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The Drowned Life
by Jeffrey Ford


Overview -

There is a town that brews a strange intoxicant from a rare fruit called the deathberry--and once a year a handful of citizens are selected to drink it. . . .

There is a life lived beneath the water--among rotted buildings and bloated corpses--by those so overburdened by the world's demands that they simply give up and go under.  Read more...


 
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More About The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford
 
 
 
Overview

There is a town that brews a strange intoxicant from a rare fruit called the deathberry--and once a year a handful of citizens are selected to drink it. . . .

There is a life lived beneath the water--among rotted buildings and bloated corpses--by those so overburdened by the world's demands that they simply give up and go under. . . .

In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic. In tales marked by his distinctive, dark imagery and fluid, exhilarating prose, he conjures up an annual gale that transforms the real into the impossible, invents a strange scribble that secretly unites a significant portion of society, and spins the myriad dreams of a restless astronaut and his alien lover. Bizarre, beautiful, unsettling, and sublime, The Drowned Life showcases the exceptional talents of one of contemporary fiction's most original artists.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780061435065
  • ISBN-10: 0061435066
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • Publish Date: November 2008
  • Page Count: 290
  • Dimensions: 7.98 x 5.28 x 0.72 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.45 pounds

Series: P.S.

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Short Stories (single author)

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 158.
  • Review Date: 2008-06-30
  • Reviewer: Staff

Following close upon the release of The Shadow Year, Edgar-winner Ford's third collection leads readers down dark and subtle passageways onto some very strange turf. In the title story, people drown and end up in a submerged city whose inhabitants are scornful of anyone wanting to return to the surface; a man named Hatch is compelled to escape Drowned Town in order to uphold a promise to his son. Similar metaphors of submersion are applied to drastically different effect in “The Manticore Spell,” “The Dismantled Invention of Fate” and “In the House of Four Seasons.” In “Night Whiskey,” the book's strangest tale, two men must roust slumbering drunks from trees after an annual festival; in addition to sending celebrants literally up a tree, the special once-a-year bash also features visitations with dead relatives, and what begins as near-slapstick ends with disturbing revelations and a loss of innocence. Throughout these 16 stories, Ford covers much stylistic terrain, weaving between science fiction, realistic stories with fantastic elements and even some nearly straight-up (and successful) comedy. Readers of all stripes should be able to find something here to love. (Nov.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Strange tales, real vision

Earlier this year, Jeffrey Ford's haunting novel The Shadow Year was published to considerable acclaim. Now just months later we have The Drowned Life, a collection of 16 of Ford's recent short stories. This is lucky news for readers, because Jeffrey Ford is one of the best story writers working today. His short fiction is at turns creepy, funny, familiar and strange; it leaves the reader with a sense of having been drawn slowly into a world—or a frame of mind—in which metaphor and reality merge to powerful effect.

Among the more memorable of the stories is "The Night Whiskey," narrated by a boy entrusted to carry out his rural town's bizarre tradition, the Drunk Harvest. A group of villagers, chosen once per year by lottery, are served the rare spirit of the title and sent into a somnambulistic trance, allowing them to communicate with dead loved ones before winding up asleep in the limbs of trees (thus the need for the "Harvest"). What begins as a humorous and fanciful tale takes a disturbing turn, and it's here that Ford displays his mastery of the form. Having first been charmed by the story's quaintness, we find ourselves confronted with the dangerous allure of tradition and the ruinous effects of small-town secrets.

Other stories feature a hidden society of those who remember their time in the womb and communicate by way of a mystical scribble ("The Scribble Mind"), a peculiar wind that causes absurdist transformations ("The Dreaming Wind"), and a father and son who uproot a dead oak tree and discover a journal hidden among its roots (the apparently autobiographical "Present from the Past").

Then there's the title story, in which a man named Hatch winds up in the fantastical city of "Drowned Town," where decomposing deadbeats wander in the shadow of a mechanical shark named Financial Ruin, but the television at the bar is still broadcasting "News from the War." There's a carnival show featuring a prophetic octopus, and a man in a diving suit searching for his lost wife, but what remains with us is the poignancy of Hatch's failure and his desire to return to his family in the world above. Despite their inherent strangeness, Ford's stories are deeply humane, grounded in the details of everyday life and struggle.

Jedidiah Berry is the author of a novel, The Manual of Detection, forthcoming from Penguin in February 2009. He is an assistant editor of Small Beer Press.

 
BAM Customer Reviews