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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rock Springs

Rock Springs by Richard Ford

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

October 16, 2006

While a novel is like a symphony where all the various pieces are part of one whole, a collection of short stories is more like an album of popular music where each selection stands apart from the rest. The biggest problem of "Rock Springs" is that it sounds like an album of one song played over and over again.

Each story in "Rock Springs" features a down-on-his-luck man in Montana who has (or is about to) lose his job and has a wife/girlfriend who works at a bar. Something then tears the man and woman apart, whether it's an affair, murder, or they just plain get sick of each other. The narrator gains some insight. The end.

The first stories are interesting, especially the title track which features a petty criminal named Earl taking his daughter and waitress girlfriend across the country to evade the law for writing a bad check. Over time, though, the formula is repeated so many times that it loses any appeal and the stories become predictable and dull. And all of these stories bear a striking similarity to Ford's novel "Wildlife" which also takes place in Montana and has a down-on-his-luck man losing his wife.

The stories all have similar narration as well, all sounding as if they were written by someone with only a 4th grade education and featuring Ford's typical clunky dialogue. The dialogue is especially bad in "Children" where an Indian boy and his friend entertain his father's mistress. (This I suppose was the most unique of the stories.)

All of the stories are similarly dreary, which reflects real life, but I couldn't help wishing for something to brighten the somber mood a little. None of this is to say "Rock Springs" is a bad collection of work, just that it's repetitive. You can read the first story or two and not miss anything with the rest.

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