Read The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford Online


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 aThere 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....

Title : The Drowned Life
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780061435065
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Drowned Life Reviews

  • D. Pow
    2019-05-22 15:17

    The phrase ‘dream-like’ in relation to a work of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, is invoked with such regularity as to be rendered almost meaningless. Nevertheless it is the first thing I think of when it comes to describing Jeffrey Ford’s wonderful new collection of short stories, The Drowned Life. So many stories here contain the cock-eyed logic, sense of menace, dissolution of firm boundaries and Daliesque suspension of the laws of science, that it seems as if Ford has perfect recall of his own nightly journeys and the requisite craft to bring these dark children into the waking day world. Here are some of the examples of the unsettling, weirdly beautiful and nightmarish scenarios Ford has on display here:‘The Drowned Life’ The title track of the album. An under water city exists side by side with our chaotic earth; it is a repository of lost souls, a place one goes to when one has given up. A husband and father decides to descend to this world when life becomes too hard to handle. Down below there is a crazy, ghostly version of the life above, populated with shambling half-humans in varying degrees of decay, living lives that are desperate and futile echoes of their previous fuller existences. The man realizes his mistake and plots his escape via underwater pay phone with his truculent son above.‘The Night Whiskey’ A rare drink is made from a berry that grows in one town only. When drank people get to visit the realm of the dead where they can converse with the beloved and not so beloved departed. After these visits the ritually chosen drinkers are left so depleted and docile that they must be collected from tree branches with long poles. ‘The Dismantled Invention of Fate’ An astronaut meets a beautiful alien and they fall in love. She does or does not die tragically. Their long and loving life is or isn’t an imagination of her dying brain. They are reunited or not through a device of such complexity that Rube Goldberg would be slack-jawed.‘The Way He does it’ A magician performs a signature trick that is never described except for it’s effect on those who view it. To some the trick is so obscene that they despise him to others it is so sublimely beautiful, so utterly transcendent that they are left teary-eyed and transformed.There are over a dozen tales here, all worth reading, and I will mention two more only because of their utter lack of the fantastic underscores how good Ford is: 1)Present from the Past- a straight forward story of a family coping with a mother’s terminal cancer, touching in it’s details, spot on in it’s delineations of the ritual roles adult children assume in catastrophe. 2) The Bedroom Light-about a couple huddled in bed together before they sleep, on the night when a woman suffered a miscarriage. They imagine various things about the denizens of their apartment complex. It’s a subtly sweet little story filled with every day grace and regret that most literary writers would give up small portions of their bodies to have written. Ford’s work, while filled with crazy, foreboding and whimsical fantastical elements are also firmly rooted in reality. So many of these stories contain the salt of the earth drinking and smoking folks that a Steinbeck might have chronicled-ratty low-end middle class people that would fit right in a Roseanne episode or a Raymond Carver story. You never doubt for a moment that real people, wounded and beautiful, fucked-up and fine, are being impacted by the crazy shit that Ford conceives for them. Ford’s wonderful veracity of humble human character is what makes the vastness of his imagination shine even brighter, the utter uniqueness of his scary visions more visceral and compelling. By unloading his cornucopia of nightmare and dreamscapes down in the vale of every day struggle to get by existence he makes you feel a depth of emotion and tug of empathy you wouldn’t usually get from more ethereal fantasy collections. A classic of it’s kind, and a rarity too-highly recommended for dreamers, readers and lovers of the dark.

