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Richard Ford's Independence Day--his sequel to The Sportswriter, and an international bestseller--is the only novel ever to have received both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, two years later, he reaffirms his mastery of shorter fiction with his first collection since the widely acclaimed Rock Springs, published a decade ago. The landscape of Women with M Richard Ford's Independence Day--his sequel to The Sportswriter, and an international bestseller--is the only novel ever to have received both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, two years later, he reaffirms his mastery of shorter fiction with his first collection since the widely acclaimed Rock Springs, published a decade ago. The landscape of Women with Men ranges from the northern plains of Montana to the streets of Paris and the suburbs of Chicago, where Mr. Ford's various characters experience the consolations and complications that prevail in matters of passion, romance and love. A seventeen-year-old boy starting adulthood in the shadow of his parents' estrangement, a survivor of three marriages now struggling with cancer, an ostensibly devoted salesman in early middle age, an aspiring writer, a woman scandalously betrayed by her husband--they each of them contend with the vast distances that exist between those who are closest together. Whether alone, long married or newly met, they confront the obscure difference between privacy and intimacy, the fine distinction of pleasing another as opposed to oneself, and a need for reliance that is tempered by fearful vulnerability. In three long stories, Richard Ford captures men and women at this complex and essential moment of truth--in the course of everyday life, or during a bleak Thanksgiving journey, seismic arguments, Christmas abroad, the sudden disappearance of a child, even a barroom shooting. And with peerless emotional nuance and authority he once again demonstrates, as Elizabeth Hardwick has written, "a talent as strong and varied as American fiction has to offer."


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Richard Ford's Independence Day--his sequel to The Sportswriter, and an international bestseller--is the only novel ever to have received both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, two years later, he reaffirms his mastery of shorter fiction with his first collection since the widely acclaimed Rock Springs, published a decade ago. The landscape of Women with M Richard Ford's Independence Day--his sequel to The Sportswriter, and an international bestseller--is the only novel ever to have received both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, two years later, he reaffirms his mastery of shorter fiction with his first collection since the widely acclaimed Rock Springs, published a decade ago. The landscape of Women with Men ranges from the northern plains of Montana to the streets of Paris and the suburbs of Chicago, where Mr. Ford's various characters experience the consolations and complications that prevail in matters of passion, romance and love. A seventeen-year-old boy starting adulthood in the shadow of his parents' estrangement, a survivor of three marriages now struggling with cancer, an ostensibly devoted salesman in early middle age, an aspiring writer, a woman scandalously betrayed by her husband--they each of them contend with the vast distances that exist between those who are closest together. Whether alone, long married or newly met, they confront the obscure difference between privacy and intimacy, the fine distinction of pleasing another as opposed to oneself, and a need for reliance that is tempered by fearful vulnerability. In three long stories, Richard Ford captures men and women at this complex and essential moment of truth--in the course of everyday life, or during a bleak Thanksgiving journey, seismic arguments, Christmas abroad, the sudden disappearance of a child, even a barroom shooting. And with peerless emotional nuance and authority he once again demonstrates, as Elizabeth Hardwick has written, "a talent as strong and varied as American fiction has to offer."

30 review for Women With Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Ford can really tell a story. Each of the three novellas here involve a calamitous event, which I could have done without. Maybe Ford felt the stories needed the events for gravitas. I didn't think so. Not that they ruined the stories or felt out of place. I just love a good story where nothing really happens, an author who feels confident enough to just write, and not include any sort of important plot points. I could read Ford's prose for weeks straight, plot or no plot. The first novella falls Ford can really tell a story. Each of the three novellas here involve a calamitous event, which I could have done without. Maybe Ford felt the stories needed the events for gravitas. I didn't think so. Not that they ruined the stories or felt out of place. I just love a good story where nothing really happens, an author who feels confident enough to just write, and not include any sort of important plot points. I could read Ford's prose for weeks straight, plot or no plot. The first novella falls prey a bit to Ford's very subtle tendency to moralize, but it's still very good. The second is excellent, very sad, and the third is good as well. These are true novellas, not just long short stories masquerading as novellas. Four cheers to this book. Out of five possible cheers. It's not Rock Springs, and it's not Bascombe, but it's great. I read it on my honeymoon. Does that make a difference? Will anyone read this review ever anyway? No. So.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Norman Cohen

