The heart of the crime

Prospect Magazine

The heart of the crime

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For psychological and linguistic brilliance, Richard Ford remains hard to beat

Richard Ford, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1996, is best known for mining the darkly faceted anthracite of the adult male psyche


By Richard Ford (Bloomsbury, £18.99)

More than 30 years after I first saw Terrence Malick’s film Badlands, I can still hear the childish sing-song of Sissy Spacek as the charismatic serial killer’s worshipful girlfriend. How wrenching her lilting rhythms became as she described their murder spree in the only language she knew: the diction of the fan magazine, the soap opera, and the tabloid.

Why should it seem so American, the voice of a child who has witnessed, or participated in, the crimes of the adults? Certainly, children everywhere have been scarred by the bad behaviour of grown-ups. But though other countries have their Jane Eyre and David Copperfield, their Young Törless and Jakob von Gunten, there is something about these stories narrated by

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Francine Prose is a novelist and critic. Her latest book is “Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them” (Union) 

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