Vladimir Nabokov expressed contempt for the idea that fictional characters can influence their own destinies. “That trite little whimsy … is as old as the quills,” he told the Paris Review. “My characters are galley slaves.” No doubt Richard Ford intended an homage to Nabokov when he referred to his own characters as slaves some years back. (“Sometimes at night I hear them singing over in their cabins,” he said.) But Richard Ford is no Nabokov, and his narrator, Frank Bascombe, no Humbert Humbert.