    This is actually a great intro to Richard Ford, if you're not ready to get into the entire life of Mr. Frank Bascombe of "The Sportswriter" and "Independence Day." The prose is simple, yes, but gets abstract when Ford delves into the the thinking of his muddled male characters. And that's the point, isn't it - men in the late 20th century are muddled creatures, everything at their disposal, with too many choices. They make bad ones, good ones, mostly out of delusional thinking, often lacking cla This is actually a great intro to Richard Ford, if you're not ready to get into the entire life of Mr. Frank Bascombe of "The Sportswriter" and "Independence Day." The prose is simple, yes, but gets abstract when Ford delves into the the thinking of his muddled male characters. And that's the point, isn't it - men in the late 20th century are muddled creatures, everything at their disposal, with too many choices. They make bad ones, good ones, mostly out of delusional thinking, often lacking clarity. The criticisms I see here that the protagonists in "The Womanizer" and the final story are "unlikeable" don't ring true. Yes, there are things not to like about what these men do or don't do with their lives. But no on paints a fairer picture of the callow, unsure American male than Ford. Also, his take on the American in Paris -- getting lost and wet, and half-remembering things from books -- is really something new and a great addition to American writing about the city.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    The book contains three novellas, one of which is quite good. The other two, unfortunately, are not. The middle novella of the three, "Jealous" (a sequel of sorts to Ford's short story "Great Falls"), worked very well. It's a dark and lonely story, and Ford wraps the action in wonderfully bleak and atmospheric prose. The other two novellas left me cold. Both "The Womanizer" and "Occidentals" are stories of Americans in Paris, and both of the Americans are self-absorbed, middle-aged, white men wh The book contains three novellas, one of which is quite good. The other two, unfortunately, are not. The middle novella of the three, "Jealous" (a sequel of sorts to Ford's short story "Great Falls"), worked very well. It's a dark and lonely story, and Ford wraps the action in wonderfully bleak and atmospheric prose. The other two novellas left me cold. Both "The Womanizer" and "Occidentals" are stories of Americans in Paris, and both of the Americans are self-absorbed, middle-aged, white men who spend lots of time feeling sorry for themselves. Ford is, to some degree, satirizing these characters, but even that didn't make the novellas interesting. "Self-absorbed, middle-aged white men are boring and self-absorbed? You don't say!"

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    Wonderful, thoughtful writing; menacing and melancholy. I loved all three stories; although it's true they are viewed from a male perspective, they are startlingly honest about relationships. The story twists are delivered without sentimentality or sugar-coating. Basically I wish I could write like this. Wonderful, thoughtful writing; menacing and melancholy. I loved all three stories; although it's true they are viewed from a male perspective, they are startlingly honest about relationships. The story twists are delivered without sentimentality or sugar-coating. Basically I wish I could write like this.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I'm at a writers' retreat in southern France and a Belgian man brought this book for the library. I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Ford, though he's clearly famous in the US and the rest of Europe. These long short-stories are written in a wonderful simple Carver-esque style and give an intimate glimpse at three male-female relationships from the man's point of view. In the fact the second story, Jealousy, seems to me to be more about the sisterly relationship although you only meet one sis I'm at a writers' retreat in southern France and a Belgian man brought this book for the library. I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Ford, though he's clearly famous in the US and the rest of Europe. These long short-stories are written in a wonderful simple Carver-esque style and give an intimate glimpse at three male-female relationships from the man's point of view. In the fact the second story, Jealousy, seems to me to be more about the sisterly relationship although you only meet one sister. Anyway, they're great stories and a lot about the mystery of women to men and the way men justify their actions while "trying to be good". I'll read more of him.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    3 short stories, all from a male perspective. Martin is a womanizing international sales rep, Larry is a young man going to see his mother for the holidays, and Charley is an accidental author on a work holiday in Paris. I found the characters in the stories (the exception being Larry and his father) to be completely unsympathetic so it made getting through their stories a challenge. Why should I care about their lives when they don't seem to be too interested in them? 3 short stories, all from a male perspective. Martin is a womanizing international sales rep, Larry is a young man going to see his mother for the holidays, and Charley is an accidental author on a work holiday in Paris. I found the characters in the stories (the exception being Larry and his father) to be completely unsympathetic so it made getting through their stories a challenge. Why should I care about their lives when they don't seem to be too interested in them?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    These stories just didn't grab me as much as they should have. The second story called "Jealous" was my favorite of the three, but overall I couldn't connect with the characters enough to care. I probably should have put the book down, but it was short so I plowed through it. These stories just didn't grab me as much as they should have. The second story called "Jealous" was my favorite of the three, but overall I couldn't connect with the characters enough to care. I probably should have put the book down, but it was short so I plowed through it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marcos