  • Ben Loory
    2019-05-25 18:57

    jeffrey ford is my new discovery... i stumbled into a reading of his at readercon in massachusetts back in july, and then a second one at the world fantasy convention in san diego a few weeks ago... went home after that, watched a video of a third reading of his on youtube and then promptly impulse-bought every book he ever wrote off the internet... been reading four of them at once over the past few weeks and imagine i will get through them all before the end of the year... really not sure how i could've made it this far without ever hearing of this guy, he's pretty much exactly what i'm always looking for... he's got what seems to be a limitless imagination (which he takes completely seriously), and a sense of the mystery and horror of life (which he tempers with compassion and humor). on top of that he's a got a beautiful, flowing, endlessly readable style... every time i start one of his stories, i read it all the way to the end without ever looking up, ever glancing at the time, ever noticing the page count, ever sighing or wondering when it will end-- which is pretty amazing, considering how short my attention span is these days. favorite stories in this book: "the drowned life," "the night whiskey," "the scribble mind," and (above all) "present from the past," which i really thought was just fantastic. ford reminds me a little of philip k. dick, only less manic, more at ease. his endings don't always resolve the way i'd like, but in his case for some reason i can't help but feel it's my failing and not his... and that some day the other shoe will drop somewhere inside my mind... meanwhile, when they do resolve "right" (as in "present from the past") they can be absolutely devastating... really love this guy...

  • Adam
    2019-05-17 15:13

    The first two stories in this collection put this in the category of the best books of 2008 and in a high place in Ford’s work. These mix warm humor with stunning surrealism, black humored takes on death and life with disturbing imagery presented in an accessible way. “The Drowned Life” and “The Night Whisky” are worlds of dream and nightmares with funny friend as your navigator. This collection continues in quality and variety, the black comic absurdisms of “The Way he Does it” (reminding me of Barthelme) and “The Manticore Spell”(little like Rhys Hughes), autobiographical sketches that aren’t self indulgent, but deeply personal and poignant, the layers of reality in deeply rich “The Dismantled Invention of Fate.”, Lynchian nightmare of “The Bedroom Light”(shades of Eraserhead), “The House of Four Seasons”with its nonstop dreamlike invention and bizarre humor is a surrealist masterpiece skirting on the edge of lucid thought(reminds me of Gene Wolfe’s “Death of Dr. Island” and Stepan Chapman’s Troika with a similar surreal asylum conceit) and the “Dreaming Wind” a marvelous magic realist fable of loss with the titular wind acting like the dream plague of Angela Carter’s “Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffmann, but the story is about when it stops coming. This has the variety of Ford’s first collection and the consistency of his second, making his strongest yet. Those who have missed his work can start here, I believe.

  • Tyler
    2019-05-03 19:06

    great short stories - night whiskey which explores the deathberry and the perilous art of harvesting drunks from trees is amazing and the story about the story at the bottom of the lake is ingeniously told in the style of a seance with the author suddenly seeing things and then having things vanish and then suddenly seeing new thingsthe rest are various forms of oddity that would make for bizarre but beautiful moviesi highly recommend it

  • Scott
    2019-04-26 19:59

    Some time back my brother-in-law David and I read the same book at the same time. We chose "The Drowned Life", a short story collection by Jeffrey Ford. And for the first time when doing this, we were both reading the same things at about the same time.Many of the stories had been published elsewhere, but here is a rundown on what makes up this collection:"The Drowned Life""Ariadne's Mother""The Night Whiskey""A Few Things About Ants""Under the Bottom of the Lake""Present From The Past""The Manticore Spell""The Fat One""The Dismantled Invention of Fate""What's Sure to Come""The Way He Does It""The Scribble Mind""Bedroom Light""In the House of Four Seasons""The Dreaming Wind""The Golden Dragon"I have become a fan of Ford's since the first time I read his work (his novel "The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque"). All of his books, whether a novel or a short story collection, I have enjoyed on some level or another. I think he is a bit underrated as an author.Like with his previous collection of short stories I read, Ford has brought a lot of himself and his life into it. A few of the stories he mentions his real life wife and kids, the place he grew up, where he lives now, and even an uncle that works as a Walt Whitman impersonator. Quite possibly is what makes this collection most interesting. There are truly fantastical stories here. "In the House of Four Seasons" and the title story fit this category. Where as "A Few Things About Ants" and "The Fat One" seem like they are part of his biography. Though "Ants" is more like a bunch of statements or observations all wrapped up in a story that was a real dud in my opinion, and the only one. "The Manticore Spell" is the only other story that's suspect. It just didn't give me anything to be intrigued by, though still well written."The Night Whiskey" and "Bedroom Light" were my favorites. But many other warranted my attention. "Scribble Mind" are rather interesting, though the ending seemed to be heading in an anti-climatic area before recovering. "The Way He Does It" was a fun play on explaining the consequences of something, but never saying what it is. Every story had something to give the reader, and I found something interesting in each. Even if I wasn't that interested in "Ants". "In the House of Four Seasons" was one of the hardest stories to read. It is not in chronological order and the character all went by different names. It got confusing as it went along. However, it was very satisfying. Though quite possibly would have been even better if stretched into novella length. It would have given more room to stretch the crazy order that the reader is given information and given room to do more with the characters' background. It falls into the category of "great story, and could have been better yet if only ....."Another great outing for Mr. Ford. Can't wait, as usual, for his next book.

