Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Machine in Ward Eleven -- Charles Willeford

I've had a copy of the Belmont edition of this book for well over forty years, but I'd never read it.  Then I picked up the 2001 reissue by No Exit Press and decided I'd give it a go.  The covers on the two editions are the same, but the No Exit copy is a trade paperback. 

Three stories here feature a main character named J.C. Blake, the title story, "Selected Incidents," and "Jake's Journal." The first and last are first person accounts; the second is related to a listener by a Hollywood producer.  The stories don't appear in chronological order, with the third one being set at the earliest time.  However, it's not clear if this is the same Blake, as it seems unlikely that it could be.  Trust me on this.  The first and third Blake stories deal with forms of madness, and in "The Machine . . . ." Blake is in the madhouse and not likely to be leaving.  

"Just Like on Television" is a very funny police interrogation.  "A Letter to A.A." is a criticism (maybe) of how getting sober might not work out for anyone involved with the alcoholic.  "The Alectryomancer" has to do with fortune telling and the powers of the mind.  The stories are told in Willeford's spare style, and while the collection's not on a par with most of Willeford's novels, it's worth a look.

"The Machine in Ward Eleven"
"Selected Incidents" 
"A Letter to A.A. (Almost Anybody)"
"Jake's Journal"
"Just Like on Television"
"The Alectryomancer"

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

I remain amused that I also picked up the No Exit edition without looking too closely at it at first, and assumed the Machine was a political one, in electoral ward 11...and then when seeing it cited as vaguely sfnal in someone's passing reference was at first given to suspect another misconstruction before looking at it more thoroughly. Still need to read it.'re going through all the slender interesting books of late!