    "Though he sensed much of it was the forgiveness, the beginning of a state of loneliness and longing which would be his if he stayed. It came directly behind all the feelings he liked"- Richard Ford. An inspiring and intimate look at relationships, reminiscent of Updike, Yates, O'Brien and Huddle- masters of the form of the long short-story. Paris is the backdrop of two of the long stories presented in "Women With Men"- "The Womanizer" and "Occidentals" which are the two most affecting stories p "Though he sensed much of it was the forgiveness, the beginning of a state of loneliness and longing which would be his if he stayed. It came directly behind all the feelings he liked"- Richard Ford. An inspiring and intimate look at relationships, reminiscent of Updike, Yates, O'Brien and Huddle- masters of the form of the long short-story. Paris is the backdrop of two of the long stories presented in "Women With Men"- "The Womanizer" and "Occidentals" which are the two most affecting stories presented in this three story collection. "The Womanizer" is about Austin, a man who falls impulsively in love with the fatalistic Josephine in Paris, moves there to be with her, only to lose her son Leo at a park playdate which becomes disastrous in his pursuit of her; and ends his relationship with his complacent and passive-aggressive wife, Barbara. "Occidentals" is the story of Matthews and Helen, a cancer victim, who also go to Paris to live- but ends up dying there with the air of loneliness hanging over both their heads. They are solid, well-written stories from a master of the form.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    I like Ford, bur wasn't crazy about these stories. Ford is a masculine writer, not macho per se, but definitely working from a male mind. Problem I have with him is his relationships with women which are always convoluted and contradictory and dissatisfying; they always end up as "other," somehow consistently unknowable or incapable of giving him what he wants, whatever that is. Which is fine, he certainly doesn't paint himself or his voice as a hero or even someone who knows what he's talking a I like Ford, bur wasn't crazy about these stories. Ford is a masculine writer, not macho per se, but definitely working from a male mind. Problem I have with him is his relationships with women which are always convoluted and contradictory and dissatisfying; they always end up as "other," somehow consistently unknowable or incapable of giving him what he wants, whatever that is. Which is fine, he certainly doesn't paint himself or his voice as a hero or even someone who knows what he's talking about. i guess what I "like" most about him is his internal meandering monologues which may never come to any conclusions, but are interesting to follow.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beth Basilius

    I loved these three long stories. Two of them are set in Paris, and I enjoyed his descriptions of the city. His depictions of relationships between men and women reminded me a lot of John Updike’s writing. Took me back to college days when I read everything of Updike that I got my hands on.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    All three novellas in this collection are written from the perspective of the male character with the woman while being somewhat tangential to the story is the more interesting character. My favorite was "The Occidentals" The plot is initially romantic, a couple goes to Paris during the Christmas season as Matthews' novel is being translated into French. However, the editor has abruptly left Paris for vacation telling Matthews that the publisher's office will be closed but that he should stay and All three novellas in this collection are written from the perspective of the male character with the woman while being somewhat tangential to the story is the more interesting character. My favorite was "The Occidentals" The plot is initially romantic, a couple goes to Paris during the Christmas season as Matthews' novel is being translated into French. However, the editor has abruptly left Paris for vacation telling Matthews that the publisher's office will be closed but that he should stay and meet his translator. The romance is further dulled when we learn that Matthews is still emotionally raw from his wife leaving him and taking their 6 year old daughter and that Helen is recovering from cancer. Helen's optimism and enthusiasm for life keeps the trip from becoming a disaster with Ford foreshadowing the ironic ending throughout the story "Jealous" is told by a high school student whose parents have separated. His mother left for Seattle and his dad moved the son away from Great Falls to an isolated farm town in rural Montana. His mother's sister, Doris, is taking him by car and then train to visit his mother in Seattle and during the hours of that story we see Doris's battles with alcohol, her jealousness of his mother, and an uncomfortable scene which foretells the controversial storyline between the twins in Richard Ford's recent novel, "Canada" "The Womanizer"an American pursues a relationship with a French woman while on a business trip. Even as he pursues the affair he acknowledges to himself that the French woman is not as beautiful or as interesting, or as nice for that matter as his wife. The French woman who is going through a divorce and dealing with her estranged husband's novel about her, her young son's acting out, and the pursuit of this married American is again the more interesting character though we learn about her only in bits and pieces of a distant view. This story's disappointment was a plot contrivance involving the American and the young son that served to close the story but its contrivance contrasts with the reality of the rest of the story

