Memoranda

Overview

After beholding the destruction of the Well-Built City, physiognomist Cley is now a simple healer seeking peace and atonement in the happy village of survivors. When the town falls into a deadly sleeping sickness, Cley must make a dangerous trip to the ruins of City?now beset by mechanical birds and werewolves?to seek out an antidote. The evil Master Below is still alive, but an accidental exposure to the sickness that he created has put him into a coma. With the help of Below?s adopted demon son, found...

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Overview

After beholding the destruction of the Well-Built City, physiognomist Cley is now a simple healer seeking peace and atonement in the happy village of survivors. When the town falls into a deadly sleeping sickness, Cley must make a dangerous trip to the ruins of City—now beset by mechanical birds and werewolves—to seek out an antidote. The evil Master Below is still alive, but an accidental exposure to the sickness that he created has put him into a coma. With the help of Below’s adopted demon son, found in the wreckage of the laboratory, Cley ventures into the mind and intricate memories of Below to search for a cure. Cley will encounter wonders and dangers undreamed of in the second installment of this classic trilogy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Last year, Ford's The Physiognomy won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. Here's a worthy sequel. In the first book, Physiognomist Cley helped bring about the destruction of the Well-Built City, a technological marvel where foreheads, cheekbones, chins were measured in order to determine the moral character of the populace, and where mismanaged science controlled every aspect of life. Now Cley has moved to the primitive village of Wenau, where he works as a healer. His idyllic existence is ruined when the evil Master Below, the ruler of the destroyed Well-Built City, sends a sleeping sickness that quickly spreads throughout Wenau. In order to save his friends, Cley returns to the ruined City to find Below--and an antidote. Once there, however, he learns that Below himself has been stricken by his own poison. Below's misbegotten demon son Misrix offers to help Cley enter the sleeping Below's mind to seek out the cure. "To decipher the symbols, you need only read the Physiognomy of Father's memory," Misrix explains. Yet traveling through the subconscious of a madman may well be more dangerous than the sleeping sickness itself, for there Cley must interpret a surreal landscape of events, objects and characters, even as they distort his own thoughts. Reading Ford's vivid descriptions of Below's bizarre subconscious is like stepping into a Dal painting. Ford's symbolic view of memory and desire is as intriguing as it is haunting--though the book ends with more questions than it began. Admirers of The Physiognomy will prize this book, while trusting that the next (and conclusion to the trilogy), The Beyond, will clarify Ford's views on the nature of mind and reality. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sequel (and second entry of a projected trilogy) to Ford's memorable fantasy debut, The Physiognomy (1997). Cley, having rejected the sham science of physiognomy, is now herbalist and midwife to the village Wenau. But, despite the destruction of his Well-Built City, the megalomaniac Drachton Below isn't finished with the citizens who escaped the wreck: he sends a mechanical bird to explode in the village, releasing a plague of unending sleep. So Cley sets off to investigate. Reaching the city, he's attacked by werewolves and mechanical birds, then rescued by a demon, Misrix, who was captured by Below and humanized. Having fallen victim to his own plague, Below now lies fast asleep. But Misrix can send Cley into Below's sleeping mind: it contains a memory palace where an object symbolizing a cure for the plague will be found. In Below's mind, upon an island floating above a sea of mercury, Cley encounters the seductive Anotine. But as the island disintegrates, and Cley learns of Below's callous murder of his mentor, the sorcerer Scarfinati, he can find no hint of the plague-cure symbol. Anotine, it emerges, symbolizes Cley's personal nemesis, a corrosive, addictive, hallucinogenic drug—every time he makes love to her, he gets another fix. Below plans to addict everybody to the drug so they'll accept Misrix as his successor. Startling and beautifully rendered, but not the tour de force the original volume was.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930846548
  • Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Series: The Well-Built City Trilogy
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Ford is a writing teacher at Brookdale Community College and the author of The Empire of Ice Cream, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Girl in the Glass, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuqu, and Vanitas. He is the winner of a Nebula Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He lives in Medford Lakes, New Jersey.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In the years since completing a written account of the fall of the Well-Built City, which told of my personal transformation from Physiognomist to humble citizen and the inception of this once idyllic settlement of Wenau, I never again thought it would be necessary to put pen to paper, but after what has occurred in the past few weeks, I must warn my unsuspecting neighbors. There is a demon loose in paradise—one that beguiles by resurrecting the past. Its victims grow cold to the world, desiring only yesterday, as their souls dissipate for want of exercise in the here and now. Memories swarm about me, every bit as real as the day, and I will attempt to trap them here in this manuscript, like slapping shut the lid on a box full of bees. Then I'll flee northward in order to lose myself in the vast wilderness of the Beyond. It would be a false assumption to think that because I write this with my own hand, in the past tense, I came through these adventures in possession of my life. Death, it seems, has many definitions.

