Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review: The Drowned Life

The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and The Empire of Ice Cream are two of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. Not only did they introduce me to the Golden Gryphon Press but they introduced me to one of my favorite authors; Mr. Jeffrey Ford. It’s hard for me to put into words my thoughts on Jeffery Ford as his writing is both ethereal and grounded at the same time. Any story he writes is worthy of attention and it was with great pleasure that I sat down to read his latest short story collection The Drowned Life.

The Drowned Life-
Whatever it was he was going for in this story whether it was allusion, metaphor or allegory it was over my head and thus didn’t do it for me.

Ariadne’s Mother
-Very Short. Very Clever.

The Night Whiskey-An absolutely great story which takes a interesting concept and then executes it flawlessly. I’m so glad to have this collection as I read the Night Whiskey a couple years ago in an anthology and its just such a great idea I always want to have it on hand.

All I’ll say about the story is that with the Night Whiskey there are more dangers then just a hangover the next day or hitting on your best friend’s wife.

A Few Things About Ants-This story for me defines Jeffery Ford. He turns an odd premise into something completely enthralling as the narrator reminisces about his past. It makes you remember how great the simple things in life can be.

The Bottom of the Lake
-Original narrative perspective that I hadn’t come across before. The story unfolds in front of us and the narrator at the same time. A good solid story that I was able to sink my teeth into.

Present from the Past-Ford has an absolute mastery of the family dynamic and this is a perfect example of such. The story is one of the up and downs we all encounter in our family life. There is redemption, then loss, and finally a sort of redemption in the end. The way in which this story unfolds you can’t help but empathize with the main character as Ford puts you directly in his shoes.

The Manticore Spell
-This is something you don’t see often from Ford; Traditional Fanstasy i.e. swords and sorcery. Much of his Fantasy is set in the modern world so it was nice to see his take on medieval fantasy. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s a solid story.

The Fat One- Just a fun story to read. Be warned though this is not one to read on an empty stomach as it will make you ravenously hungry. Unless you’re a vegetarian or a health nut in which case you’ll probably be sickened.

The Dismantled Invention of Fate-Here’s the first truly science fiction story of the group and it’s a doozy. The story delves into the true nature of love and also in the true nature of reality. Very enjoyable read.

What’s Sure to Come-For my money this is the best story in the collection. With a combination of prophetic dreams, card games, horse racing, small business ownership and a cast of great characters this is one not to be missed.
The Way He Does It-Whatever “It” is he does it well. Not just well he does “It” the best. What is “It” he does? I don’t want to spoil it for you so you’ll have to check out the story yourself.

The Scribble Mind-
One never really knows what’s occurring in this short little mystery. Dark ulterior motives may lay beneath the surface. Then again maybe not. It will keep you guessing throughout.

The Bedroom Light
-Call me a wimp or what not but certain scary stories tend to creep me out. Namely the ones with sinister small children and those of a more psychological nature. This story had both and as such gave me the heebie-jeebies.

In the House of the Four Seasons
-This is another example of Ford experimenting with narrative structure and unfortunately for me this one came across as a failed experiment. There’s really not much to be said here as I don’t want to spoil anything for you future readers out there.

The Dreaming Wind
-In each story collection there’s one story that is just beautiful. It’s the type of story that you want to read to your children as it’s truly magical. In The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant we were given The Annals of Eelin-Ok and in The Drowned Life we are given The Dreaming Wind.

As I mentioned before it is a beautifully written story and truly will pull at your heart strings. In the last days of summer The Dreaming Wind comes down from the distant north to wreak havoc on the tiny village by distorting everything into a dreamscape with weird creatures and other oddities that can only be found in one’s dreams.

From time eternal the Dream Wind has blown through the village only this year it hasn’t…

The Golden Dragon-
This story is the last of the collection and as such is a nice way to close. It’s somber as it focuses on a young man just starting a family and the friends he makes in his neighborhood. Throughout the daily grind that each endures they meet up for a weekly card game which allows each to relax from the stress of daily life. Only as with life, things change and not always for the better.

In conclusion this is another strong showing from Ford and well worth your time to pick it up. While there are some stories that didn’t gel with me the ones that did gel were phenomenal. I firmly believe that Ford’s work will endure for 10, 20 even 50 years down the road as they speak to me in a way which few works of fiction ever have. He’s a wonderful author and it’s my hope that more people will seek out Ford’s work and fall in love with it as I have.



  1. Just stating the obvious here but we have very similar tastes!

    Have you read The Fantasy Writer's Assistant or Empire of Ice Cream yet? The first editions are getting a little harder to find but Golden Gryphon just released both of them in paperback.

  2. Nope. In fact, The Drowned Life was the first Ford I've read...I've got to stop hearing about more books I need to read!