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Women With Men is a book of three short stories, each exploring a relationship that is in the midst of a meltdown. Stories are told from a male perspective. The first story, "The Womanizer", has a cheating husband crafting some sort of delusional relationship with a woman he meets in Paris on a business trip. When his wife at home in Chicago walks out on him in a bar he heads back to Paris only to create chaos in the life of his paramour. The ego! The arrogance! The downright ineptness of this b Women With Men is a book of three short stories, each exploring a relationship that is in the midst of a meltdown. Stories are told from a male perspective. The first story, "The Womanizer", has a cheating husband crafting some sort of delusional relationship with a woman he meets in Paris on a business trip. When his wife at home in Chicago walks out on him in a bar he heads back to Paris only to create chaos in the life of his paramour. The ego! The arrogance! The downright ineptness of this businessman who understands little of truly caring for others. The second story, "Jealous", is told from the perspective of a teenage boy who is living with his father in a less than ideal ranch house while his parents are separated. The teen's aunt drives him to the train station just before Thanksgiving so he can travel to Seattle to visit his mother. A young man on the cusp of adulthood and adults who are just doing their best to get by. The final story, my favorite, "Occidentals", is also set in Paris and offers up the tale of a soon-to-be divorced first-time novelist on a trip with his lover to meet with a translator arranged by his book publisher. The novelist is a lost soul, too caught up in his own self-pity to understand the weight of the situation. As they say, "See Paris and die." This is first I have read of Ford, I can no longer remember why I had this book on my list of books to read. The author is best known for his novel The Sportswriter and the sequel Independance Day, neither of which have made it to my nightstand. I'm not sure I'd seek out another book by Ford, he's a bit too "masculine" for my taste, but he does do an exceptional job of bringing characters to life with depth and nuance, even in a short story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Antonelli

    This is my favourite Ford collection, mostly because of the first and last stories, both of which involve the quintessential "American in Paris". The stories are loaded with irony and self deception as characters who don't know who they are or where they are going somehow hope that they will find some guidance abroad in the streets of Paris through some kind of affair or new experience. I particularly liked The Womaniser - about a businessman in Paris trying to have an affair with a French woman This is my favourite Ford collection, mostly because of the first and last stories, both of which involve the quintessential "American in Paris". The stories are loaded with irony and self deception as characters who don't know who they are or where they are going somehow hope that they will find some guidance abroad in the streets of Paris through some kind of affair or new experience. I particularly liked The Womaniser - about a businessman in Paris trying to have an affair with a French woman - as it made me laugh openly over and over again how Ford was able to reveal the onion skin layers of the protagonist's self deception through long and often stunning sentences, which almost seemed to mock the character's attitudes while subtly revealing his flaws. We believe in him at first and feel for him but gradually learn he is callous and insensitive, putting his own nebulous impulses ahead of his responsibility for others. And I guess that is why he is a womaniser - he has charm and can make people believe in him while he tramples all over their feelings. But Ford puts us so deeply into his thinking that we always see things from his perspective and understand why he thinks the way he does, why he is so manipulative. These stories were also very instrumental during the writing of my novel The Forest, which was also influenced by Peter Handle's a Moment of True Feeling, because it deals with an American man in search of "something" he hopes he can find in two overlapping love triangles in Budapest as he follows his vague inspirations and emotional divinations more than his common sense. And like these great Ford stories, the sentences are long, the psychology complex and layered, and his quest end in tragedy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    My first by Richard Ford and amazingly good. Loved the insights into the male psyche of his main characters. This is a collection of three short stories, connected by themes of marriage and infidelity, the search for love (or conversely, the seeming avoidance of it), and how human relationships work (or rather, how they don’t). The three main adult male characters are very well depicted, fully three-dimensional, and memorable, but each of them is also distinctly unlikable in their own fashion. F My first by Richard Ford and amazingly good. Loved the insights into the male psyche of his main characters. This is a collection of three short stories, connected by themes of marriage and infidelity, the search for love (or conversely, the seeming avoidance of it), and how human relationships work (or rather, how they don’t). The three main adult male characters are very well depicted, fully three-dimensional, and memorable, but each of them is also distinctly unlikable in their own fashion. Fascinating material. I earmarked a number of striking passages, including these two… “Obviously she was more complicated, maybe even smarter, than he’d thought, and quite realistic about life, though slightly disillusioned. Probably, if he wanted to press the matter of intimacy, he could take her back to his room – a thing he’d done before on business trips, and even if not so many times, enough times that to do so now wouldn’t be extraordinary or meaningful, at least not to him. To share an unexpected intimacy might intensify both their holds on life.” [p. 7] “In that way, he felt, it was a typical academic marriage. Other people forged these same accommodations without ever knowing it. His parents, for instance. It was possible they hated each other, yet hating each other was worth more than trying to love somebody else, somebody you’d never know in a hundred years and probably wouldn’t like if you did. Better, they’d found, to focus on whatever good was left, set aside all issues they would never agree on, and call it marriage, even love.” [p. 159]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan Phillips

