Let Me Be Frank With You

by Richard Ford

Hardcover, 2014

Call number





Ecco (2014), Edition: First Edition, 256 pages


Ford reinvents Bascombe in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In four richly luminous narratives, Bascombe attempts to reconcile, interpret and console a world undone by calamity. It is a moving and wondrous and extremely funny odyssey through the America people live in at this moment.

User reviews

LibraryThing member missizicks
I like Richard Ford's writing. I like the way he reminds me that the world is just people trying to muddle through, doing their best and occasionally getting it wrong. I like that I recognise myself in the women in his books. I like his character Frank Bascombe. I like the way Ford writes him, and the way I get an insight into how the male mind works, and how men see women. Men like Frank, anyway, who is a man like my father, my brother, a little bit my husband. This time around, though, Frank makes me uncomfortable. I don't remember him being so plainly racist in the other books. The way he describes Charlotte Pines, his attitude to the Mexican and Chinese people who live in his town, dressed up in the bluff of telling it how it is that seems a universal characteristic of people over a certain age, makes me want to look away. He is, or Ford is, acknowledging the conflict he feels as a white man speaking to a person who doesn't share his ethnic background, who isn't racist but is keen to prove himself not racist and so ends up being racist. Unlike Fawlty Towers' 'Don't mention the war', this doesn't make me laugh. It makes me cringe.

There's also the habit Ford has of making Frank tell us things more than once. It doesn't always come off as a trope, as a nod to people getting older and forgetting what they've said and to whom. At times it seems as though Ford has forgotten what he'd written already just a few pages before, or as though a bad editing job has been done on the book. Some passages read like plot development notes that Ford forgot to delete.

But still, I like Frank and, despite its minor faults and awkwardnesses, the slight feeling of disappointment it gave me for not living up to my expectation, the book is still an engaging read.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
“A few good words,” observes Frank Bascombe at the end of the final novella of Richard Ford’s, Let Me Be Frank With You, and “the day we have briefly shared is saved.” It summarizes Frank Bascombe’s near elegiac take on grief, death and the fear of death, and what makes life worth living. And it perfectly captures my take on Richard Ford’s latest.

For those who have followed Frank Bascombe from The Sportswriter, through Independence Day and on to The Lay of the Land, there was always one more holiday looming. The earlier novels took place, over the course of Frank’s life, at Easter, July 4th, and Thanksgiving. So it will come as no surprise that the four linked novellas, or long short stories, here mark the the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. Frank is now 68, retired, living once again in Haddam with his second wife, Sally. It is the aftermath of hurricane Sandy and the destruction that followed in its wake has peeled back the skin of The Shore. Vast amounts of real estate are destroyed, including Frank and Sally’s old house (they sold up and moved inland 8 years previous). The survivors, one way or another, are receiving grief counselling. And maybe all of us, including Frank though he denies it, are in such need. Endings are in evidence. Indeed, as Frank notes, “that things end is often the most interesting thing about them.” Frank’s end is still being postponed, though death surrounds him, suffusing even the house in which he and Sally live (due to a horrific scene that occurred there 30 years earlier), placing its determinate finger on Frank’s first wife, Ann, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and rattling its last rasp in the form of Eddie “Ole Olive” Medley, a former friend of Frank’s from the years shortly after his divorce. Only the reassuring presence of Ezekiel Lewis and those few good words of Christmas cheer and fellowship can stem the tide. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is enough.

Ford’s Bascombe has moved on from his Permanent Period to the Next Level, which is characterized as much by letting go (of friends, real estate, cares and concerns) as by Frank’s identification with his Default Self. But of course Frank can never really hold to his stated intentions. Perhaps his true essence just keeps seeping through, as Ann might say, or maybe it is just hard for someone without an essence, as Frank would claim, to hold on to things, especially things as insubstantial themselves as intentions.

It might sound odd to describe Ford’s return to Frank Bascombe as a breath of fresh air. But fresh is exactly how this feels. A few good words, indeed. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
3.5 Frank now retired and no longer living on the coast, is quite happy not having anything to do, and looks forward to his own quiet, introspective life. As we know though, life very seldom let's us alone and so in these five vignettes Frank is approached by five people from his past, people he finds himself unable to say no to, one being his ex-wife.

As minds tend to do, his mind constantly wanders and so, even if involved in one thing, off we go with his wandering mind to another. He has so shortage of opinions, memories and pontifications. Though since these were after hurricane Sandy, it was heartbreaking reading about all the destruction to property and coast.

