There’s an interview that touches on the marginal in Richard Ford’s novels over at the CSMonitor: “Richard Ford: Why writing is an act of optimism.” Ford is a writer I’m not heavily familiar with. From what I do know, the main character in his famed “Frank Bascombe trilogy” is not particularly marginal in most practical senses of the word–or, maybe more simply, the broadest senses. Ford’s trilogy seems to focus mostly on a non-marginalized guy whom sometimes has his eyes to the marginal–something that tends to get a lot of play in the most mainstream sense, as far as anything with the marginalized actually goes. His latest novel, Canada, focuses on some characters that lose their safety net in life.
Though I’m a bit lost in the potentially huge space between ‘failure’ and ‘existential failure,’ I found this part of the interview pretty stirring:
Q. Would you say you are a positive writer who explores existential failures in your books?
I feel that’s exactly what I am – an optimist, who believes with Sartre, that to write about the darker possible things is an act of optimism. But what I’m looking for is drama, which occurs when people are at a loss, and not succeeding. I try to find a vocabulary which makes those things expressible. In the process of making those expressible to a readership, it becomes an act of optimism, because it imagines a future in which these things will be understood, and be mediated in some way. Writing for me is always an act of optimism. I probably wouldn’t do it otherwise, no matter how dark things are.