    Three novellas, really. I think I waited too long between finishing this book and reviewing it, so the details are slipping away from me. But I believe "The Womanizer" and "Occidentals" both take place in Paris (mostly), and feature reflective men being with women they're maybe not supposed to be with. The "Womanizer" guy is middle-aged and definitely-nearly cheating on his wife back in Chicago, while the "Occidentals" protagonist is younger -- a debut novelist touring the city with an older wom Three novellas, really. I think I waited too long between finishing this book and reviewing it, so the details are slipping away from me. But I believe "The Womanizer" and "Occidentals" both take place in Paris (mostly), and feature reflective men being with women they're maybe not supposed to be with. The "Womanizer" guy is middle-aged and definitely-nearly cheating on his wife back in Chicago, while the "Occidentals" protagonist is younger -- a debut novelist touring the city with an older woman whose reasons for being distracted and sad become clear by story's end. The middle piece, "Jealous," is about a seventeen year-old boy taking a train trip with her drunken Aunt, and a bar fight she almost gets them into. It's all top-notch Richard Ford, but I couldn't help but think of these as echoes of his novels. Not a bad thing. In fact, maybe someone new to Ford should start with his short fiction, just to see if his sentence-level writing is to their taste. I certainly love it, and feel like I might just read all of his books before too long...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Snipkin

    The first story ('The Womaniser') in this collection of three fairly long stories was originally published in 'Granta' back in 1992 - and it made a great impression on me when I read it there. It does not seem the 'normal' sort of thing Richard Ford writes; it has a more 'European' feel about it (the story is set in France - so that might be part of it). I later bought this book, and still enjoyed the first story when I read it again. The other two stories are a amixture. I liked the last one wh The first story ('The Womaniser') in this collection of three fairly long stories was originally published in 'Granta' back in 1992 - and it made a great impression on me when I read it there. It does not seem the 'normal' sort of thing Richard Ford writes; it has a more 'European' feel about it (the story is set in France - so that might be part of it). I later bought this book, and still enjoyed the first story when I read it again. The other two stories are a amixture. I liked the last one which is similar to the first in feel: a man wandering, for the most part, around a foreign city, with a great sense of loneliness (I love books about that). The middle story is different and I could not get on with. But I still give this book five stars because I think the first and last stories are so good.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roman Sonnleitner

    Three stories that are too long for short stories, but they don't fit the classic novella format, either... If all of them were like the middle one ("Jealous"), I would have given this a solid 5 stars; the middle story is great, classic American short story writing - taut, precise, restrained in its language, straight-forward in its story-telling, with characters that leave an impression; this one is excellent! Unfortunately, the other two aren't; the first and third stories are actually quite sim Three stories that are too long for short stories, but they don't fit the classic novella format, either... If all of them were like the middle one ("Jealous"), I would have given this a solid 5 stars; the middle story is great, classic American short story writing - taut, precise, restrained in its language, straight-forward in its story-telling, with characters that leave an impression; this one is excellent! Unfortunately, the other two aren't; the first and third stories are actually quite similar, both in setting and style. Too wordy, too muddled, too meandering, too pointless, and both with very unsatisfying endings (that of the first story is rather contrived, too...)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    These stories are a great example of midcentury realism a la Richard Yates: man's search for purpose in the Age of Anxiety, conformity, the emptiness of domesticity, struggling against the aching solitude of a ho-hum existence. Except this was published in 1997, which I didn't discover until midway through the second story. The first story is great...when you are reading it. However, unlike great captivating fiction, the stories do not linger. They leave no aftertaste, unpleasant or otherwise. T These stories are a great example of midcentury realism a la Richard Yates: man's search for purpose in the Age of Anxiety, conformity, the emptiness of domesticity, struggling against the aching solitude of a ho-hum existence. Except this was published in 1997, which I didn't discover until midway through the second story. The first story is great...when you are reading it. However, unlike great captivating fiction, the stories do not linger. They leave no aftertaste, unpleasant or otherwise. They do not call out from the bedside table. Ten pages with a cup of coffee in the morning and I'm sated for the day. And for that, I only completed the first story. Instead seek Richard Yates.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    wandering stories makes it difficult to focus

