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The Machine in Ward Eleven Paperback – August 27, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press (August 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568582102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568582108
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,538,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on December 17, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Originally published in the early '60s, The Machine in Ward 11 is a collection of six short stories by Charles Ray Willeford. Though the six stories all stand independent from each other, a theme of madness and disillusionment runs through them. A brilliant film director goes insane when his artistic vision is curtailed by the demands of reality. A cocky air force pilot commits a senseless murder and finds himself assigned to the mountains of Tibet as an indirect consequence. A recovering alcoholic discovers that giving up drinking is possibly the worst thing he's ever done. These stories are filled with a wry sense of the macabre. Of these stories, three were previously published and three were written (I assume) specifically for this book. The three original stories -- A Letter to A.A., "Just Like On Television," and Jake's Journal are the strongest in the collection. I was especially enthralled by Jake's Journal (which deals with the unfortunate pilot in Tibet) which is a story that defies any easy interpretation. While at first, it seems that the story will be a rather standard tale of a man going insane in isolation, Willeford instead piles on more and more bizarre anecdotes and incidents before building up to a brilliant, tour-de-force ending.
Willeford, best known for writing Miaimi Blues, is often dismissed as an occasionally interesting but otherwise unremarkable writer of pulp fiction. This dismissal manages to unfairly underrate both Willeford's talent and pulp fiction itself. While the melodrama was often sordid and over-the-top, pulp fiction -- especially in the years immediately following World War II -- often served to give voice to a darkened and, at times quite critical view of the American Dream then one might find in more "respectable" books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Professor on September 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many Willefordians, I suspect, are like myself--they discovered the Hoke Mosely novels first and then started working their way back through the earlier stuff. The rewards are numerous.

Another reviewer here dismissed the stories in _Ward Eleven_ as pulp pieces that are representative "of their time" and haven't aged very well.

But to me, looking over the past four decades of post-modern American experience, these stories are as relevant as ever, even prophetic in places. The "Machine," seen as a political metaphor, couldn't be more timely for those of us living in the 21st century.

I understand why the _Village Voice_ reviewer called this a political book, and I think his comparison of Willeford to Chekov is accurate.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
The book contains six stories:
The title story is the creepy account of an asylum inmate forced to take drastic action in order to avoid electro-shock treatment.
"Selected Incidents," a tribute to Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories, is a pitch-perfect parody of a Hollywood picture producer.
"A Letter To A.A. (Almost Anybody)" is an alcoholic's confession that sets up like a Raymond Carver story and then delivers an ironic payoff that is straight out of Fredric Brown.
"Jake's Journal" is the first person account of an American serviceman who runs afoul of his superiors in the Phillipines and is exiled to a lonely airstrip in Tibet where he slowly goes mad.
"Just Like On Television" is a parody of one of Jack Webb's suspect interviews on the old "Dragnet" TV show. The entire story is told in a Q&A format between an interviewing detective and a discursive suspect.
"The Alectryomancer" is the story of a Caribbean conman who uses trained roosters to predict the future.
The back-cover copy calls Willeford's stories "almost Chekhovian." This is nonsense. His work can hold its own with the short fiction of Fredric Brown, Jack Finney, Richard Matheson, or Charles Beaumont, but there is nothing particularly deep or memorable about it. The stories are clever pieces of American pulp fiction circa 1960, but they are very much of their time and haven't aged particularly well.
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