Meeting Richard Ford


I’ve never gone to “one of those book readings” before. Usually, I haven’t read the book, nor heard of the author. Sometimes the author is so popular I dread the crowd. I had no idea who Richard Ford was. I saw his picture on the Seattle Public Library website, clicked on the link and read a snippet of his book. I wanted to be there to hear him speak. There was just something so much like simple, honesty that intrigued me.

I’m very glad I went.

The auditorium at Seattle’s downtown Central Library was not packed but it was full.
I made sure I had my cup of coffee before I settled in (made sure it was okay to have it-it is).
People noted I am currently reading Tinkers. It’s a well-loved book and I’m glad my sister recommended it to me.

Richard Ford’s appearance is striking. How old he is stands out. It isn’t his age but his experience of observing. You can feel it in the room. I thought he might be pompous if I were to judge him based on the jeans, the cream jacket. It’s very.. studious, very professor-like, isn’t it? But as soon as he spoke, my opinion was revoked. It was refreshing to hear a wise ol’ southerner speak again. I have forgotten how precious that feeling is. It’s not to say that because he’s a southerner that he is wise but it’s a mix of slowness, thoughtfulness, pauses, long exhales stretching the words.

When someone pauses, they tend to have something to say that is worthwhile.
I liked him a lot to say the very least.

His book, Canada, is about a boy (and his family) who are forced to go to Canada and whatever that may entail. Now, I haven’t read the book but I do know that the opening pages are fantastic. It’s so rare to meet a storyteller. I feel there are a lot of books and a lot of stories but very few storytellers.

People loved listening to him speak. I was not the only one.
But he did receive a little heat (and I could tell this woman was a bit of a tough-bird).
(I’m paraphrasing) With a bit of edge to her voice she asked him, “How can your character be so arrogant and feel better than others when they live in Tacoma? I’m from Tacoma and I know there is nothing to be arrogant about.”

Someone whistled.
He happily answered. Basically he said that it can happen anywhere and that he beat her at her challenge: He’s from Jackson, Mississippi. I’ve been to Jackson, Mississippi. I know exactly what he’s talking about.

An audience member, who had lived in both America and Canada extensively,  asked how was it possible Ford was so accurate about the differences. Had he lived in Canada as well? No, he hadn’t but every time he went, which was many, he felt the differences. He observed them. He felt a “weight” lifted off his shoulders. “This has more to do with me than Canada,” he said. He went on to mention that in America, we are incredibly focused on individuality, rights (always going on about rights). Not that it was bad but America is “in your face.” Maybe, what he was getting at, is Canada is quieter. If that’s what he was thinking, I think he’s made a good observation.

The event lasted from 7pm-8pm with a half left for book signing.

I’m number 205 in the line of people waiting to read Canada through the library system. That’s okay because I have plenty of reading to do until then but I haven’t looked forward to read an author who is to new to me quite so much in a long time.

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