Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford

The first two stories in this collection put this in the category of the best books of 2008 and in a high place in Ford’s work. These mix warm humor with stunning surrealism, black humored takes on death and life with disturbing imagery presented in an accessible way. “The Drowned Life” and “The Night Whisky” are worlds of dream and nightmares with a funny friend as your navigator. This collection continues in quality and variety, the black comic absurdisms of “The Way he Does it” (reminding me of Barthelme) and “The Manticore Spell”(little like Rhys Hughes), autobiographical sketches that aren’t self indulgent, but deeply personal and poignant, the layers of reality in deeply rich “The Dismantled Invention of Fate.”, Lynchian nightmare of “The Bedroom Light”(shades of Eraserhead), “The House of Four Seasons” with its nonstop dreamlike invention and bizarre humor is a surrealist masterpiece skirting on the edge of lucid thought(reminds me of Gene Wolfe’s “Death of Dr. Island” and Stepan Chapman’s Troika with a similar surreal asylum conceit) and the “Dreaming Wind” a marvelous magic realist fable of loss with the titular wind acting like the dream plague of Angela Carter’s “Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffmann, but the story is about when it stops coming. This has the variety of Ford’s first collection and the consistency of his second, making his strongest yet. Those who have missed his work can start here, I believe.

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