  20. 5 out of 5

    Justinmmoffitt

    Typical but good prose.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    Sometimes moving at the speed of glaciers, but engrossing nonetheless.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    "What does one want in the world? Austin thought, propped against the headboard oft he bed that night, having a glass of warm champagne from the minibar. He was in his blue pajama bottoms, on top of the covers, barefoot, staring across the room at his own image in the smoky mirror that occupied one entire wall--a man in a bed with a lighted bed lamp beside him, a glass on his belly. What does one want most of all, when one has experienced much, suffered some, persevered, tried to do good when go "What does one want in the world? Austin thought, propped against the headboard oft he bed that night, having a glass of warm champagne from the minibar. He was in his blue pajama bottoms, on top of the covers, barefoot, staring across the room at his own image in the smoky mirror that occupied one entire wall--a man in a bed with a lighted bed lamp beside him, a glass on his belly. What does one want most of all, when one has experienced much, suffered some, persevered, tried to do good when good was within reach? What does this experience teach us that we can profit from? That the memory of pain, Austin thought, mounts up and lays a significant weight upon the present--a sobering weight--and the truth one has to discover is: exactly what's possible but also valuable and desirable between human beings, on a low level of event." 27 "Theirs was practiced, undramatic lovemaking, a set of protocols and assumptions lovingly followed like a liturgy which points to but really has little connection with the mysteries and chaos that had once made it a breathless necessity." 33 "If something makes you feel good for a moment and no one is crushed by it, what's the use of denying yourself? Other people denied. And for what? The guys he'd gone to college with, who'd never left the track once they were on it, never had a moment of ebullience, and maybe even never knew the difference. But he did know the difference, and it was worth it, no matter the difficulties you endured living with the consequences. You had one life, Austin thought. Use it up." 39 "He was, it seemed, expected to solve everything: to take both positions--hers and his--and somehow join them so that everything was either put back to a way it had been or else made better so that both of them were happier and could feel that if life was a series of dangerous escarpments you scaled with difficulty, at least you eventually succeeded, whereupon the plenteous rewards of happiness made all the nightmares worthwhile. It was an admirable view of life, Austin thought. It was a sound, traditional view, absolutely in the American grain, and one that sent everybody to the altar starry-eyed and certain." 44 (a comment on writing) "Austin thought this street was full of people walking along dreaming of doing what he was actually doing, of picking up and leaving everything behind, coming here, sitting in cafes, walking the streets, possibly deciding to write a novel or paint watercolors, or just to start an air-conditioning business, like Hank Bullard. But there was a price to pay for that. And the price was that doing it didn't feel the least romantic. It felt purposeless, as if he himself had no purpose, plus there was no sense of a future now, at least as he had always experienced the future--as a palpable thing you looked forward to confidently even if what it held might be sad sad or tragic or unwantable. The future was still there, of course; he simply didn't know how to imagine it." 56 "My father once said a bar wasn't a place anybody ever wanted to go but was just a place you ended up. Though there was something about them I liked, a sense of something expected that stayed alive inside them even if nothing ever happened there at all." 118 "All boats seek a place to sink is what I believe." 122 "[...] he hadn't believed his novel was really good enough in the way it depicted ordinary, middle-class people caught in the grip of small, internal dilemmas of their own messy concoction. That was not usually a popular subject, he understood, unless the people were lesbians with sexually abusive fathers, or else homicide detectives or someone suffering from a fatal disease--none of which was the case in The Predicament, which was too much about his own life." 162 "Yet he found there was another, good side to it: since, when he would listen in on some conversation Helen was having with a flower vendor and would try to figure out from this word or that what either one of them was saying, he got almost everything wrong. Listening this way, he made up whole parts and sometimes the entirety of conversations based on an erroneous interpretation of a hand gesture or a facial expression or some act of seemingly familiar body language coupled with a word he thought he knew but was usually also wrong about. It could get to be addictive, he believed, not understanding what people were saying. Time spent in another country would probably always be spent misunderstanding a great deal, which might in the end turn out to be a blessing and the only way you could ever feel normal." 180

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie

    This is an odd little collection, mainly, I think, because it has only three stories, the second of which is so drastically different from the first and third, which, on the surface at least, are so similar. All three definitely offer up tales of Women With Men, but even more to the point, all three depict men separated from the main women in their respective lives. The middle story, "Jealous," is by far the shortest and, again, thematically seems sort of the stepchild of the bunch. It's a coming This is an odd little collection, mainly, I think, because it has only three stories, the second of which is so drastically different from the first and third, which, on the surface at least, are so similar. All three definitely offer up tales of Women With Men, but even more to the point, all three depict men separated from the main women in their respective lives. The middle story, "Jealous," is by far the shortest and, again, thematically seems sort of the stepchild of the bunch. It's a coming of age tale in which 17-year-old Lawrence gets some inkling of the role his mom's sister, Aunt Doris, has played in his parents' separation, as well as the role drinking has played because here "Doris" = drinker and probably the one described in the story's title, if it's not her sister, who we never really meet but who could conceivably have reason to feel that way. The first and last stories, the collection's bookends, sort of mirror each other, at least in their settings and in having protagonists who are as directionless as they are bad at directions. Neither male lead is all that likable or what you'd call heroic, but I found it a little easier to root for Charley Matthews in "Occidentals" (the third story) than Martin Austin in "The Womanizer" (the first piece, which could also have been titled "The Rationalizer" or "The Self-Delusionist"). It's hard to say why Matthews is the more sympathetic; he definitely has some of the same character flaws as Austin, but he seems somehow at least slightly more self-aware and therefore more adept. Also, Matthew's tale is easily the funniest and saddest of the three. The writing throughout is, probably needless to say, treasurable. First line: "Martin Austin turned up the tiny street - rue Sarrazin - at the head of which he hoped he would come to a larger one he knew, rue de Vaugirard, possibly, a street he could take all the way to Josephine Belliard's apartment by the Jardin du Luxembourg."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Pytel

