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Crackpot Palace: Stories Paperback – August 14, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062122592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062122599
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Edgar-winner Ford's (The Girl in the Glass) latest is a collection of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery tales that emerge from the "crackpot palace" of the author's macabre imagination. The 20 stories‚--îmost previously published‚--îveer from tired imitations like the teen vampire romp "Sit the Dead" to the more adult allegory of a threatened marriage in "86 Deathlick Road". Ford creates dense alternate worlds filled with magic, curses and dangerous technology in stories such as the Asimovian "The Seventh Expression of the Robot General" about a sentient killing machine that longs for its own destruction, or the excellent "The Wish Head," about a scarred detective who investigates the mysterious death of a beautiful young woman. Themes of science and religion also abound, as in "The Dream of Reason" about a scientist who destroys a mind for knowledge, or in the narratively ambitious "Relic," in which a flawed priest loses his church's saintly artifact to a thief. The volume's strangest feature is the self-reflective post-scripts that follow most of the stories, giving the author's commentary on each one's provenance and meaning. Scattered throughout are shivers, smiles, and thought-provoking conceits, but with the proliferation of time-worn pulp themes (e.g., Indian curses and doppelgangers, the stories' over-earnestness and superficiality are distracting.

Review

“Unusual and provocative…sometimes shocking, sometimes mesmerizing, sometimes humorous, this collection will please fans of Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor. Recommended.” (School Library Journal on THE DROWNED LIFE)

“We should be grateful that alongside the firm of Updike, Cheever, Ford & Company there exists, in both fiction and film, an American tradition that depicts the suburbs as places of wonder rather than stultification, discovery rather than predictability.” (New York Newsday)

“Think Ray Bradbury’s Green Town stories, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Stephen King’s The Body (made into the film Stand by Me) and you get an idea of the tone of Ford’s latest fine work. Grade: A” (Rocky Mountain News)

“The trilogy [The Physiognomy, Memoranda, and The Beyond] is simply brilliant and constitutes a modern masterwork of fantasy.” (Terri Windling, "Top Twenty Fantasy Novels of 2001" from Year's Best Fantasy & Horror vol. 15)

“The Shadow Year captures the totality of a lived period, its actualities and its dreams, its mundane essentials and its odd subjective imperatives; it is a work of episodic beauty and mercurial significance.” (Nick Gevers, Locus)

“Surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird. Ford has a rare gift for evoking mood with just a few well-chosen words and for creating living, breathing characters with only a few lines of dialogue.” (Booklist)

“Spooky and hypnotic...Recommended for all public libraries.” (Library Journal)

“Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too. For those of you—and you know who you are—who think the indispensable element for good genre fiction is good writing, this is not to be missed.” (Kirkus Review, Starred)

“Jeffrey Ford’s latest triumph, THE SHADOW YEAR, is as haunting as it is humorous…readers will recognize real talent in Ford’s vivid, unerring voice.” (Louisville Courier Journal on THE SHADOW YEAR)

“Ford travels deep into the wild country that is childhood in this novel …the observations and adventures of these sharp, wayward children provide more than enough depth to be satisfying.” (New York Times on THE SHADOW YEAR)

“Children are the original magic realists. The effects that novelists of a postmodern bent must strive for come naturally to the young, a truth given inventive realization in this wonderful quasi-mystery tale by Jeffrey Ford.” (Boston Globe on THE SHADOW YEAR)

“A collection of surreal, melancholy stories dealing with everything from worlds of the drifting dead to drunken tree parties. Ford is the author of the superlative, creepy Well-Built City trilogy and his writing is both powerful and disturbing in the best possible way.” (Gawker on THE DROWNED LIFE)

“[Ford’s] writing is both powerful and disturbing in the best possible way.” (io9 on Jeffrey Ford)

“The 16 stories in this collection are a perfect introduction to Ford’s work and illustrate the vast range of his imagination…If you haven’t discovered Ford, it’s time you did. His carefully crafted novels and short stories are all top-notch. Grade: A.” (Rocky Mountain News)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
This is an outstanding collection of weird fiction.
Laurie A. Brown
I found myself finishing stories and thinking "Good, but not great. Maybe the next one will hit the mark."
cordyceps
His writing is energetic, haunting, exhilirating, lyrical, and damned funny.
Daniel Powell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bowes on August 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Jeff Ford does not need praise from the likes of me. But I'm bothered that Crackpot Palace hasn't gotten more and better reviews here on Amazon.

