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The Empire of Ice Cream [Hardcover]

Jeffrey Ford

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Book Description

April 1 2006

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 Also included is the previously unpublished novella, "Botch Town," a coming-of-age story about a boy on Long Island whose family and friends live ordinary lives under threats both real and imagined.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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press; 1 edition (April 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930846398
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930846395
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.6 x 3.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #862,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In "Coffins on the River," one of several autobiographical stories in Ford's outstanding second collection of fantastic fiction (after 2002's The Fantasy Writer's Assistant), the narrator remarks: "[T]he ideas would fly like bats at sundown, like phone calls from our creditors." Whether drawing on his past as a schoolboy (in the previously unpublished "Botch Town"), a clam digger ("The Trentino Kid") or an adult returning to his childhood home ("A Night in the Tropics"), Ford uses such incongruously lyrical phrases to infuse the everyday with a nebulous magic that erases the line between reality and belief. Sorrow is always quietly present, even in pieces of pure whimsy such as "The Annals of Eelin-Ok," "The Green Word" and "Summer Afternoon," and it becomes more prominent in three tales of people created by others' imaginations: the surreal "A Man of Light," the bittersweet "Boatman's Holiday" and the Nebula-winning title story. Brief afterwords provide both real-world context and a welcome pause between the intensely engaging stories. Both new and returning fans will be entranced and delighted. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A book that opens with a story about creatures who live their entire existences in sand castles, from when youthful builders abandon them to when the tide destroys them, demands readers possessing a healthy sense of wonder and the willingness to embrace the bizarre and fantastic. The title story beautifully twists the experience and senses of a synesthetic musician to answer the question, what would happen if synesthetic experiences took on physical forms? "The Weight of Words" takes the phrase seriously to explore the sinister potential of print. "Boatman's Holiday" depicts what Charon, the boatman of Hades, does on vacation. Giants and unidentifiable alien creatures, fairy tales, the intertwining of wonder and terror, and fantastic views of both the strange and the ordinary all appear in this marvelous collection, with Ford's comments on his inspiration and motivations appended to each story. Ford is nothing if not versatile, as this collection confirms to great effect. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of lovely varied fantasy tales Sept. 28 2006
By Richard R. Horton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Jeffrey Ford has made quite an impression in the last few years, with several fine novels including the World Fantasy Award winning The Physiognomy, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, and The Girl in the Glass. But my favorite Ford works have been short fiction -- and it so happens that my personal favorites appear in this new collection, his second.

The title story, indeed, is one of my favorite stories by anyone from the last few years. My interest was immediately engaged by the Wallace Stevens reference, though Ford, in his introduction, disclaims any intention of alluding to Stevens' great poem. The story is about a man with synesthaesia. He becomes an accomplished piano player and composer, even as he perceives the notes he plays or composes as sights or smells or tastes. Somehow coffee ice cream causes a special hallucination: a young woman. As he grows older, he finds that pure coffee allows real contact with this woman, and he learns that she, too, is an artist and a synesthaesiac. The story climaxes as he tries to complete a major musical composition -- coming to a predictable but still quite satisfying and moving conclusion.

Another brilliant piece is "The Weight of Words." This suggests that the placement and appearance of words can affect their meaning in such mundane ways as subliminal advertising, or such more profound ways as causing death, love, or the appreciation of beauty. It's told by a man who has lost his wife and hopes to regain her by the use of weighted word -- instead he gains something quite different.

There is one new story in the book, a very long novella (nearly novel length): "Botch Town". This is a pitch perfect and rather sad evocation of childhood in a lower middle class New Jersey suburb. The title refers to a model town that the narrator's brother constructs in his basement -- somehow their sister, who is in some way brilliant but not very comprehensible, seems to use this town to reflect real happenings in their own town, including the whereabouts of a mysterious visitor who may be connected with the disappearance of a neighborhood boy.

There are many other jewels here. "The Annals of Eelin-Ok" is a tender, bittersweet, story of a Twilmish, a creature that colonizes a sand castle and lives only until the castle is washed away. "The Beautiful Gelreesh" is quite different in mood, a sardonic piece about a doglike creature with a rather extreme means of curing depression.

