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The Drowned Life Paperback – November 4, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061435066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061435065
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Sometimes we read something and immediately think of a friend who would really like it. This collection of short stories from the author of The Shadow Year contains some of the most unusual and provocative settings and plots this reviewer has ever encountered, which will make it perfect for book talking to patrons. The first story features a man who, filled with the pressures of daily life, finds himself at the bottom of the sea in a place called Drowned Town, on the run from sharks called Financial Ruin. In "The Night Whiskey," local citizens win a chance to drink a magical berry liquor that enables them to experience the dream of a lifetime, only this year the results are quite shocking. In "The Scribble Mind," an art student stumbles onto an elaborate conspiracy where a select few can remember something that gives them exclusive membership into a special society. Sometimes shocking, sometimes mesmerizing, sometimes humorous, this collection will please fans of Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor. Recommended for libraries where short story collections are popular.—Kellie Gillespie, City of Mesa Lib., AZ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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His prose is very straightforward, but also beautiful and poignant.
Steve
Before you realize it your reading the last lines of the story and thinking to yourself, "Wow, I have to read that again!".
Morgan Tribala
The Drowned Life is Jeffrey Ford's third short story collection and it may be his best yet.
Nicholas M. Parisi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas M. Parisi on November 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Drowned Life is Jeffrey Ford's third short story collection and it may be his best yet.

The title story that kicks things off is nothing short of a minor miracle, a surrealistic adventure that's equally heartbreaking, harrowing, and funny. And I mean honestly, laugh out loud three or four times, funny.

In the story, Ford's everyman, Hatch, finds that his financial woes (along with the dark specter of world events and working a soul sapping job) have manifested as a growing tide that he must continuously bail himself out of. When he finally loses the will to keep bailing, he finds himself in "Drowned Town," an underwater city populated by everyone who has "gone under."

One of the risks of surrealism, it seems to me, is that once the reader has entered a dreamscape, the consequences for the characters can lose weight. One of the most impressive things Ford does in "The Drowned Life" (and elsewhere) is retain every bit of gravitas even given the absurdity of the milieu. When Hatch calls home to apologize to his wife for going under, the pathos is genuine. When Hatch tries to navigate through Drowned Town to rescue his son from a rowdy party, his desperation is palpable.

The title story sets the bar incredibly high for whatever follows, yet Ford manages to almost reach that level several more times - in the mobius strip plots of "Under the Bottom of the Lake" and "The Dismantled Invention of Fate," the Bradbury-esque "The Night Whiskey," and the inspired premise of "The Scribble Mind" (you'll never look at a two-year-old's artwork the same way again after reading this one).

Critics love to proclaim a writer as having an "original voice.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Monkey VINE VOICE on November 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
The drowned life is an interesting collection of stories from Jeffery Ford. Ford has written a number of very good books, but this collection of shorts is probably the most interesting peek into the worlds that he has created and built. Usually short story collections can be tedious to read, or filled with half-seen ideas, or incomplete in some way, this book does not carry that burden. The stories are tight and well defined; these are the best, not the low hanging fruit from files that should have stayed on a computer.

The premise behind the shorts is that if you drown and die, you will end up in the underwater world of the dead. There are as many stories in this city as there are decaying corpses, which is what makes the premise of the book unique. The framework is the revisiting of events and moments in life, much like a death dream, with the added penalty of being dead already. No matter the promises that people make, this book approaches a number of good archetypal issues. Loss of innocence, promises made that need to be kept, wild youth and lost days. This book slyly moves between science fiction and fantasy to near reality. What happens to people when it looks right, but everything seems to go wrong as well. These were some very interesting stories to read, and some truly thought provoking as well. How we handle the situations we find ourselves in, is how we work out our issues, and how we tell we are alive. What happens if we carry that on through death, and how death is defined?

Engaging and interesting to read, this was a stay up all night reading the book kind of book. Interesting stories that are well tied together using a novel framework. This is some of Fords best work, leaves the reader fulfilled that there is a reason why this book was written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Jeffrey Ford has a flair for the most speculative of speculative fiction, with storylines that are so creative and surreal that the unlikeliest lessons on human nature are in store for the adventurous reader. It's hard to put your finger precisely on the source of Ford's uniqueness, but it definitely comes down to sheer powers of the imagination. The result is a mix of inner space sci-fi, dark fantasy, and psychological horror in which creeping dread mixes with, and somehow becomes, optimism and insight.

This collection's opener, "The Drowned Life," is a perfect example, developing from a unique (and timely) premise about people literally drowning in a sea of debt and misfortune. Other winners that develop from offbeat ideas into haunting lessons for humanity include "The Night Whiskey," "The Scribble Mind," and "The Dreaming Wind." Ford also has a knack for turning semi-autobiographical vignettes into weirdly surreal plotlines, and he is also quite adept at building a sense of dread from the vaguely supernatural. That last talent can be a source of difficulty however, with some tales like "Under the Bottom of the Lake" and "in the House of Four Seasons" becoming a little too abstract for truly fulfilling resolutions to their mysteries. But in the end, there is something strangely original about Jeffrey Ford's vision, and his unique creativity is perfectly introduced in this collection. [~doomsdayer520~]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Morgan Tribala on May 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ford's words will create images that take your breath away. Simply put, this is one of the best compilations of short fiction that I have ever read. The author takes you on a ride through worlds that run the gamut from bleak to inspiring, fantasy to science fiction, horrifying to modern, and funny to serious. As a fan of all forms of genres, this book fit well with me. Even if some of the stories don't fit your liking, you will likely find more that you do enjoy than you did not.

Ford is an original writer in a time when so much is just copycat work. The stories are wonderful on a purely entertaining level, but hold much deeper meaning for those that really want to discuss his deeper themes. His words simply flow of the page in poetic ripples. Before you realize it your reading the last lines of the story and thinking to yourself, "Wow, I have to read that again!". Very few works of literature capture my attention enough to warrant multiple reads purely for an entertaining purpose, this book did so more than once. Additionally, my reading group has spent a significant time looking at the stories in this compilation, and more than once we have came back to comment on it. Ford is a brilliant writer and nothing less. This is a must have book if you are a fan of short stories and a must have book if your not. A few of my favorite stories include "The Drowned Life", "Under the Bottom of the Lake", and "In the House of Four Seasons". Buy it, read it, enjoy it, and savor it. It's that good.
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