Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2010, pt. 26: Jeffrey Ford

Some Pleasures of 2010
by Jeffrey Ford

2010 was a busy year for me, but not in the arenas of reading, viewing, and listening to music. Still, there were some pleasures along these lines. I saw a bunch of stuff I'd have liked to check out, but maybe now in the coming months I can get to it. Here are some of the things that took my fancy.


Cyclonopedia by Rega Negrastani -- I found this one on Jeff VanderMeer's blog. It's crazy. Petrol-politics, mythology and legend, and perhaps the defining monster of the 21st century, oil itself, a sentient entity that feeds off War. Swatches of theoretical static against a Hitchcock type plot. This book has the uniqueness of novels like The House of Leaves or People of Paper. At times frustrating but all in all the most exciting book I read in 2010.

The Narrator by Michael Cisco -- I've seen Cisco's work in this book likened to that of Celine, Ligotti, Robbe-Grillet, etc., but I felt a connection with the great Jonathan Swift by way of the cloud city of Laputa. The tale of a war and its narrators. Also the revelation that humanity doesn't care much what it's doing as long as it's doing it. Cisco's a visionary writer, and the prose often has a wonderfully hallucinatory effect. One thing he won't get credit for here, although he should, is that this book is a marvelous example of world-building -- no info-dumps, just steadily insinuated from the first lines onward.

The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano -- I've still yet to tackle Bolano's longer books -- Savage Detectives and 2666, but I've read all of the shorter works. The Skating Rink is my favorite of these. A cooly meandering, noir, love triangle of a noval. Bolano, at least in the shorter books, lets the story go where it wants to often exhilarating affect.

Short Stories 

I got a chance to read Ekaterina Sedia's upcoming, as of yet untitled, collection from Prime -- world mythology, ghosts of the Soviet Union, Russian history, sentient realities, fairy tales, and a creepy zombie Lenin. Beautiful writing and great versatility. If you're a short story lover, this is one you're not going to want to miss.

I was taken by the stories of Alexandra Duncan, a new writer to me, who appeared at least three times in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2010 -- "Amor Fugit" "The Door in the Earth" "Swamp City Lament." Fabulous writing. Do yourself a favor and check these out if you get a chance. I have a feeling Ms. Duncan will be coming out with more great work in the years to come.

A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud (translated by Edward Gauvin) -- This collection from Small Beer is a treat. You will often see Chateaureynaud likened to Kafka, but I find him to have a very unique voice. Fabulation with intrusions from the everyday and the utterly surreal. From what I've read, Gauvin does an excellent job with the translations here.


The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan -- By all accounts, Egan has written the definitive book about the experience of The Dust Bowl. I was reading this during the Gulf oil spill and the ecological/greed factors of both eco-tragedies are a testament to what extent humanity has the ability to fuck up Nature. The Dust Bowl, if you know nothing about it is like something from the imagination of a twisted Fantasy writer.

Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture 1606-1676 by Walter W. Woodward -- Gwenda Bond tipped me off to this one. As a professor of Early American Lit. this book really opened my eyes to aspects of Puritan culture and the beginnings of America I had no idea about. Readers interested in the history of Science might like this as well.


I only saw one movie that came out this year that I really liked thoroughly -- Winter's Bone. A meth cooking murder mystery and a story about the bonds of family from the Missouri outback. Some first-rate performances.

As for older movies, I caught two great performances by Richard Widmark this year -- Night and the City and No Way Out. I also enjoyed The Friends of Eddie Coyle for Robert Mitchum's performance and its dedication to reality.


"Dub Side of the Moon" by The Easy Star All-Stars -- I have to admit that I was skeptical as to whether Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" could be improved upon by the power of Reggae. What I found was that "Dub Side" was its own creature, not detracting from the original, but using it to create something else quite grand. (

Be Thankful For What You Got by One Blood -- I went looking for the circa 1970 AM version of this old song on youtube one night and found this by the band, One Blood. I'd never heard of them before. I don't know what it is about this version of the song that keeps me listening to it every now then. (

"Don't They Know It's the End of the World" by Skeeter Davis -- Likewise, a song I vaguely remembered from the distant past. Went looking and found it on youtube. Who knows why, but it stayed with me for a long time. (  Laird Barron mentioned on my blog that this is the quintessential song for a post-apocalyptic movie. So far, I don't think it's been used in that capacity.

Graphic Novel

The Search For Smilin' Ed by Kim Deitch -- For my money, the best story teller in comics and his graphic work is mind-blowing. A meta-fictional romp that starts with Deitch's own life and eventually descends down the rabbit hole into a plot impossible to relate. You just have to experience it.

Jeffrey Ford, who has the won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award (several times), and a few other awards as well, is the author of The Well Built City trilogy and numerous other novels, as well as several collections of short fiction. He lives in New Jersey.


marly youmans said...

Winthrop and alchemy: that does sound fascinating. And the others look good or interesting as well.

"Winter's Bone": that was the one I wanted to see. Didn't come here, of course.

Anonymous said...

Marly: The Winthrop one is good. And Winter's Bone should be out on DVD pretty soon I would think. Lucius shepard recommended it to me. It's lower key in the action than Hollywood extravaganzas but more intense in what it accomplishes (I think).

Jeff Ford