So many of these lines were humorous, this man is funny and so are his thoughts. But, at times it got tiresome, seriously I don't even find my mind wanderings all that interesting. Well interesting to me maybe, but not to others who have not been there or done or saw that. So that became my problem, loving many of his comments, as I posted them, but getting overloaded with anothers thoughts. Still well worth the read for all the amusing bits, just don't expect a straightforward or on task story.

ARC from publisher.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Richard Ford is simply a great writer. This book is the 4th Frank Bascombe book. For those of you familiar with New Jersey and the Jersey Shore, you will find this a good story. It would probably help to have read the previous 3 Bascombe books but this one can stand on it own. It is really 4 stories that link together. They take place in December following Hurricane Sandy. It is told in the first person and it is a joy to get into the head of Frank Bascombe. His life philosophy told from his 68 year old retiree perspective struck a chord with me. He is funny and cynical in his head but his actions turn out be more generous than what goes on inside his head. This is a short book and a great introduction into one of our best writers. If you like this, then go out and read the other 3 Frank Bascombe novels that Richard Ford has written.… (more)
LibraryThing member froxgirl
If Frank Bascombe, Richard Ford's Everyman, showed up to read the Facebook Privacy Rules, I'd pull up a front row chair and listen. Although you'd be a better person for having read the 3 prior Bascombe novels, you can jump right into this group of 4 connected stories. Richard Ford's genius is in recreating what Frank is thinking (most of which is the same as you would think in his situations) and WHAT THE HELL WAS FRANK THINKING? Frank is a man's man, and as a woman I treasure the reveal of his thoughts.

In the first story, he meets up with a former real estate client as they ponder the destruction of Hurricane Sandy and Frank's old house, which he sold to Arnie and which is now gone, baby, gone. In the second, Frank shows his own home to a former resident who has the most horrific of reasons to want to see those rooms again. The third finds Frank delivering a special orthopedic pillow to his ex-wife Ann at her "Carnage Hill" senior living apartment, and the final story has Frank paying a final deathbed visit to his old friend Eddie, who needs to unload one last secret onto his acquaintance.

Each of these stories is chock full of what we enjoy most about Richard Ford and his (maybe) doppelganger: the strongest honesty and wisdom about suburban life, with small doses of fear and self pity serving as the spice.

Live on, Richard Ford, live on.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
I found the book depressing and deceptive. I felt physically accosted by the author’s political views and personally insulted by them. If he wants to impugn the reputation of a former President or former presidential candidates, let him do it in a forum other than a novel meant to entertain. I found the book insulting to my intelligence and the intelligence of his readers. An author may write a novel about anything, but to insult the reader for having different views using verbal abuse and vile language is not worthy of any reader’s time or energy.
I finished the book simply to give the author more respect than he gave to me in the hope that at some point the story would legitimately prove me wrong and illustrate a good reason for the invective, illustrate the point that he was trying to prove, but instead it turned into a gratuitous political attack in the guise of a story about an angry, unpleasant, unfulfilled, 68 year old retired realtor. If he is an example of a liberal Democrat, it is not an attractive picture. He is selfish and self-centered. Under the guise of a book that seeks to address the unfairness of life and death, the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, failed marriages, the loss of a child, illness at the end of life, among other things, we have a diatribe condemning the Republican with such blatant insults and filthy language, that the book is definitely not worth reading, unless of course, you are a bleeding heart Liberal! Then by all means, read it and enjoy the trashing of those who don’t agree with you. While it is an immature way to deal with disagreements, it seems to be the common approach of many liberal authors. I didn’t ever think I would have to give a litmus test to the authors of prospective books, but now I may have to research their politics before I choose to read their books. Perhaps he is a liberal who falls at the feet of Obama, but not all his readers are of that ilk, and whether or not they are, it is improper for him to imply that those who disagree with his views are “asinine” or brown shirts or racists.
This is the third in a series and I have no desire to refresh my memory about the other two. I am truly sorry, I read this one. If the author wants to voice his political opinion he should run for office or write a non-fiction piece informing the reader of his intent.
If I wanted a book about political partisanship, I would have searched for one. He intentionally disparages the Tea Party, Mitt Romney, former President Bush, among others, while he lays wreaths at the feet of Obama. If it weren’t for the abject pandering to liberals and their views, there might have been some saving grace in the novel, but as it stands now, there was not. The book was dry with inappropriate comparisons of events and inappropriate moral equivalents. I failed to find the humor in it satisfactory or appealing, rather it was bleak.
The author used his pen to voice his political beliefs calling Governor Christie the candied yam and comparing members of the Tea Party to Brown Shirts, describing them as Jew hating, white lovers. If name-calling is the calling card of the Democrat, don’t count me among them and definitely save me from anymore of these disguised political treatises. This author owes many of his readers an apology.
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LibraryThing member sleahey
This collection of four novellas describes the latest stage in Frank Bascombe's life now that he's 68 and feeling old. Beginning with a story about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey Shore, we become familiar with Frank's musings, as irreverent and thoughtful as they are. In turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, this collection is a unified whole about a guy we wish we knew--or maybe we do.… (more)
LibraryThing member revliz
Stories that are really meditations on growing old amid the remains of Superstorm Sandy. Add this one to the pastoral shelf
LibraryThing member byebyelibrary
A satisfying and fitting conclusion to Ford's landmark Frank Bascombe series. In four vignettes Ford manages to touch lightly on the themes and threads of the three prior volumes.
LibraryThing member EpicTale
"Let Me Be Frank With You" (LMBF) is an entirely different book from Ford's "Canada" which, as my first exposure to the author, I greatly enjoyed about three years ago. Reading LMBF as a Frank Bascombe newbie, I arrived at this movie well after it was underway. LMBF paled in comparison to "Canada" (which I thought was masterful) but was good enough to pique my interest in reading one or more of the earlier books at some point in the future.

