an inimitable lyric voice” by Joyce Carol Oates, “one of our finest writers” by Andre Dubus III, and “one of his generation’s most eloquent voices” by Michiko Kakutani of the the New York Times.  He was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1944, but it was New Jersey that inspired his acclaimed narrator, Frank Bascombe. Ford, who was teaching at Princeton University, was prompted by his wife to imagine a happy protagonist. It was this project, and the Princeton setting, that gave rise to “The Sportswriter”, the first of four Frank Bascombe books. “Independence Day” followed and cemented Ford’s position in American literature. Bonnie Lyons wrote in The Paris Review: “In Frank Bascombe, Ford has created one of the most complex and memorable characters of our time.”

Ford once said “The Sportswriter” is “a paean to New Jersey.” His affection for the state has endured. Visiting the Jersey Shore towns in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he was determined to write something to communicate the pain he witnessed, resurrecting Frank Bascombe to tell the story. The result was “Let Me Be Frank with You”, published in 2014. “The event has consequence which hasn’t yet been expressed or imagined,” he said, “and I can write that consequence and make it clear and important to a reader.” In Bruce Springsteen’s estimation, Ford, “besides being poignant and hilarious, nails the Jersey Shore perfectly.” The passage of almost thirty years between the first and latest Bascombe books is reflected in changes to Frank’s voice and character, which register change in New Jersey as well as America broadly. The narrator was called a “cultural barometer” by Steven Kellman in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ford returns this March to Princeton, the place that inspired the Frank Bascombe book series and the model for the fictional town of Haddam, to raise money for the non-profit dedicated to exposing people to great literature.

For reservations, call Pat Andres at (609) 882-4864 or email patandres@peopleandstories.org. Ticket prices start at $100, with a dessert reception included. Sponsors can join the author for dinner before the reading for $250. Additional sponsorship opportunities and benefits are also available. For more information visit peopleandstories.org.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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