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The Great Depression has bound a nation in despair—and only a privileged few have risen above it: the exorbitantly wealthy…and the hucksters who feed upon them. Diego, a seventeen-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, owes his salvation to master grifter Thomas Schell. Together with Schell’s gruff and powerful partner, they sail comfortably through hard times, scamming New York’s grieving rich with elaborate, ingeniously staged séances—until an impossible occurrence changes everything.
While “communing with spirits,” Schell sees an image of a young girl in a pane of glass, silently entreating the con man for help. Though well aware that his otherworldly “powers” are a sham, Schell inexplicably offers his services to help find the lost child—drawing Diego along with him into a tangled maze of deadly secrets and terrible experimentation.
At once a hypnotically compelling mystery and a stunningly evocative portrait of Depression-era New York, The Girl in the Glass is a masterly literary adventure from a writer of exemplary vision and skill.
Mixing the mundane with the metaphysical, the pairings of the everyday and the extraordinary in this collection of short fiction yield supernatural results—a young musician perceives another world while drinking coffee, a fairy chronicles his busy life in a sandcastle during the changing tide, a demonic 16th-century chess set shows up in a New Jersey bar, and Charon, the boatman of hell, takes a few days vacation. Storylines both conventional and outlandish reveal humdrum routines as menacing, or imaginary worlds as perfectly familiar. Allusions to authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne reinforce the fantasy tradition in these tales, while understated humor and moments of sadness add a quirky unpredictability.
Also included is the previously unpublished novella, “Botch Town,” a coming-of-age story about a boy on Long Island whose family and friends live ordinary lives under threats both real and imagined. Each story is followed by a brief afterword that details its genesis.
There is a town that brews a strange intoxicant from a rare fruit called the deathberry—and once a year a handful of citizens are selected to drink it….
There is a life lived beneath the water—among rotted buildings and bloated corpses—by those so overburdened by the world’s demands that they simply give up and go under….
In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic. In tales marked by his distinctive, dark imagery and fluid, exhilarating prose, he conjures up an annual gale that transforms the real into the impossible, invents a strange scribble that secretly unites a significant portion of society, and spins the myriad dreams of a restless astronaut and his alien lover. Bizarre, beautiful, unsettling, and sublime, The Drowned Life showcases the exceptional talents of one of contemporary fiction’s most original artists.
On New York’s Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy spends much of his free time in the basement of his family’s modest home, where he and his brother, Jim, have created Botch Town, a detailed cardboard replica of their community, complete with figurines representing friends and neighbors. Their little sister, Mary, smokes cigarettes, speaks in other voices, inhabits alternate personas…and, unbeknownst to her siblings, moves around the inanimate clay residents.
There is a strangeness in the air as disappearances, deaths, spectral sightings, and the arrival of a sinister man in a long white car mark this unforgettable shadow year. But strangest of all is the inescapable fact that all these troubling occurrences directly cor-respond to the changes little Mary has made to the miniature town in their basement.
At times literary, at other times surreal, this collection offers an eclectic group of stories that deal with real-life conflicts, human values, and coming-of-age experiences all placed within fantastical settings. One tale recounts the author’s search for a Kafka story that can only be found in an elusive and quite possibly cursed edition. Other stories feature humans dressing in full-body protective exoskins in the personas of old Hollywood movie stars to barter old Earth movies for an alien aphrodisiac and a young boy coming to terms with creation and molding his own man out of detritus from a nearby forest. In the title story, a great fantasy writer loses touch with the world he has created and pleads with his young assistant to help him visualize the story’s end and enable him to complete his greatest novel ever.
At once luxurious and disturbing, this stunning novel presents a major new fabulist whose richly textured prose brings to mind such works as Franz Kafka’s In the Penal Colony, George Orwell’s 1984, and other classics terrifying beauty.
He pries open the soul with each sweep of his calipers. For in the land of the Well-Built City, study of the body’s shape is a most exacting science. It can determine a person’s character, uncover his deepest secrets, even foretell the future. And in the hands of an expert like Physiognomist Cley, this solemn intelligence delivers perfect justice form which fortunes are claimed or lost, careers are shaped or shattered, lives are continued or cut away. A man who commands such titanic forces may ignore the dark pools of arrogance and corruption which lie closer at hand—but only for a time. Very soon, Cley will discover the truth about himself and his profession, as his world of privilege dissolves into a nightmarish odyssey, careening toward a fate not even the great physiognomist can predict.
The toast of 1893 New York society, the portraitist Piero Piambo has his pick of choice assignments. Acclaimed by his peers and his “betters,” he is a fixture in the city’s most opulent salons, yet he fears he has sold his soul to arrive there. But then comes a commission unlike any other—one that will test Piambo’s talents, his will…and his sanity.
The client is a Mrs. Charbuque, and the offer she makes to the artist is as bizarre and intriguing as it is financially rewarding. Piambo must paint the lady’s portrait, and for the service he may name any price. However, though he may question her at length on any topic, he must never look upon his subject. And if the painting ends up a true likeness, his payment will be doubled.
With sketchbook in hand and his “model” hidden behind an elegant screen, the artist begins his haunting descent into…[more]