I discovered the novelist Richard Ford in a university library in Los Angeles some seven years ago. The emotional lives of his somewhat lost characters with their moral quandaries and vulnerabilities drew me in. I learned much later that he enjoyed a long friendship with Raymond Carver , that they commented on each other's work, drew inspiration from each other...though Ford says he learned more from Carver than the other way around.
There's an excellent interview with Ford in the latest Granta (No. 99) where he talks about his work, literature and life. An excerpt:
Tim Adams: Has faith or church-going ever had any appeal to you?
Ford: Not church going. But faith, well... There's the famous line in Hebrews 11: 'Faith is the evidence of things unseen.' I've always been attracted to that line. But for specifically irreligious reasons. I deem that line to be a line about the imagination. I could almost say that, 'the imagination is the evidence of things unseen.' But again specifically I'd say that my 'faith' lies in the imagination and in the imagination's power to bring into existence essential experience that heretofore wasn't known to exist.
Adams: That reminds me of Franck Bascombe's line: 'The unseen exists and has properties.' Do you have an ongoing sense of that 'unseen,' or only at certain charged moments?
Ford: I don't think much about the unseen. For lack of great erudition, or a great education, I suppose I've stored a fair amount of trust in my instinct. But as soon as I see that written down I start to think that instinct may just be another word for luck and for trusting to luck -- which I've done. A favourite line I repair to is by the philosopher Daniel Dennett, who said: 'We have a built-in, very potent, hair-triggered tendency to find agency in things that are not agents.' I'm not sure if Dennett approves of that tendency or not. But certainly that's one of the things literature does-- it ascribes agency where before no agency was noticed: it says this causes that, this is a consequence of that, etc. It may be that writing fiction, imagining agencies, is my most trusted way into the unseen.
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