The acclaimed novelists Richard Ford and James Salter shared the stage at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night, accompanied by a surprise guest â”Frank Bascombe.
Mr. Ford appeared first, sending a charge through the crowd when he announced he would be reading from a new story starring Bascombe, which he started writing in January. He called the story âFalling Forward.â
Bascombe, often compared to John Updikeâs Rabbit Angstrom, another American male searching his way through life over the course of several novels, has appeared in three books: âThe Sportswriter,â âIndependence Dayâ and âThe Lay of the Land.â
In 2007, Mr. Ford told an interviewer, âThis is the end of this particular movement in my life, to write about Frank and New Jersey. Iâm not going to do that anymore.â
Last seen, Bascombe was 55 and the country was living in the turbulent wake of the Bush-Gore election. In the excerpt Mr. Ford presented on Monday night, Bascombe is 67, retired from the realty business, narrating his life in the weeks before Christmas and after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Mr. Salter, 87 and in fighting shape, read an extended passage from âAll That Is,â his first novel in nearly 35 years, and afterward sat with Mr. Ford to discuss their craft and answer a few questions from the audience. As they settled into their chairs in front of a large audience that had already given Mr. Salter two sustained ovations, Mr. Ford said, âSo I guess the whole âwriterâs writerâ thing is over now?â
âI hope so,â Mr. Salter replied.
Mr. Ford said that he regularly feels his novels are too long, and that the great American novels are on the short side, including Mr. Salterâs earlier works and books like âSo Long, See You Tomorrowâ by William Maxwell and âThe Great Gatsby.â
âI am definitely miserly in trying to write a novel,â Mr. Salter said. âI donât have an abundance of it. Iâm trying to write longer, if youâre trying to write shorter.â