Making Light tells us that John M. Ford has died. I didn’t know him at all personally, but I loved his work. “The Dragon Waiting” is perhaps his best novel, but some of his short stories are even better. This extract from “Scrabble with God” (stolen from Brad DeLong ) gives some idea of his sense of humour.
I don’t recommend playing with God. It isn’t that he cheats, exactly. But the other night we were in the middle of a game, I was about thirty points up, and He emptied out his rack. ZWEEGHB. Double word score and the fifty-point bonus.
“Zweeghb?” I said.
“Is that a challenge?”
“Well…” If you challenge God and you’re wrong, you lose the points and get turned into a pillar of salt.
“Look outside,” He said. So I did. Sure enough, there was a zweeghb out there, eating the rosebushes, like Thurber’s unicorn.
“I thought you rested from creating stuff.”
“Eighth day, I did. Now I’m fresh as a daisy. You going to pass or play?”
He was also a fine, intelligent poet. Read 110 Stories or the poem quoted in Teresa’s memorial post at Making Light to see how good he could be when he was being serious. But he also had an extraordinary gift for ex tempore verse that was somehow light, complicated, funny and erudite, all at the same time. One of Kieran’s posts on Thomas Friedman helped indirectly inspire this quickie on mixed metaphor and misprision.
Much have I travell’d on the feet of gold,
And many tumbled walls and maidens seen,
Round many horny Africs have I been
Which bards like bosoms in their welkins hold,
Oft of a spare expanse had I been told
That fence-swung Homer looked on as demesne;
Yet never did I breathe its mountains clean
Till I heard Friedman speak out uncontrolled,
Then felt I like some Cousteau of the skies
When a new bubble undermines his ken,
Or sack-like Falstaff, when with precast eyes
He stared at echoes—and his fellow men
Harked back in multitudes like single spies
Silent, past their peak in Darien.
I don’t think that he’ll ever get the recognition that he deserved; his gifts didn’t fit well with his times. But the world feels poorer and sadder today for his absence.