Jeff has taught American Lit - the old stuff. And that's here in the writing: Irving, Hawthorne, Melville a solid splash of Poe are present as he shows us the Wonder and Hell of exurban New Jersey in "Down Atsion Road," "The Double of My Double is not My Double," and "86 Deathdick Road."

But he's not just a spec fiction Updike or Cheever. The range is wide: He's got a city in a bottle with "Daltharee," follows H.G. Wells in "After Moreau." Ganesha talks in the story of that name. Ford's evocation of the simultaneous mundanity and surrealism in mid-20th Century Catholicism is superb (trust me on this) in "The War Between Heaven and Hell Wallpaper."

There are twenty stories in here and I don't think there's a dud. My favorite?

Well, I did a reading with Jeff one night in New York and insisted on going first because it's not wise to try and follow him. What he came up with was "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"

It's a 1940 black and white early noir film the kind with a leading man who played bad guys in A pictures and a leading lady who's better remembered for her divorces than her movies. Except that in the way of Ford a door opens into a wilder, darker place where 1940 movies, sadly, never went.

But now you can. Go buy the book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Brown VINE VOICE on September 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding collection of weird fiction. The twenty stories include horror, magical realism, fantasy, and even a steampunk one. Some are outright fantasy from start to finish; others are so subtle that it's like they are our normal world, but someone has pulled it just ever so slightly out of kilter. My favorite was "Down Atsion Road", in which an aging artist is pursued by a Native American demon. The scariest? "Daddy Longlegs of the Evening", which will give anyone with arachnophobia the creeps. Note: the creature is not just a spider. It's far, far worse than that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Powell on September 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
I cited Mr. Ford last week in a debate we were having on the finest examples of contemporary literature in a class over at UCF. His writing is energetic, haunting, exhilirating, lyrical, and damned funny. You'll see what I mean when you encounter this line:

The fire-eater never even turned around but kept working like he was nonunion.

I dare you not to chuckle at that one. It's just one of many great lines that speak to Ford's gifts as a storyteller. His tales have a pretty fierce duality. He packages humor with dark, dark content to great effect. Those who've read his story "The Drowned Life" can expect a lot more of that here.

And Ford's writing is just getting better. While some of the tales in this collection were written many years ago, most of them are of a recent vintage. I've read all of his collections, and this one is the best so far.

Most pitchers lose their fastball over time, and sometimes that analogy has some appropriate overlap with fiction writers. I'm happy to say that, in the case of Jeffrey Ford, his heater is alive and well.

Ford's eye for detail and ability to turn a phrase are on display in his more nostalgic stories. That nostalgia, by the way, isn't of the wondrous, rosy, geez-life-is-great variety. It's the realistic, pragmatic nostalgia that accompanies the memories we've all had of struggling through a period of time, of living in crappy apartments over crowded alleys. "Every Richie There Is" is a great example of this. It's a short examination of those people in our lives that become symbols of a certain time and place. We all know a Richie--he's abrasive and strange and frail and brash; he imposes on others and, though we may not want to talk to him every day, we feel a little weird about the days in which we don't.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cordyceps on January 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
After reading other reviewers' enthusiastic praise for Crackpot Palace, I wonder why the book didn't resonate with me the same way. The stories are clever, the settings strange and atmospheric, but somehow they don't really soar. I found myself finishing stories and thinking "Good, but not great. Maybe the next one will hit the mark."

Perhaps it's because many of the stories seem so familiar: some evoke Bradbury, some Vance, others Poe. The similarity with Gaiman is striking. Overall, it feels derivative. If you like the aforementioned authors and are hungry for more in the same vein, you may find this collection satisfying, but Bradbury is more lyrical, Vance's stories more richly imagined, and Poe has no equal. Each story in Crackpot Palace has a short commentary by the author, and I think this contributes to my reaction: it makes them feel like pastiche.

That said, Ford is a good storyteller, and when he finds his muse (especially "86 Deathdick Road") he's quite entertaining. There are just too few of these moments to make the collection compelling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Stone on January 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The collection has it all- a great vampire hunter tale, a crime story, a supernatural thriller, even something similar to swords and sorcery. And of course there are plenty of the surreal, dreamlike short pieces Ford is famous for. If you are familiar with Ford's short fiction, you already know you want to read this. If not, this is as good a place to start as any.
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