A Natural History of Hell: Stories (Paperback)
Because I am as capracious, superstitious, and conceited in my reading habits as any other book lover
worthy of the name, I like it best when I come upon an author who has just written a shatteringly good
first book. It gives me a feeling like I've discovered someone special in a world of crank turners and
people everyone already knows are special. When I find myself reading a new book by an author with a
body of work that is already respectably large- more than two and less than twenty is my general rule of
thumb for defining such respectability as I write this; any less would constitute a discovery and any more
would constitute either an epic career in letters or indicate, as the protagonist poetess in one of the stories
included in the collection currently being reviewed puts so eloquently, “'The man's pen has dysentery'”- I
feel obligated to then go back an read everything said author has done in the past if I like the book or to
wonder bitterly how the producers of dreck remain so often and so well employed if I don't. Either thing
can be a chore or a pleasure. Either thing can be and most often is both at the same time.
Will it be a chore and a pleasure to go back and read the work Jeffery Ford produced before “A Natural
History of Hell?” I do not know, but, based on the fine quality of the stories in the collection, I doubt it.
Some things are pure pleasure. Some things, even if we tell ourselves they are for our intelectual
betterment and the expansion of our literary acumen, transcend work and soar to the heights of fun.
Reading “A Natural History of Hell” is, in short, transcendent and a hell of a lot of fun. Indeed, the stories
collected here more often soar than not. My favorite story in the collection involves a swindling Victorian
industrialist whose comeuppance is visited upon him by fairies, but all are highly entertaining. One even
takes place in my home state of Ohio and it is yet another proof that New England isn't the only most
haunted place in America. There are a great many ghosts on the Great Planes, it seems. And why
shouldn't there be? We've got the room, after all, and I welcome Jimmy Tooth of Ford's story “The
Thyme Fiend” to the fraternity of specters that haunt the corners of my vision on dark and stormy nights.
Thank you to the author and to Small Beer Press for all the good work. I must now read all of Jeffery
Ford's books that I can find. I look forward to the task. Once you've read “A Natural History of Hell” and
thoroughly enjoy it, as I did and I hope you will, dear reader, I just bet you'll have the same task to look
forward to too. Have fun.
Emily Dickinson takes a carriage ride with Death. A couple are invited over to a neighbor's daughter's exorcism. A country witch with a sea-captain's head in a glass globe intercedes on behalf of abused and abandoned children. In July of 1915, in Hardin County, Ohio, a boy sees ghosts. Explore contemporary natural history in a baker's dozen of exhilarating visions. Praise for Jeffrey Ford: Outstanding. . . . Ford uses . . . incongruously lyrical phrases to infuse the everyday with a nebulous magic.--Publishers Weekly, Best Books of the Year(Starred Review) For lovers of the weird and fantastic and lovers of great writing, this is a treasure trove of disturbing visions, new worlds and fully realized craft.--Shelf Awareness (Starred Review) Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too.--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) Jeffrey Ford was born on Long Island in New York State in 1955 and grew up in the town of West Islip. He studied fiction writing with John Gardner at S.U.N.Y. Binghamton. He's been a college English teacher of writing and literature for thirty years. He is the author of eight novels including The Girl in the Glass and four short story collections. He has received the World Fantasy, Nebula, Edgar, and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife Lynn in a century old farm house in a land of slow clouds and endless fields.
About the Author
Jeffrey Ford: Jeffrey Ford was born on Long Island in New York State in 1955 and grew up in the town of West Islip. He studied fiction writing with John Gardner at S.U.N.Y Binghamton. He's been a college English teacher of writing and literature for 30 years. He is the author of eight novels including The Girl in the Glass and four short story collections. He has received the World Fantasy, Nebula, Edgar, and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife Lynn in a century old farm house in a land of slow clouds and endless fields.