What I liked most about LMBF was the author's awesome powers of observing and depicting contemporary American society and mores. The awful hurricane destruction of the New Jersey seaside was a wonderful setting for that, and Ford's observations about it bound the stories together into a cohesive whole.

In addition, Ford demonstrated well-observed, acute empathy for any number of not-very-nice characters -- a knack that was also evident in "Canada". In the final story in particular, I enjoyed and appreciated the author's masterful pacing, language, and powers of description as evidenced in Bascombe's driveway meeting with evangelist Fike Birdsong. Brief though it was, this delicious episode was well worth the investment of time and energy to read the book.
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LibraryThing member seeword
Library copy.

Canada is the only other Richard Ford book I have read. I liked it very much. Let Me Be Frank With You is very different. It covers a short period in the life of sixty something year old Frank Bascombe. It's divided into four parts, each one could stand alone as a short story or novella.

Frank muses about his life, marriages, children, and acquaintances. He claims that in his retirement he doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do--then he proceeds to tell about four things he's doing that he really doesn't want to do. He has an uncomfortable meeting with a former associate whose house (which he bought from Frank) on the shore has been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Next, he lets a woman who used to live in the house Frank now lives in enter the house for a "look around" and he listens to her story (which he really doesn't want to hear). Then he visits his ex-wife who is in a retirement home suffering from Parkinson's disease. In the final chapter/story he visits a dying man-a former acquaintance that Frank never really liked.

