Q&A: 73-year-old Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Richard Ford

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The author of Independence Day says he never planned on living a long life. Nevertheless, at 73, here he is, ready to offer up some life lessons he’s learned on the way to the top.

Richard Ford, 73, is the author of the Bascombe novels, which include The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day–the first novel to win the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award–The Lay of the Land, New York Times bestseller Let Me Be Frank with You and the bestselling novel Canada.

His latest book, Between Them, is a memoir in two parts on the lives of his parents. For Ford, the question of what his parents felt, dreamed of and loved independently of him is made all the more significant by the brevity of their lives. His father, Parker, who died suddenly when Ford was only 16, dominates the first half of the author’s life and of his parents’ story; his mother, Edna, who passed away when he was 37, takes up the second. Says Ford, “I wrote these two memoirs about my parents at a relatively late age in my life and long after my parents’ deaths because I realized I missed my parents very much and that if I wrote about them, I could summon them close to me.”

What advice do you wish you’d given your 25-year-old self?

Don’t look back.

What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?
When people ask me what scares me the most, I always say the same thing: a long life. So, giving my 80-year-old self advice just seems unnecessary.

What do you know for sure?
I love my wife.

What have you learned?
From current evidence, apparently not very much.

What will you never learn?
That’s private.

Best piece of advice?
Go slow at everything.

Did it work?

What inspires you?
Lots. Other people’s excellent work. Bewilderment itself. Language.

The moment that changed everything?
On any given day, I can think of 20.

Happiness is …
In the offing.

A version of this article appeared in the May 2017 issue on p. 96.