As with other extremely convincing first-person narrators, there is the frequent readerly trap of confusing Frank Bascombe for Richard Ford. And while parsing out the distinctions between these two creatures is not the purview of this review, Ford is interesting in that he is a postwar novelist first and foremost. George Saunders!
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Alice Munro! But now Richard Ford has written a memoir.
Vietnam War memoir | Books in Review II
To be sure, it is strange, almost an anti-memoir. The book consists of two halves, a recently written remembrance of his father and a remembrance of his mother, written shortly after her death in the early s. His father, Parker Ford, was a salesman for the Faultless Starch Company who travelled around the south visiting grocery stores, demonstrating and hawking his product. For many of those early years his wife Edna simply travelled with him.
They kept an apartment in Arkansas that was mostly a provisional landing pad and otherwise lived on the road out of hotels and diners, and the picture Ford paints is a pre-interstate-highway-system, responsibility-free bliss. When Richard comes along they settle down in Jackson, Miss. I cannot remember, over the years, my father ever explicitly teaching me much. He did not teach me to read and did not, that I remember, ever read to me.
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He did not teach me to tie knots or to hunt or to shoot a gun or how to start a campfire or how to change a spark plug or a tire. When I think about my father through the haze of all these poorly recollected details, my truest and most affectionate assessment of him was that he was not a modern father. Indeed, even then, when I knew him best, he seemed to be from another place and another time far away. When Richard is four, his father has a heart attack, but after a brief recovery period, his life as a traveling salesman resumes with only the alteration of a few surface habits.
Twelve years remain until his second, fatal heart attack. Toward the end of his life, Parker is seized with a yearning for the suburbs and a car of his own, a pique of aspiration that Ford approaches but ultimately refuses to fully interpret. The most riveting portion of this first section of the book is the moment his father has his second, fatal heart attack and its aftermath.
This is also a climax in terms of family drama and psychological depth. But again he shies away from dwelling on this rage and instead concludes with the oddest observation:. My father did not experience this. And I can imagine such a life, but only imagine it. And while not to have written anything would be a bearable loss—we must all make the most of the lives we find—there would, however, not now be this slender record of my father, of his otherwise invisible joys and travails and of his virtue—qualities that merit notice in us all.
For his son, not to have left this record would be a sad loss indeed. As if writing books were like a semi-memorable vacation that you once took. Every time his father comes alive on the page, Ford backs away, frightened. The mother section, though composed much earlier, follows chronologically.
What in the hell happened? The most interesting part of the latter half of the book is the brief amount of high school time where Richard is still living at home with his widowed mother and they are both sexually active and on the prowl. I liked him. I liked it that my mother liked him.
I really have no idea about what was between them, what they did alone. This moment of role-reversal, the son turned into a kind of father who simply wants to know where his child is located, who wants to be a fully informed party regarding her deviance, seems to end the relationship between his mother and the boyfriend, and seems to end all future romance for the mother.
As far as Richard knows, there is never another man. Young Richard goes to that apartment for some reason, even if the adult Richard no longer recalls what it was. His mother lies her head off and tells him he has nothing to worry about, an obfuscation for which the adult Richard, now writing this memoir, praises her.
These are some of the most intimate moments of parent-son transaction in the book. There are many moments in the book of almost-sense.
The sentences pile up into a mirage of clarity, but then a paragraph later, the reader does a double-take. With the draft breathing down his neck, Ramsey enlisted in the Army late in , and was inducted on January 8, The first half of his memoir shows how Ramsey prepared for, and then participated in, the Vietnam War. Amid a climate of hyperactivity bordering on chaos, Pat Ramsey joined the 7th Air Cavalry at the beginning of the incursion into Cambodia.
With only thirty hours of combat flying, Ramsey was upgraded from copilot to pilot. Simultaneously, he took charge of crew assignments.rotile.tk
Memoirs of a Rotor Head
Furthermore, because he went through infantry AIT, Ramsey was assigned command of a twenty-man platoon and helicoptered into the field as a grunt. His view of the war reflects nervous dedication to tasks that were questionable from their beginning. He admits to living for the excitement of facing danger, but an excitement tempered by near disasters. His stories gave me the impression that his unit operated with minimal leadership.
The men seemed to do whatever they thought necessary at any moment. Losses were the consequence. Ramsey complements stories about his experiences by giving history lessons about the war.