All this is related with humor and wisdom (or not) and there are some likeable characters, but not too many and I'm not sure Frank is one of them. It is a fun read, but I'm uncertain about reading more Frank Bascombe books. I do want to try one of Ford's short story collections. I waver between four and five stars on this one, perhaps because I liked Canada better.
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LibraryThing member tulipmedia
Richard Ford has blessed us with an original Frank Bascombe book every decade. Each work stands on its own and is a brilliant depiction of Frank's individual state of mind at the particular age of the protagonist, and a grander and just as interesting commentary on the zeitgeist of the era in question. LET ME BE FRANK WITH YOU appears eight years after THE LAY OF THE LAND. Frank is essentially retired, which gives him even more occassion to ruminate on the challenges of getting older and watching the inveitable destruction of people (his friends and ex-wife, Ann), places (his former house at the Jersey Shore) and things (the very foundation of American civilization). These four interconnected novellas, which I enjoyed in the AudioBook version through the magnificant voice-over work of Richard Poe who has come to embody every aspect of Frank Bascombe's personnae, are resonant with the foreshadowings of death and departure...not unreasonable for the inner musings of a 68 year olf retiree who sees so much devastation at every turn. The magnificence of the Ford's presetation of the workings of Frank Bascombe's inner self is the beauty and artistic accomplishment of these fine pieces of fiction. The thoughts which are voiced by Bascombe are not meant to be shared publicly...thus, the offense taken by reviewer "thewanderingjew", is not just a misperception of Ford's intent, but seems to entirely miss the point and artistry of these "slice of life" small sections of Frank Bascombe'e present life. I do believe that the pastiche presented demands a familiarity with Ford's prior trilogy and cannot possibly be truly enjoyed absent a full knowledge of the extraordinary life path (extraordinary only in its uniqueness as each of our life paths are unique) of Frank Bascombe. I am deeply saddened to feel that Frank is about at the end of that road and that there may not be a follow-up in due course to the Christmas Holiday events of LET ME BE FRANK. But, that fact, too, would be consistent with the history of Mr. Bascombe. Not a great work, nor Pulitzer worthy, but a valuable semi-coda to a most engaging and interesting mind and life.… (more)
LibraryThing member CarrieWuj
After reading Between Them, I wanted to read something else by Richard Ford, whom critics call one of our national treasures. This collection of 4 intertwining stories was a good one, though I felt like I was jumping in the middle, since Frank Bascombe is an established character in many of Ford's other books. I still got a good taste though and enjoyed it. Frank is a retired real estate agent Democrat with a penchant for quoting literary greats, and philosophizing about life and his (dwindling) place in it. At 68, Frank harbors no illusions about his life's trajectory and his observations are equally funny and paranoid. In these connected stories, it is just post-hurricane Sandy, and Frank's New Jersey location has put him and his 2nd wife Sally in the thick of the storm's aftermath, though they and their home survived in tact. One story deals with a former realty client/friend who lost his seaside second home in the storm. Frank sold it to him. Another story deals with his ex-wife Ann and the onset of her Parkinson's disease. He struggles with what his role to her is now. The last 2 stories are about a dying friend and his own house's past history (tragic). Part wistfulness, part satiric commentary, the characters and situations are relevant and entertaining. Put me in mind of Updike, Irving, and a sprinkle of Garrison Keillor. "Love isn't a thing, after all, but an endless series of single acts."… (more)
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
There is a sense of quality about the writing here - not a single sentence is allowed on the page until it is perfect in every way. There is a also a sense of time being taken by a now retired narrator who has plenty of time on his hand - to appreciate and analyse everything around him. I would perhaps have enjoyed it more if I had read the previous books about this character, but on the other hand it didn't give away too much about those previous books meaning I could still go back and do so. Of the four loosely linked stories I enjoyed the second one the most, but all had their good points… (more)
LibraryThing member oldblack
I like Richard Ford. I enjoyed all of the Frank Bascombe trilogy and these four stories of the now 68-year-old retired Frank suited me down to the ground as I lay on my hospital bed recovering to become (I hope) a 'prostate survivor' like Mr Bascombe. Sure, I identified very much with the particular circumstances in which Frank Bascombe and his friends and colleagues find themselves, but there is a much deeper story here. Ford is asking significant questions about the role of friends, marriage partners, work, money and possessions. These issues are seen with a different perspective as we approach the end of life, as a number of Ford's characters are doing - and so too am I. Yes, he does approach from a white middle-class western cultural direction, but that's where I've come from too, so I'm happy for Ford to share his insights with me.… (more)
LibraryThing member writemoves
I was looking to read a "period" piece. I wanted to read about a character who I could identify with, particularly when it comes to age. Frank Bascombe is 68 years old – – a little older and a bit more cynical than I am. I have not read any of Richard Ford's other books so I plunged into this without the advantage of reading any of the previous stories. One of the neat things about the book is that the action takes place in New Jersey and shortly after the arrival and destruction from Hurricane Sandy. I also enjoyed his comments and thinking about retirement and getting older. For example,

"Life's a matter of gradual subtraction, aimed at a solider, more nearly perfect essence, after which all mentation goes and we had off to our own virtual Chillicothes."

"end of days time otherwise known as retirement..."

" Being 'older' makes you worry that you reek like a monkey's closet."

"the gramps shuffle being the unmasked final journey approach signal."
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
Ever since 1968 Richard Ford has been gracing American letters with his portrait of the reflective Frank Bascombe. I've read all four of these novels that started with the Sportswriter. He then won a Pulitzer Prize with Independence Day. In his latest novel called Let Me Be Frank with You, our narrator is now a 68-year-old retired real estate agent. We see him in four different chapter scenarios. First, he visits his old shore house which has been wiped out by hurricane Sandy, luckily after he sold it to someone else. In the second part he is visited by a woman who used to live in his current house in Haddem, New Jersey. In the third chapter he brings a bamboo pillow to his former wife who now resides nearby in a fancy assisted living community. And in the final chapter an old friend by the name of Ernie pleas with him to come visit; he is dying from prostate cancer and dying to confess something before he passes. Four chapters, each providing a forum for reflection. That's what Frank does. He says one think but thinks another, wishing he could take it back. I feel like I have known Frank Bascombe for 30 years as he illuminates the American existence, the dreams unfulfilled and a possible satisfaction that comes from a life doing as little harm as possible.
From NYT:
Droll, bemused, hyper-observant, occasionally exasperating and punctuated by sighs of both resignation and contentment (often at the same time), Bascombe’s voice has offered a running commentary on the last four decades of, as he put it in “The Sportswriter,” “the normal applauseless life of us all."

