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Jeffrey Ford

EOS / Avon

US Trade Paperback

ISBN 0-380-80262-7

230 Pages; $12.00

Date Reviewed: 05-17-92

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, General Fiction

05-16-02, 08-29-02, 01-07-03, 03-26-03, 09-13-03

Memory is unreliable at best. We all use tricks and cheats to pull information out of our brains that would otherwise remain there untapped. In 'Memoranda', Jeffrey Ford explores memory and recall using the 'well-built' fantasy landscape he designed for 'The Physiognomy'. 'Memoranda' is the second tale of Cley, the physiognomist, now part of a gentle agrarian community. Unfortunately, the citizens of this community are falling into a sleep from which they cannot be roused. Cley is tasked with finding a cure.

In many ways this is the kind of book you could write a college thesis about. The levels of meaning are complex, layered, and quite fascinating. As Ford explores the phenomena of memory though a variety images and devices, he recalls the history of memory studies as well as specific memories. The underpinnings of 'Memoranda' are quite impressive, worthy of a literary academic like Borges, Calvino or Stanislaw Lem.

But don't let this lead to believe that 'Memoranda' is a dry academic exercise. It is a witty and well written fantasy as well, entertaining to read and easy to follow. Cley journeys first to the ruins of the Well-Built City, where he meets Misrix, a demon who has taken on some human characteristics and contradictions. Once there, Cley finds he must undertake a voyage into the memory palace of Drachton Below, where he must cure Below himself before he will be able to free the people of his chosen community. The layers accumulate and the journey is well underway.

Cley is an excellent guide on this journey. Ford's prose is the real standout in this novel. He has the capability to create atmospheric and suggestive names, to quickly describe a scene in such a way that it is created in the reader's mind to perfection. Plus, it's just plain fun to read. At 230 pages, we're not talking about a brick here. 'Memoranda' slips by quickly because the writer is able to do something quite unique. He's able to deal in very complex ideas about memory while writing a wryly witty fantasy. Simmering under the surface of the transparent prose are the building blocks of your master's thesis. Eventually, somebody will start studying Ford's work, and the books about his work are likely to be thicker than the works themselves. Readers who simply want to enjoy a well-written, humorous imaginative novel should sign up simply to read -- and enjoy.