cover image Rock Springs: Stories

Rock Springs: Stories

Richard Ford. Atlantic Monthly Press, $0 (235pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-159-1

The stories in this collection read like textbook exercises in classic short story form: in each, a lifetime of sadness is suddenly crystallized around a momentan image, a discovery, a confrontationafter which a life has been irrevocably, if at first imperceptibly, changed. Ford approaches the genre with reverent precision and delivers an array of haunting, enduring images: a stalled train about to be engulfed in a brushfire; a misdirected collect phone call to a father from a son in trouble; a wounded snow goose swimming circles in a lake that moments before had been covered by the rest of its flock ""like a white bandage laid on the water.'' Together, these portraits of violence and betrayal among the unemployed and unmotivated in rural Montana present an almost relentlessly bleak picture of difficult lives, and the frequent presence of children as witnesses to their parents' disgraces further darkens the vision. It may well be too dark for many readers. The accessible appeal of Ford's most recent novel The Sportswriter is missing here, in large part because the characters lack the wit and perspective that could give voice to their endeavors at self-awareness. Comparisons to Raymond Carver are appropriate, but where Carver's depictions of the basic struggle to make sense out of things strike a universal chord that transcends the narrow focus of the part of the world he examines, Ford's stories only outline that world and remain bounded by its constraints despite their intermittent beauty. First serial to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair; paperback rights to Vintage. (September 28)