  • Adam Morgan
    2019-04-29 20:01

    Hands down the best collection I've ever read. Nebula-Winner Ford's (The Well-Built City Trilogy) limitless imagination pops off the page in linguistic fireworks with narratives nestled like Russian dolls in his third collection, a 16-story opus that reads like a primer to the genres of speculative fiction. In "Night Whiskey," a bizarre small town celebrates the annual harvest of the deathberry, which grants passage to the afterlife for a single night. "The Dismantled Invention of Fate" follows a cavalier astronaut across the universe where he discovers love in the form of a blue-skinned warrior amid forests of red grass. In "The Manticore Spell," a medieval apprentice of the occult investigates the appearance of a mythical beast, while "The House of Four Seasons" imagines a distant-future sanatorium where patients fight to escape woods and meadows encapsulated at the bottom of a dark lake. Each story acts as a portal to worlds both peculiar and hauntingly beautiful, masterfully realized by Ford's transcendent prose. While fans of fantasy, SF, and horror will find plenty of thrills in this instant classic, Ford's accessible, literary yarns will appeal to any reader hungry for a unique experience.

  • Heather
    2019-05-24 17:20

    it's early and i'm not feeling eloquent, but: this book is stellar. the two stories mentioned in the description - deathberry, underwater world - are among the best in the book, but there are others just as delightfully odd and vivid. in fact, delightfully odd is probably the best way to describe this collection of short stories. there are a few stories that didn't quite grab me, but on the whole, Ford's use of language and character development is incredibly compelling.

  • Portal in the Pages
    2019-05-12 14:15

    Absolutely incredible. I didn't want to read this, it sat on my shelf for a long old while before eventually I sighed, and picked it up.I was thrown away. Each story is beautiful, and unique and so so wonderfully written. 'The branches shook like the bottom lip of a woman on Thorazine.' Just ugh, lovely.

  • Nick
    2019-05-09 17:18

    One of the best short story writers working today, and this may be his best collection yet. The title story, "The Drowned Life" is nothing short of a minor miracle - poignant, surreal, scary and hilarious all at once. Excellent collection from a writer who is only getting better.

  • John
    2019-05-16 22:09

    Wow. Most of these stories are stunning. They redefine to me what fantasy fiction can do. Maybe I've been missing the boat the past few years and this is nothing new, but it's opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities.

  • OutlineofAsh
    2019-05-24 16:18

    Eerie. That's how I like to describe this collection of short stories. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes bizarre, but always eerie. These stories feel like written dreams, with slippery logic and offhand glimpses that you understand *just* enough to find disturbing.

  • Lori
    2019-05-15 21:05

    Jeffrey Ford is amazing.These short stories are all excellent. The first one I didn't like because it made me uncomfortable which just show how good he is that in so few pages he had me squirming. I now want to run out and go get all of his books because I was so impressed by this book.

  • Sharon
    2019-05-25 16:01

    Brilliant and unusual. A kind of fantastical realism in these books that reminds me of the spirit behind Grimm's fairy tales. Probably would be liked by fans of Gaiman. I am not traditionally a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, but I will definitely be seeking out more of this author's work!

