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by Richard Ford

In these ten exquisite stories, first published by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1987 and now reissued as a Grove Press paperback, Richard Ford mines literary gold from the wind-scrubbed landscape of the American West—and from the guarded hopes and gnawing loneliness of the people who live there: a refugee from justice driving across Wyoming with his daughter and an unhappy girlfriend in a stolen, cranberry-colored Mercedes; a boy watching his family dissolve in a night of tragicomic violence; and two men and a woman swapping hard-luck stories in a frontier bar as they try to sweeten their luck. Rock Springs is a masterpiece of taut narration, cleanly chiseled prose, and empathy so generous that it feels like a kind of grace.
Download Rock Springs epub
ISBN: 0002717077
ISBN13: 978-0002717076
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Richard Ford
Language: English
Publisher: Collins; First UK edition edition (1988)
Pages: 248 pages
ePUB size: 1357 kb
FB2 size: 1106 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 852
Other Formats: docx mobi docx azw

I've read all the Richard Bascombe novels and so it is obvious that I like Richard's style. He , for me, has just the right touch when it comes to developing characters. He gives you a little at a time, just the way you get to know people in the real world. These stories are all good, although they are not happy ones. They are about people who are down on their luck, scratching out a living in and around Montana. Real people with very common problems. Divorce, infidelity, petty crimes and unemployment are featured in most, but there is a kind of optimism in some of them too. They are existential in the extreme-time moves on and little really matters.
I recently read one of Richard Ford's short stories, "Winterkill", in an anthology of contemporary "Western" short stories. "Winterkill" was the best story in the anthology, so I tracked down this 1987 collection of Ford short stories from which it came.

ROCK SPRINGS contains ten stories. With the possible exception of one, all are set in the West, most in Montana. They serve as an antidote for the popular, romantic image of the West as the realm of rugged and proud individualists who heroically forge lives of success and quiet dignity. Instead, the characters in ROCK SPRINGS are merely hanging on, some pathetically, and most are whining about it. Many are unemployed and/or sponging off their girlfriends who are working at airport bars. Most come from failed marriages and are scarred veterans themselves of failed relationships. Some are living outside the law (Deer Lodge Prison, Montana is mentioned in half the stories). The characters of ROCK SPRINGS don't heroically forge anything in their lives; instead, things happen to them. And they want out. As one says, "I don't know why people came out here. The West is [screwed] up. It's ruined. I wish somebody would take me away from here."

The stories are gritty, and they are realistic. For the most part, they are not uplifting, though they aren't terribly depressing either. There are some good lines. (For example: "I don't know what was between Edna and me, just beached by the same tides when you got down to it.") In general, Ford's prose is straightforward and serviceable. But the attraction of the book is more the stories than the prose. I thought the blurb on the back of the book - calling ROCK SPRINGS "a masterpiece of taut narration, cleanly chiseled prose" - a tad hyperbolic.

As I said, it was having read "Winterkill" that prompted me to pick up and read ROCK SPRINGS. It turns out that "Winterkill" is also one of the two best stories in ROCK SPRINGS - in part, perhaps, because it is one of the funniest and most cheerful, involving three middle-aged loners who seem to be relatively content with their lives of drinking, dancing, fishing, and casual sex (though one of the three is wheelchair-bound). The other truly excellent story in the book is "Sweethearts", from which the title to this review was taken.
Having just finished a standard tourist guide to Wyoming that rightly sings the praises of the uplifting value of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, et al., I thought it would be useful to read another, entirely different "guide book." I have read most of Richard Ford, including "Rock Springs", which I first read about 10 years ago, and found the re-read just as rewarding as the first time.

Ford simply SEES deeper into the anguish, and poverty of human existence than most of us, and then he has a magic ability to deftly capture his vision onto paper, carefully using a few phrases that capture the essence of the scene. In about half of these 10 short stories, one of the characters is going to, or returning from Deer Lodge Prison. In all, they are bitten by economic insecurity. The male-female interactions are almost always "heartless." It is virtually impossible to read these sad stories without thinking of the cliché, "lives of quiet desperation."

In some of his other books he does describe equally well other social strata, but in this one he manages to depict those living a very hard-scrabble existence. You have to wonder how he actually does it. None of his characters find their surroundings inspiring, or receive any solace from them. These are bare, bleak lives, so if you are on your way to the Grand Tetons, perhaps stopping in a shabby bar in Rock Springs, and looking around carefully, might provide an essential balance to the experience.
For a collection of Ford's shorts, all exquisitely written, all exquisitely told, but some considerably more entertaining than others.

All make their own kind of sense, though not to everyone.

An interesting story teller, one must say.
Ricard Ford has accumulated an exceptional array of stories set in or around Montana. What I particularly liked is the subject matter: the lives of working people and relationships that support or frustrate those individuals. So much of literature focuses on the lives of writers--writing about what they know best but nonetheless limited in scope. Rock Springs is filled with fascinating, complex lives that provoke emotional responses from the reader. Highly recommended.
Went Tyu
One of the best American short collections ever.
I enjoyed this book of short stories about mostly "Montana," not Wyoming which is where Rock Springs is...I was hoping for a book more on the lines of Annie Proulx's "Close Range, the Wyoming Stories," as the people of Wyoming are a rare breed. And/or Annie Proulx used to write a much meaner, sparer story...her first books were short stories about New England and all were dark and strange people occupied them. This was not what I was looking for at all. The best story was the one about the father and son hunting....there was a wonderful tension during the hunting sequence and then the father's behavior as they were going home....oooh, yeah....but most were unmemorable, now. It was an enjoyable read over all, but not great literature as the cover alludes to.
Second time through for me: great stuff. I bought this book for friends of discerning interests a half dozen times. Hope to live long enough and meet sufficient number of interesting people to buy another half dozen.
Love to see smart, interesting people begin the process of mainlining Richard Ford, and eventually Frank Bascomb.