Likely Stories : Women with Men, by Richard Ford

Sep 2, 2021

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

I recently had a happy discovery.  A volume, which had fallen from a shelf, led me to a book I had forgotten.  Richard Ford was the author; the book was Women with Men.  These three stories are marvelous!

  

The first is “The Womanizer.”  Richard writes, “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 Joséphine Belliard’s apartment by the Jardin du Luxembourg.  He was on his way to sit with Joséphine’s son, Léo, while Joséphine visited her lawyers to sign papers divorcing her husband.  Later in the evening, he was taking her for a romantic dinner.  Joséphine’s husband was a cheap novelist who’d published a scandalous book in which Joséphine figured prominently; her name used, her parts indelicately described, her infidelity put on display in salacious detail. […] Everybody she knew read it” (3).

The story continues, “Joséphine Belliard was a sub-editor at the publishing house.  She was a small, slender dark-haired Frenchwoman in her thirties and of an odd beauty—a mouth slightly too wide and too thin; her chin soft, almost receding; but with a smooth caramel skin and dark eyes and dark eyebrows that Austin found appealing.  He had caught a glimpse of her earlier in the day when he’d visited the publisher’s office in the rue de Lille.  She was sitting at her desk in a small, shadowy office, rapidly and animatedly speaking English into the telephone. […] Later that night they had gone to dinner, and at the end of the evening he’d taken her home in a taxi, then returned to his hotel alone and gone to sleep” (4).

The second story is “Jealous.”  Ford writes, “In the last days that I lived with my father in his house below the Teton River, he read to me.  Seated at the kitchen table after work or on cold mornings when I dressed in front of him by the stove, he read out loud to me from the Havre or the Conrad newspapers or from magazines—Life or Geographies—or from old schoolbooks that had been bound in twine and abandoned in the back rooms by some previous unknown family who left behind the things they couldn’t take.  We were alone there.  These were the months following my mother’s departure” (91).

Lastly is “Occidentals.”  Richard wrote, “Charley Matthew and Helen Carmichael had come to Paris the week before Christmas.  When they’d made eager plans for their trip back to Ohio, they expected to stay only two days—enough time for Charley (who’d published his first novel) to have lunch with his French editor” (141).

Richard Ford’s collection of stories, Women with Men, is compelling--all the way to the end. 5 Stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!