A NATURAL HISTORY OF HELL by Jeffrey Ford

A NATURAL HISTORY OF HELL

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A new collection by Ford (Crackpot Palace, 2012, etc.) offers 13 tales that revel in the dark and strange, exhibiting ardent and pliable storytelling that ranges from suburban exorcisms to ghosts in bucolic 1915 Ohio.

Each story in this collection displays Ford’s vigorous invention and witty idiosyncrasy in explorations of the wicked and violent corners of the imagination, but the variety of subject, setting, and tone ensures that the book never slips into an authorial haze. In “The Angel Seems,” a town suffers the predations of a monstrous angel who offers protection in exchange for occasional poetic disfigurement (antlers sprouting from temples, a window to a starry sky set into a hapless forehead) and indifferent murder. The horrific farce of a high school where both students and teachers carry guns as a matter of course gets played out to extravagant heights in “Blood Drive.” Stories journey to hot springs in Japan and historically specific milieus like Emily Dickinson’s Massachusetts, but Ford’s voice seems most confident when given the freedom of fairy tale–like archetype or the anchor of a picturesque and not-too-distant America. The two come together in “The Thyme Fiend,” in which ghosts and visions of hell disrupt a young boy’s life in small-town Ohio. The entire collection has a zeal for imagination and an unabashed pleasure in both entertainment and graceful writing that is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s short fiction. Ford has a knack for choosing the precise words that evoke an image and leave enough room for it to bloom. “Later, the rain started in again. The sound and smell of spring came through the screen of their bedroom window while he dreamt in the language the angels dream in, and she, of the land without worry.”

Violent, unsettling stories that nevertheless offer a great deal of humor, wit, and feeling.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61873-118-0
Page count: 279pp
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2016




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