    Classic Ford with classic raw detail of seemingly mundane characters yet still fascinating. This is a collection of three good novellas-- I probably favor the Womanizer, then Jealous, and then Occidentals. The Womanizer follows Martin Austin, a traveling salesman in Paris for business who desperately tries to find solace in another woman in another life, separate from his Chicago suburban life back home. Life goes on around him as he slowly grows out of touch with his wife, finding euphoria in n Classic Ford with classic raw detail of seemingly mundane characters yet still fascinating. This is a collection of three good novellas-- I probably favor the Womanizer, then Jealous, and then Occidentals. The Womanizer follows Martin Austin, a traveling salesman in Paris for business who desperately tries to find solace in another woman in another life, separate from his Chicago suburban life back home. Life goes on around him as he slowly grows out of touch with his wife, finding euphoria in new, different experiences. His desire for power leads him to a lonely, powerless existence, driving him to look back into his past and into Barbara who he left. His past is out of reach and his future is no longer in his control. Jealous is an interesting coming of age tale that too addresses loneliness in a constantly moving world. As the narrator and his aunt travel across the country to Seattle, they see alcoholism, violence, sex, sin, and lost love. They are drifters with a lost sense of purpose and identity, having no home to hold onto to. Again, these characters feel like they must control their future, but they are struggling with that responsibility. Occidentals is a story that starts as a bad vacation and turns much more serious. Charley Matthews struggles with death as his girlfriend Helen dies of cancer and he attempts to publish his failed book in French. In another story that takes place in Paris, Ford reminds us of the isolation of being in a foreign country, seeking solitude in the anonymity of it, but like all his characters, these ones are still unable to stay satisfied for very long.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    This is a collection of three novellas, all of them very good. The first story takes place in Chicago and France; the second in Montana (big surprise); the third in France again. They are unrelated except in the sense that he may have been attempting to write off a trip to France. The relationships between women and men are different in each case: a man and a woman he is not quite seeing; a boy and his aunt; a man and the woman who is not quite seeing him. In each case it’s the miscommunication t This is a collection of three novellas, all of them very good. The first story takes place in Chicago and France; the second in Montana (big surprise); the third in France again. They are unrelated except in the sense that he may have been attempting to write off a trip to France. The relationships between women and men are different in each case: a man and a woman he is not quite seeing; a boy and his aunt; a man and the woman who is not quite seeing him. In each case it’s the miscommunication that’s the center of the story, how relationships between two alien races are for all practical purposes impossible. This is highlighted by also using the differences between cultures—French and American, in those two, eastern and western in the middle. Time spent in another country would probably always be spent misunderstanding a great deal, which might in the end turn out to be a blessing and the only way you could ever feel normal. In each case it’s also about men and women trying to extricate themselves from a situation they’re not sure they want to extricate themselves from, into a situation they’re not sure they want to enter. “It’s the perfect gift. I wish somebody would give me a watch. You’re such a sweet boy.” She took my cheeks between her warm hands and squeezed me, and I thought she was going to kiss me, but she didn’t. “Too bad there aren’t sweet boys like you everywhere,” she said.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Luna Saint Claire

    I like reading Ford because I like the way he honestly writes a male character--the way they contemplate their relationship with women. This is especially focused in these three novellas but it is equally true in Independence Day. Here is a quote from The Womanizer: "Though he wondered again in his dreamy moments after the fear of Barbara's dying had risen off and before he drifted to sleep, wondered what was ever possible between human beings. How could you regulate life, do little harm and stil I like reading Ford because I like the way he honestly writes a male character--the way they contemplate their relationship with women. This is especially focused in these three novellas but it is equally true in Independence Day. Here is a quote from The Womanizer: "Though he wondered again in his dreamy moments after the fear of Barbara's dying had risen off and before he drifted to sleep, wondered what was ever possible between human beings. How could you regulate life, do little harm and still be attached to others? And in that context, he wondered if being fixed could be a misunderstanding, and, as Barbara had said when he'd seen her the last time and she had been so angry at him, if he had changed slightly, somehow altered the important linkages that guaranteed his happiness and become detached, unreachable. Could you become that/ Was it something you controlled, or a matter of your character, or a change to which you were only a victim? He wasn't sure. He wasn't sure about that at all. It was a subject he knew he would have to sleep on many, many nights." I think this quote is as good as anything I've read on the male inner dialog. Quintessential Richard Ford

