Tag Archives: Jeffrey Ford

Big Dark Hole

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Big Dark Hole: and Other Stories [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Jeffrey Ford.

Ford Big Dark Hole

Big Dark Hole is a collection of fantasy and horror stories by Jeffrey Ford. Comparing it to his previous collection A Natural History of Hell, I find that the Hole is more this-worldly in its choices, with only two stories (“The Inn of the Dreaming Dog” and “Sisyphus in Elysium”) set in realities that do not at least seem to be our world within the possible stretch of living memory.

In fact, there are a number of stories where the speaker is Jeffrey Ford, an aging writer of stories and teacher of writing, one who likes to spend the evenings at his Ohio farm house drinking wine on the porch with his wife Lynn. But these stories, which notably include “The Match,” “The Bookcase Expedition,” and “Five-Pointed Spell,” are not a bit less weird in the events they recount than the bizarre carnival story narrated by a man with two faces (“Hibbler’s Minions”) or the one in which a perennial dinner guest turns out to be no one’s friend or relation and perhaps not human at all (“Thanksgiving”).

There’s a bit of additional self-referentiality in “Five-Pointed Spell” where a Hex Doctor tells “Ford” that “In real life, the supernatural declines to explain” (186). This refusal is supposedly different than in fiction, where “it must” explain. Yet in most of Ford’s stories here, the characters grope for explanations, largely in vain, when confronted with horrors and wonders outside the scope of the mundane. If the reader is able to settle on a rationale, Ford’s touch is light enough that it will seem like a discovery.

These pieces are largely reprints from multi-author collections and periodicals, but I had not read any of them before. This book confirmed Ford as a favorite of mine among twenty-first century writers of weird fantasy.

A Natural History of Hell

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford.

Ford A Natural History of Hell

This book is an excellent collection of thirteen short stories by Jeffrey Ford. There is a lot of variety among the stories, with a few actually having to do with “hell” or “the devil.” A couple are science fiction. There are two in which Ford represents himself as a narrating character, so that they recount stories supposedly told to him. Most could be classed as supernatural horror, although none are exactly typical of the genre. All are memorable and worth reading.

Out of the thirteen, “The Angel Seems” was the one that most reminded me of Ford’s Well-Built City trilogy, and it almost seemed as if it could have been placed in that unusual fantasy world. “Blood Drive” is a story about high school, set in the near future when first published in 2013, and now looking disturbingly prescient. There is a tale of fairies (“The Fairy Enterprise”), a ghost story (“The Thyme Fiend”), and a piece of sword and sorcery (“Spirits of Salt”). The longest story in the collection features Emily Dickinson as its protagonist.

The cover of the paperback edition boasts a blurb from Joyce Carol Oates in which she praises Ford as “beautifully disorienting.” His fantasy constantly raises epistemological questions, but in the most matter-of-fact ways. Although I had read a number of his short stories before (including one of these), this was the first time I’ve read a full volume of them, and the experience was very satisfying.