  • Pghbekka
    2019-05-25 18:11

    Great Scott, it's magical realism done right! Highly enjoyable short stories, surreal, yet never losing sight of the story as a whole.

  • Gail
    2019-04-27 22:07

    Some of these stories really stuck with me. My favorite is The Scribble Mind.

  • Akeiisa
    2019-05-25 22:19

    A collection of dark short stories, dancing along and blurring the lines of science fiction and fantasy. A quick and engrossing read.

  • Cherise
    2019-05-22 21:59

    Dark, imaginative, Bradbury-esque collection of short stories.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-17 22:04

    Weird stuff.

  • Randee
    2019-04-26 18:05

    Jeffrey Ford is one of my favorite writers. This is the fourth book of his that I've read and the second collection of short stories ('Crackpot Palace' being the first.) He, of course, writes well but what I absolutely love about Ford is the truly original and fantastic imagination this man has. His short stories reflect this very prominently and it is not only hard to choose my favorites but it is also difficult to even explain some of them. For example, the first story in this collection, 'The Drowned Life' is beautiful and creepy in its tale of what it is like in Ford's imagination on how the dead who have drowned 'live' deep within the waters. I can't help but equate intelligence with great imaginations and the people who think big thoughts and put them to paper are a gift to us all.

  • Ryan Pidhayny
    2019-04-26 21:11

    The Drowned Life is a fantastic collection of weird short stories. Jeffrey Ford effortlessly blends the weird, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and humour throughout the collection. The Scribble Mind and the title story were particularly good.

  • Mercurymouth
    2019-05-09 15:20

    love Jeffrey Ford's imagination!!!

  • Carolyn Kellogg
    2019-05-05 14:07

    The collection "The Drowned Life" raises a banner to salute the power of the imagination. Jeffrey Ford doesn't just invent one world with its own rules, creatures and imagery -- he creates dozens in 16 dreamlike stories, which move between science fiction, fantasy and (mostly) normal backyards.Like Aimee Bender, Ford can take a setting that seems routine and open it with a fantastical twist. Sometimes he does this in small ways, as in "What's Sure to Come," in which a boy watches his grandmother tell fortunes with a standard deck of cards.The adults see a parlor trick, but in the boy's eyes, his grandmother does see the future. In the title story, a father with typical responsibilities becomes the victim of a literalized metaphor; "going under" financially draws him into a submerged world, where he swims and plans his escape from its waterlogged decay.Other stories go even further afield. "The Dismantled Invention of Fate" describes an astronaut's wanderlust, which takes him from planet to planet, each described with the awe of an enchanted tourist; on one he meets his beloved Zadiiz, whose skin is "the color of an Earth sky." In "The Manticore Spell," an apprentice wizard has a role to play in the death of the mythical monster.More than once, younger men find themselves facing duties they may not be quite ready for, as older, powerful figures begin to fade. This is the case in the vivid story "The Night Whiskey," where a man is trained to knock drunks from trees, a chore connected to his town's annual ritual of choosing a few citizens to drink a liqueur made from the local, mysterious death berry. In their drunkenness, they climb into trees and dream of warm encounters with the dead. But when something is brought back from the death dream, its eradication by the town fathers devastates everyone irreparably.Dreams, after all, can be dangerous, as your nightmares will tell you if you listen; Ford listens. In "The Dreaming Wind," a town is blasted, at the beginning of fall, by a wind that brings its dreams to life. "Eyes slipped from the face and wound up in the palm, and mouths traveled to kneecaps. . . . While our citizens suffered bodily these sea changes, bellowing with fear, crying out in torment at being still themselves inside but something wholly other outward, the landscape also changed around them." When the wind recedes, the town is mostly, but not completely, restored: a parrot is left with the face of a china doll, an image both sweet and terrible.Even in this frightening world, the creativity of dreams is a gift; the loss of the dreaming wind leaves the town in sad shape. Elsewhere in this collection, someone is trapped but narrates himself a pastoral life; the author intrudes on another story, part-"Alice in Wonderland," part-history, conjuring it into being on the pages in front of us.As wildly different as these stories are, they show us one thing: The imagination should be nurtured, allowed to run into its darkest corners and up to its brightest peaks. Or maybe, it just needs to stretch for a spell, under a tree in the backyard.Reviewed for the LA TimesNovember 9, 2008