"A Night at the Tropics" concerns a cursed chess set and the bully who stumbles into possession of it. The story is framed in a very Kiplingesque manner: the narrator, named Ford, tells of his return to his childhood house, and a visit to a bar his father frequented, "The Tropics." It is there that he again encounters the bully, and hears the tale of the chess set. And, much as Kipling so often and so brilliantly managed, the frame ends up blending with and enhancing the central story. (And, to my relief after Ford's denial of the Stevens reference in "The Empire of Ice Cream," his introduction here explicitly acknowledges Kipling's influence.)

I won't mention the other stories, but I'll say that they are a varied and intriguing lot. The book itself is a lovely physical object, as we expect from Golden Gryphon. And Ford's introductions are fairly brief but very interesting, definitely significant value added. This is surely one of the best story collections of the year.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boy, I enjoy this author's work July 19 2006
By Eyesk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'd seen a dramatic reading of "The Annals of Eelin-Ok" (one of the stories in this collection), an experience that has stuck with me much longer than most dramatic productions... Mr. Ford does not profess to be a playwright (yet), but he writes with SO much immediacy, whatever is happening in his stories is so important to his characters, that you get sucked into the stories very quickly - what is important to those characters now becomes important to you, too. I'm currently enjoying very much his earlier THE FANTASY WRITER'S ASSISTANT collection of stories, and look forward to re-visiting "The Annals of Eelin-Ok" in this volume, as well as discovering the accompanying tales. To be transported into his stories is a very gratifying experience. Who'd have thought that a dramatic reading about the sprites/spirits that inhabit sandcastles between low and high tides could become a epic tale, full of romance, action, and contemplation on life itself? And all the while having you on the edge of your seat? I've seen a lot of theatre, and wish more of it was an engaging to experience as the work of this non-playwright.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressively engaging collection of fourteen of the author's most evocative and best crafted short stories May 3 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Empire Of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford is an impressively engaging collection of fourteen of the author's most evocative and best crafted short stories. Intertwining fantasy, reality, the straight-up peculiar, The Empire Of Ice Cream showcases: The Annals of Eelin-Ok, Jupiter's Skull, A Night in the Tropics, The Beautiful Gelreesh, Boatman's Holiday, Botch Town, A Man of Light, The Green Word, Giant Land, Coffins on the River, Summer Afternoon, The Weight of Words, The Trentino Kid, and the title piece, The Empire of Ice Cream. With a conclusive analysis and detailing of each story in the form of an author note, The Empire Of Ice Cream is confidently recommended to fantasy enthusiasts, as well as (and most particularly) to those who have not yet discovered the literary talent and storytelling style of Jeffrey Ford.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better Than The Title Might Suggest Jan. 7 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Despite its award winning status, the title of this anthology led me to believe it was either young adult oriented or in the vein of the recent plethora of updated fairy tale collections. I was very pleased to find I was wrong.

Jeffrey Ford is a highly intelligent, clever wordsmith that more closely resembles Bradbury and Wolfe than the Datlow/Windling crowd. Like his unstable scholar's work in "The Weight of Words", Ford's writings are greater than the sum of their parts.

In particular, I'd like to praise the novella, "Botch Town." As soon as I was a few paragraphs into it, I recognized the familiar territory of the "remember the year when..." stories by Bradbury, King, et al, that I enjoy so much. The autobiographical tone was convincing, and the characters were universal and believable. My friends and I had our own version of Mr. Blah Blah, and our own Halloween hijinx were remarkably similar to those described within. (I also appreciated the subtle nod to Spike Jones fans.)

Among my other favorites are the darkly humorous "Boatman's Holiday" and the surreal tour-de-force, "Giant Land."

If you're looking for a collection of substantial, sophisticated yet accessible, stick-to-your-ribs short fiction, then pick up The Empire of Ice Cream.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taste the ice cream on your tongue. . . May 26 2006
By Shveta Thakrar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Jeffrey Ford is AMAZING. There are not many authors I could describe as such, but he is one. Buy his book; this man is an undiscovered gem. His literary fantasy is gorgeous in the way he tells it and the stories themselves. As much as I devoured this anthology, I was also really disheartened when I turned the last page.

To make myself feel better, I've been giving everyone I know copies of the book or encouraging him or her to try Mr. Ford. Let me do the same for you; you won't regret it (something I do not say lightly).

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