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11.06.2008

The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford

Readers of genre fiction have known for years that Jeffrey Ford is a wordsmith. I'm only recently coming to the catalogue of this fantastic writer, but I'm pretty excited about the library of stories that awaits me as I look further into his work.

I just finished The Shadow Year. It's the type of novel that makes you marvel at the comfort and ease of captivating storytelling. Ford's prose is clear and perceptive and very fluid. This story is told through the eyes of a very young first-person narrator, a young man whose observational powers and imagination are clearly complementary to his passions: investigating a prowler and recording his thoughts in a dog-eared journal.

When you're in the presence of a master storyteller, the yarn seems to transcend the boundaries of time. As I read The Shadow Year, I kept telling myself just one more chapter. An hour later I'd look over at the clock and see it was after midnight. As I said, there's a purity and cadence to the prose that is worth studying. Consider this passage:

The antenna cried mercilessly all night, and I tossed and turned, thinking of the man in the white car, my fear in the library, and spying Mrs. Hayes's tit. I could sense the evil as it crept forward day by day, dismantling my world, like a very slow explosion. I woke and slept and woke and slept, and it was still dark. The third time I awoke to the same night, I thought I heard the sound of pebbles jangling in soda cans. The plan had been to send George out after whoever it was who was taking the ladder, but I didn't move, save to curl up into a ball.

Ford tells a story of a year in the life of a boy, but this is no ordinary life. The tale is filled with ghosts and villains--both of this world and outside of it. The whole thing is draped in a palpable quality of menace, a sense of dread that seems to come off the pages in waves.

The piece moves well and is a satisfying overall read. This book, and American Gods, are the best of what I've read in the long form this year.

Here is Jeffery Ford's blog. Pay him a visit and read his novels and short stories. You'll thank yourself for the investment.

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