  • Ian Ayres
    2019-05-14 16:07

    dreamlike, unsettling, beautiful, worrying. all of these things and more. This book is unlike anything i've read before. it's hard to describe the atmosphere of the stories here. it's like trying to describe a dream youve just woken up from to someone else, where the details are slipping away and all you're left with are the emotions, or strangely potent scraps and images.excellent

  • Nina Milton
    2019-04-25 17:10

    Disturbing, mesmerizing, subtle and a dark delight to read, this collection is one of my favourites. What I love about Ford's stories is that, although they are fantastic, they're not fantasy. I always feel that the places and people he conjures could be just one town away from where you live, or in the seas that surround. Stories about deathberries, a tree that dies of a broken heart, a secret and beautiful world beneath the sea, and an astronaut with an alien lover. I was first alerted to Ford's work via the internet. I found a story (not in the collection) by him at I'm writing short stories now – a break from writing crime fiction – and I wanted to kick-start my story by using a real, long dead person in a central role. I discovered tht Jeffrey Ford’s inspiration for The Terror was when he was reading about Emily Dickinson's correspondence; “I had a terror—since September—I could tell to none.” Ford says…I imagine the “terror” Emily refers to is her experience that plays out in my story. After mulling it for a year, I’ve imagined she decided to capture it in that famous poem…Because I Could Not Stop For Death… In Ford’s story, the letter the poet wrote becomes a brush with Death, who wants her to help him take a little boy kept alive by witchcraft:…The boy turned at the sound of his mother’s voice, and Emily desperately tried to stifle her astonishment, knowing her life depended on it. Still, an expression of awe escaped her lips, and she instantly recovered by turning the sound into the boy’s name. “Arthur, I’m Emily and I’ve come to keep you company.”His complexion was tinged green and there were scabs and oozing scrapes across his cheeks and forehead. The whites of his eyes were yellowed and the pupils faded to white. Behind his crusted lips, his teeth were brown pegs. He looked to his mother and grunted. Cautiously, he left his chair and stepped across the room to hug Sabille’s legs.Emily lowered herself on her haunches to the child’s height. The boy smelled like a muddy streambed, and there was something shiny dribbling from the side of his mouth. “I’m Emily,” she said again. She reached out to take the child’s scabbed hand, but at the last second he drew it quickly away. His sudden movement frightened her and she reared backward, nearly falling over. As she stood, he opened his horrid mouth at her. A second later, she realized he was laughing…The Terror is both horror and literature and gave me the inspiration I needed. So of course I went right out and bought The Drowned Life, so I could continued being horrified!

  • Oliver
    2019-05-14 20:14

    Enjoyable and provocative collection of short stories.

  • Kinsey_m
    2019-05-13 21:53

    I had read the Empire of Icecream in the anthology "The secret history of science fiction" and totally loved it, which is why I started looking for more books by Ford. I started reading the "Drowned life", and the first story just didn't grab me, so I left it after some pages and went direct for the "the night whisky", which many reviewers pointed out as the best story in the collection. And yes, the night whisky is magnificent, 5 stars material. It's the best kind of magical realism, when it feels real, with a purpose and like the magic element is integral to the characters lifes and is not just thrown in for the quirkiness of it, and the story doesn't need to shout look at how clever I am but instead engulfes you with the realness of the characters, their feelings and their problems. But then I read or started reading several other stories in this collection and they just left me completely cold, or I was so incapable of getting into them that I would not finish them. I was really disppointed, beacuse both Empire and Whisky were so great, and I hated to think that I was missing out on some other gems like those, which I am sure must be hidden somewhere in this collection or elsewhere in Jeffrey Ford's work. However, continuing to read this collection felt to me like reading the dishwasher instruction manual for fun. So I finally gave up. The 3 start rating is just in order to not led anyone away from the night whisky, rather than for the collection itself.If I could find a "best of Jeffrey Ford" collection, that went direct to the good stuff and spared me the filler, I'd be delighted.

