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A Multitude of Sins


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About the Author

Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1944. He has published five novels and two previous collections of stories. His novel, Independence Day was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and, two weeks later, the PEN/Faulkner award for Fiction, the first time the same book has won both prizes.


The Pulitzer Prize-winning Ford returns with this collection of ten stories on the topic of adultery and its attendant sins of deception and revenge. Like John Updike, our professor emeritus of infidelity, Ford focuses exclusively on Middle America. His people are white-collar suburbanites, just a step up the economic ladder from Rabbit Angstrom. Unlike Updike, however, Ford views extramarital sex as pitiless and bleak. We never see the intoxicating early stages of an affair, only the messy waning moments. The guilty couples wonder what prompted them to stray, while the victims feel like idiots for behaving properly. In "Dominion," an American lawyer is confronted by the irate husband of his Canadian mistress. Later, he guesses that the man was an actor hired by the woman as a means of extricating herself and moving on. In "Under the Radar," a young wife confesses to her husband that she has just broken off an affair with the host of the dinner party that they are about to attend. Fans of Independence Day should be warned that this new book, while just as well written, is much darker. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/01.] Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

'Ten sexy, grown-up stories about marriage and adultery, passion and infidelity, disappointment and revenge. Ford is a smooth master of his art' Financial Times

Tracing the blueprint of human interaction in this latest collection of nine short stories and a novella, Ford signals the master text of lust standing behind the multitude of small sins he so tersely and poignantly chronicles. To err is human, and, in Ford's worldview, little is so human as the act of cheating on a wife or husband. In "Charity," a married ex-cop turned successful toy-maker, Tom Marshall, is caught by his wife, Nancy, a lawyer, having an affair. Johnny, the narrator of "Reunion," reflecting on his affair with Beth Bolger, sums it up like this: "At any distance but the close range I saw it from, it was an ordinary adultery spirited, thrilling, and then... it became disappointing and ignoble and finally almost disastrous to those same people." The novella, "Abyss," the collection's finest entry, tells the story of Frances Bilandic, a go-getting real estate agent with an older, invalid husband, and Howard Cameron, an ex-jock real estate agent with a more privileged background. They meet at an awards dinner in Mystic, Conn., and are soon screwing each other in hotel rooms in "little nowhere Connecticut towns." When both are sent to a convention in Phoenix, they look forward to time together, but Frances discovers Howard is a selfish putz, while Howard decides Frances is a little trashy and ditzy. Their extended outing ends in real disaster when Frances decides she wants to see the Grand Canyon. Ford's execution is flawless; this story has a canonical heft to it, bearing comparison to the best of Flannery O'Connor. Its presence alone makes this collection an essential volume, and the rest of the stories hold their own alongside it. (Feb. 19) Forecast: It's been four years since Ford's last book, the story collection Women with Men, was published to mixed reviews, and Ford's fans will turn eagerly to this new, more consistently satisfying collection. Released in a first printing of 75,000, it promises to do well sales-wise as well as critically. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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