Like Updike's Rabbit novels, Richard Ford has left us one of the defining characters in American Literature.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
I love Richard Ford, and especially when he speaks through Frank Bascomb. Every writer falls down once in a while though, and this was Ford's banana peel moment. The three star is a gift becuase I love him too much to give him a lower rating. (It's like when they gave Pacino the Oscar for Scent of a Woman because he had not won before even though its a terrible movie in which he chews every piece of scenery.)

One of things I have most loved about Bascomb is his sense of humor, which is always engaged and always really dark and odd. I should have guessed from the cheesy-pun title of this book that Frank's sens of humor had grown flaccid. Mostly he sounds like Andy Rooney (not a compliment.) Most everything serves for him to vent his silly affluent baby boomer white guilt. Black folks are all salt of the earth, everyone who didn't vote for Obama is a buffoonish racist, a white person can't hold a conversation with a black person without Tourrette's like racist emissions. Oddly, for a book so desperately PC, there is one scene with a trans woman that is so offensive it is painful to read. He implies that a person has to be uncomfortable in her skin unless she has had bottom surgery. Its so jarring and pathetic.

Ford ties up some loose ends which is satisfying for those of us who have read the other three books, but unless you are a Frank Bascomb completist, there is not much reason to read this.
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LibraryThing member OscarWilde87
Let Me Be Frank With You is a collection of four connected stories narrated by Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of a series of four novels by Richard Ford. Unfortunately, this is the first novel of the series that I've read and it is the last one that has been published so far. I had read Ford's really great novel Canada, which is not part of the series, so I thought I could just pick this one up when I saw it. As it turns out, I did not really enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Canada. Now I cannot say whether this is due to not having read the previous three novels or whether I would not have found it all too interesting anyway. Since I do like the character of Frank Bascombe I assume that the book will unfold its potential if read after the prequels. As it is, three stars.… (more)
LibraryThing member clifforddham
An older man contemplates the difficulty and humor of aging and death. Listened to interview with author on "Fresh Air,' Oct 30, 2015. Sounds entertaining and instructional.

Amazon: "A brilliant new work that returns Richard Ford to the hallowed territory that sealed his reputation as an American master: the world of Frank Bascombe, and the landscape of his celebrated novels The Sportswriter, the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner winning Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land.

In his trio of world-acclaimed novels portraying the life of an entire American generation, Richard Ford has imagined one of the most indelible and widely discussed characters in modern literature, Frank Bascombe. Through Bascombe—protean, funny, profane, wise, often inappropriate—we’ve witnessed the aspirations, sorrows, longings, achievements and failings of an American life in the twilight of the twentieth century.

Now, in Let Me Be Frank with You, Ford reinvents Bascombe in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In four richly luminous narratives, Bascombe (and Ford) attempts to reconcile, interpret and console a world undone by calamity. It is a moving and wondrous and extremely funny odyssey through the America we live in at this moment. Ford is here again working with the maturity and brilliance of a writer at the absolute height of his powers."
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LibraryThing member abycats
I was very much enjoying this novel despite not having read the earlier books in the series. The narrator is both looking forward and back in his late 60s with a great deal of insight into both his life and that of those he knows. Because of my personal experience with both storms (this is set just after Sandy has hit the NJ coast) and northeastern attitudes, I found many of Frank's attitudes both familiar and pointed -- particularly his relationship, however reluctant, with his first wife. However, I was highly disconcerted about 80% thru the book (I read it on a Kindle) by a section that repeated many of the background details set out early in the book. Bad editing? Nonetheless, I found the book more than interesting enough to order a set of the earlier installments. I'd like to find out how Frank approached those times as he lived them, rather than in retrospect. Couldn't get into "Canada" -- glad I gave this one a chance.… (more)
LibraryThing member breic
Decent, but it is largely missing the Richard Ford touch. It takes a long time for the writing to warm up. Eventually it is starting to get there, with Bascombe's pithy, occasionally contradictory but always considered, thoughts on life–but then the story ends! It's too short, especially when the first 50-100 pages could be cut off without losing much.

> Character, to me, is one more lie of history and the dramatic arts. In my view, we have only what we did yesterday, what we do today, and what we might still do. Plus, whatever we think about all of that. But nothing else—nothing hard or kernel-like.
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LibraryThing member eenerd
I think if I were twenty years older I would better understand and probably love this book. It's for an older demographic, in terms of the subjects, humor, references and characters.




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