  • Ben Hallman
    2019-04-30 22:03

    I hope I'm simply not being contrarian with my opinion of this book, since it was recommended to me by three people, all of whom told me I'd love it. But I just can't get into The Drowned Life, no matter how many times I pick it up.Jeffrey Ford is a talented writer, but I find his style borders on self-indulgent. He creates quite absurd, surrealist situations, often with clever twists founded upon a strong sense of magical realism, but he tends to spin his wheels, getting too caught up in the setting and his own verbosity to move the story along at an enjoyable pace. And, while I did actually dig a couple of the stories in this collection, on the whole I was troubled by an overwhelming aimlessness that hampers most of the tales."The Night Whiskey," a creepy, engrossing little number about the dangers of poking around in the afterlife, was the highlight of The Drowned Life, and the most cohesive story of the bunch.A good half of the collection I gave up on. Several stories seemed more throwaways than attempts at enjoyable short fiction. Others never pulled together into more than fleeting sketches, concepts with no grounding theme to anchor them.Not for me.

  • Kyle Muntz
    2019-05-21 18:18

    I've wanted to read Jeffrey Ford for a long time--and, for the most part, he definitely lives up to my expectations. The writing in this collection has a huge range (from tempered realism to vivid, incredibly focused but hallucinatory fantasy), and he does it with this smooth, flowing prose style and endless poise. Sometimes Ford bothered me for the same reason as Kelly Link--I wasn't fond of the more stylistically self-aware stories and sometimes they read more like unresolved strings of imagery than narratives, but he had a great eye for character/voice, and when things were in focus, they were always brilliant. There were a few too many misses for 5 stars, but I especially loved "The Manticore Spell" and "The Dismantled Invention of Fate," which show Ford at his fantastical best, and "The Night Whisky" and "The Scribble Mind" for his more realistic writing. So much good stuff here though--I know I'll be reading at least one more collection, and probably most of his novels at some point.

  • Brian
    2019-05-06 19:06

    Thank you so much Patty for sending me this book. I feel Jeffrey Ford has violated my mind. He has penetrated my thoughts and my dreams and created stories from them. My favorite is the titled story 'The Drowned Life'. I've been there. I have gills. The story 'The Dismantled Invention of Fate' is me... I sit and watch people approach but really have nothing to say to them. How can one relate such experiences that are so personal, unique, and sometimes unbelievable? It would be better if they didn't climb the mountain.This was really an excellent collection of short stories that inspired me and taught me the craft of putting 26 letters together to create dreamscapes, short stories that wedge themselves deep in your head.I want to grow a deathberry tree and I want to eat the berries.Thanks again Patty... and thank you Mr Ford. But please in the future stay out of my head.

  • Jefferson Tesla
    2019-05-14 17:21

    A decent collection of imaginative fiction, slightly disappointing based on the two brilliantly weird stories I'd previously read by the author, "Daltharee" in Lightspeed, and "At Reparata" in the VanDermeer's New Weird collection. Only the phantasmagorical title story, and two genre pastiches in the collection, "The Manticore Spell" for fantasy, and "The Dismantled Invention of Fate" for sci-fi come close to those stories' uniqueness. "In the House of Four Seasons" shares a similarly bizarre setting with the ones that initially hooked me, but it lacks defined characters and ends too soon. The rest of the book is filled out with little sketches of Dandelion Wine-esque psuedo-autobiography and dark fantasy, nothing too memorable.