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28 December 2008 @ 03:23 pm
Why I Hate Jeffrey Ford  
So there I was, taking a break from putting the final polish on a new short story, and I sat down with 14theditch's The Drowned Life. Even though I was already familiar with many of these stories, having experienced a number of them during their original publications thanks to many perspicacious editors, and had even heard him read some of them aloud, including the collection's title story at last year's Readercon, as I read them straight through it was like a receiving a blow with a 2 × 4 to the back of the skull.

The highlights for me were "The Night Whiskey," in which a cloistered town's strange fruit causes visions in some, while at the same time creating a need for others to pluck the wandering dreamers from the tree tops, and "Present From the Past," in which the removal of a dead oak from the backyard brings a family together and reveals a forgotten treasure, and "The Bedroom Light," in which what remains unsaid is far more important than what is said, and ...

In fact, why am I bothering to pluck out individual titles and call them highlights? They're all highlights. In fact, The Drowned Life is the best book I've read all year.

Based on the copyright page, two of the stories—"The Fat One" and "The Golden Dragon"— seem to appear here for the first time, and are reason enough to buy the collection, even if you already have Inferno and The Starry Rift and Eclipse and all of the other anthologies and magazines in which Jeff's fiction has appeared. And even if I'm wrong, and those two tales have had prior lives elsewhere, well ... go buy The Drowned Life anyway.

So with all that love and awe, why the hate?

It all comes back to my own short story, the one I was in the midst of finishing. Blown away by Jeff's talent, all I could think was—Why do I bother? What's the point? I always find it dangerous to read great writing when in the midst of my own creating, usually setting aside those tales I know will amaze for the crevices between my own stories, since comparisons are odious, and I can be made to feel inadequate in the presence of the truly perfect. In this case, Jeff's stories demonstrated a sense of purpose, an understanding of the human condition, and a precision of language so far beyond what I felt I was accomplishing in this instance that I had to fight against trashing my story, regardless of all the effort I'd put into it and the many drafts I had done, in order to then start up again on something new and more, I don't know, I guess the word is worthy.

Before I could go on, I had to clear my head, to shake off the stupor created from the taste of Jeff's night whiskey. I eventually did so, but it wasn't easy. With Jeff's spell lifted, I was able to finish that final polish, and my latest story will go out in the mail tomorrow. It was a close call.

And that's why I hate Jeffrey Ford.
Richard Parksogre_san on December 28th, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah. He'd be easy to hate if he wasn't such a nice guy. :)
International Bon Vivant and Raconteurnick_kaufmann on December 29th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
I hate him because he's beautiful.
Oz Whiston writing as Oz Drummondbirdhousefrog on December 31st, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
He's very daunting, I agree.