What can I say about Ford's storytelling that everyone in the speculative storytelling community doesn't already know? We were discussing the hallmarks of the surrealist movement in class on Monday evening, and I couldn't resist mentioning this harrowing tale of financial desperation. Surrealism is, at its core, a political statement, and Ford's piece critiques the financial house of cards that is American life very effectively.
It's a humanistic tale, never forgetting that it's just folks like all of us that succumb to the drowned life. The trick, in my view, is coming back up for air without experiencing that terrible, white-knuckled conclusion that befalls our protagonist in this one.
I used the full collection that shares this story's title in a creative writing class a few years back, and I guess that one thing I can say about Ford's writing that some may not already know is that the author is a lucid dreamer. Andre Breton, in his manifesto on surrealist thinking, ties the movement directly to Freud's psychoanalytical theories. He believes the mind is at its optimal capacity in the dreaming state, and anyone who has read Ford's work understands there is a sort of dreamlike quality to the images he conjures and the plots he explores.
Great stuff. Sheesh, get a look at those names below. I only have another 60,000 words, so I'd better choose carefully...
"The Drowned Life" ~ Jeffrey Ford
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" ~ Stephen King
"Voluntary Committal" ~ Joe Hill
"The Pear Shaped Man" ~ George R.R. Martin
"The Small Assassin" ~ Ray Bradbury
"Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros" ~ Peter S. Beagle