Posted by Matt Staggs
I’m currently finishing Jeffrey Ford‘s phenomenal collection of short fiction “The Drowned Life,” and I’m experiencing a bit of anxiety as I approach the final few pages. You see, I am planning to write a review of the book. So why, you might ask, am I so nervous? Am I planning on writing a review that will evoke Mr. Ford’s ire? Indeed, not! Far from it. In fact, the reason I am so anxious about this looming review is that the book is so good.
You ever read a book whose quality surpassed your own descriptive capacity? For me, this is that book – or rather – one of those books. Words escape me as I try to communicate the things these stories make me feel.Â It’s like trying to catch a dragonfly in flight with just your thumb and forefinger: elusive, beautiful and far above my own fumbling grasp.
I’ve had these kinds of experiences before, and with all kinds of literature. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez left me similarly tongue-tied. So did “Spaceman Blues: A Love Song” by Brian Francis Slattery. Strangely enough, the ending of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars” elicited a similar response. Looking now at the list I’ve created, I would have to guess that a feeling of longing would be the common denominator: the longing for a more magical life, maybe. It’s the feeling that I’m missing something, and much like being in a dark room that is suddenly illuminated, until these authors turned on the lights I never knew anything was missing at all.
C.S. Lewis wrote of this feeling – this inarticulable feeling – in one of his numerous works of Christian apologia. Although I cannot quite remember the exact phrase, he ascribed it to a “longing for Heaven” that is common to every human heart. Although I am not a religious man, I can compare my own experience to his own and find similarity. While Lewis had his church, I have my books, and I look to authors like Ford to provide me with these tiny slices of heaven.
“The Drowned Life” invokes this most ephemeral of responses, and by its very nature I am at a loss to fully explain it to you: a commonality of all gnostic experiences. The only way for you to truly understand is to experience it yourself, which I urge you to do.
“The Drowned Life” will be available in November of 2008.