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wisewebwoman

    Enjoyed all three stories within this book. The Womanizer A hapless man meeting a woman in Paris and fantasizing of a life with her when she has given no indication she reciprocates his feelings. A wife who has had enough of him and then he returns to Paris and reality strikes. Jealousy Opening line: "In the last days that I lived with my father in his house below the Teron River, he read to me." A coming of age story of a 17 yo boy coming to terms with his father, his estranged mother and his sexy Enjoyed all three stories within this book. The Womanizer A hapless man meeting a woman in Paris and fantasizing of a life with her when she has given no indication she reciprocates his feelings. A wife who has had enough of him and then he returns to Paris and reality strikes. Jealousy Opening line: "In the last days that I lived with my father in his house below the Teron River, he read to me." A coming of age story of a 17 yo boy coming to terms with his father, his estranged mother and his sexy aunt. Occidentals Fascinating study of a narcissistic writer/professor who lives in an unaware miasma. "My father said a bar wasn't a place anybody ever wanted to go but was just a place you ended up." Helen, his lover is dying and he is oblivious. None of these men are likable or engaging. But he captures their selfishness brilliantly. 4/5

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anne Green

    These three stories by Richard Ford are not quite novellas, not quite short stories - long stories is how they're mostly defined. While the title of the collection is "Women with Men" (which may or may not be a nod to Hemingway, a writer to whom his style in these stories has been compared, although I would dispute that), they are all written from the perspective of a man considering his relationships with women. The first and third stories are both set in Paris and both focus on a male characte These three stories by Richard Ford are not quite novellas, not quite short stories - long stories is how they're mostly defined. While the title of the collection is "Women with Men" (which may or may not be a nod to Hemingway, a writer to whom his style in these stories has been compared, although I would dispute that), they are all written from the perspective of a man considering his relationships with women. The first and third stories are both set in Paris and both focus on a male character visiting Paris and his struggles to come to terms with his own feelings in light of his interactions with particular women. This landscape is one where Ford is a master. His writing is, on the face of it, unadorned, straightforward (which is where it may seem similar to Hemingway) but weighted with subtle emotional nuances which create characters that are deeply flawed and indelibly human.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Goerlitz

    Wasn't sure I was going to love this version of Ford until halfway through the first of the three stories, but I found myself won over by Ford's clear, non-judgmental narrative of fragile and ambiguous self-delusions that accumulated around his broken, male characters. To the point where I could see myself in these damaged people, and for me that made for some interesting reflections on my own interior monologues. He earned my fifth star in the last part of the final story where he makes a pass Wasn't sure I was going to love this version of Ford until halfway through the first of the three stories, but I found myself won over by Ford's clear, non-judgmental narrative of fragile and ambiguous self-delusions that accumulated around his broken, male characters. To the point where I could see myself in these damaged people, and for me that made for some interesting reflections on my own interior monologues. He earned my fifth star in the last part of the final story where he makes a pass at the culture and translation layers of the story -- I thought the main character's interactions with his translator surfaced the emotional distance/proximity problems at play in all three stories in a very interesting, resonant way. Made me want to go back again and re-read this book right away.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Clausen

    A new author to me, however one with a Pulitzer Prize, so that’s the reason to give him my attention. These three stories are long, well-written glimpses into ways men and women get along, and often, don’t. And even when they do get along, I wondered when they’d stop, so that the tension was maintained throughout. I enjoyed the memorable scenarios and locations, of which Paris, France occurred regularly. I’ve not read too much about the city but learned a fair bit from just the two stories locat A new author to me, however one with a Pulitzer Prize, so that’s the reason to give him my attention. These three stories are long, well-written glimpses into ways men and women get along, and often, don’t. And even when they do get along, I wondered when they’d stop, so that the tension was maintained throughout. I enjoyed the memorable scenarios and locations, of which Paris, France occurred regularly. I’ve not read too much about the city but learned a fair bit from just the two stories located there. Our protagonists are drawn to it, even if they don’t love it, which adds a little of the exotic/familiar tension here. Don’t wait for happy endings, and you’ll be just fine with this volume.

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