It was not long after the settlement was founded that the marketplace at Wenau developed into quite a bustling center of trade. The citizens of our new community no longer merely bartered among themselves but also attracted farmers from Latrobia, which lay a considerable distance to the east.

River people from as far south as the villages at Constance occasionally arrived on their barques loaded with handwoven cloth, spices, homemade fishing gear, which they hoped to deal for fresh game and vegetables. Our people became adept at gathering and harvesting food, but the items the outsiders wanted more than any others werethose mementos of technology we had taken away with us from the destruction of the Well-Built City.

Something as useless as a single brass gear could be traded for a blanket of the highest quality. The river people wore these remnants as amulets of power on cords around their necks. Little did they know how pleased we were to be rid of them. Everything balanced in the end, though, and there were no squabbles or accusations of thievery. The outsiders, having lived closer to the land for longer, were much rougher than we, but they adopted our peaceful ways. This location we chose for our settlement, nestled between two crisscrossing rivers, engendered its own spell of calm.

I went to the market once a week to trade medicinal herbs, roots, and tree bark I collected from the fields and forestsa practice taught to me by Ea and his son before they left for the Beyond. It was on those days that I also met my neighbors and took appointments to visit the women who were carrying children. Ever since delivering Arla's daughter, word had gotten about that I was an effective midwife, and, because of this, I was in some part responsible for the births of at least fifteen children. My acquired role as that of a healer of sorts pleased me, and I hoped that in the hypothetical ledger of my life it would offset somewhat the harm I had previously done.

A few weeks ago, I carried with me to the market something I never before would have thought of trading-a certain piece of green fabric, the veil left to me by Arla. For years, it remained both a bothersome mystery and a great comfort. On those nights when loneliness surrounded me, I would take it out of the chest beneath my bed and hold it fast for the peace it offered. At other times, I would actually speak to it, as if her face still hid beneath, trying to get an answer as to her reason for having left it with me. I often wondered if it was a sign that she had forgiven me or if it was meant to remind me of my guilt.

The night before my trip to the market, I was called on to deliver a child. All went well as far as the mother's health was concerned, but the baby came forth stillborn. I worked for over an hour to try to revive him, knowing soon after I began that my efforts would probably be hopeless. No one blamed me for this tragedy, and, surprisingly enough, though I felt bad, I could not even blame myself. On my walk home through the night, I stopped to look up at the immensity of the starlit sky and for some reason, I still cannot say why, I suddenly felt released from my responsibility to the past. The thought leaped into my mind, "Cley, you will trade away that green veil. It will not do to simply dispose of it. No matter how meager the material worth of the item you trade it for, you must find someone who wants it."

The market was crowded the following day with haggling traders, children at play, and the old, entertaining with comic and cautionary tales. I carried my sack of medicines thrown over my left shoulder and wove my way amidst the practical confusion of the place, searching out likely patrons.

At first, I went about my business, selling what I could. People knew me well and knew that my medicines were genuine. They described complaints to me, and I would tell them exactly what they might use to alleviate their suffering. After making a few trades for thread and fish-bone needles, salt and powdered orian (a bean from the south that when mixed with boiling water made a beverage that was a dull imitation of shudder), I took out the green veil and began trying to trade it.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
In the critically praised THE PHYSIOGNOMY, a New York Times Notable Book of 1997, Physiognomist Cley chronicled the fall of the Well-Built City, created from the mind of the evil Master, Drachton Below, and the inception of the independent city of Weanu. In MEMORANDA, Cley, no longer the Physiognomist but a humble citizen, realizes that the antidote to the sleeping disease that has infected the people of Wenau is locked in symbolic form in a new mnemonic "palace" in the sleeping Below's memory. With the help of a demon, Cley must venture into the city of Below to search for the symbolic form that holds the secret of the antidote. As he searches through the bizarre city, Cley falls in love, knowing full well that the lady is merely the symbolic representation of an idea and that he must lose her if his quest to save the people of Weanu is to succeed.

Questions for Discussion

  • Discuss mnemonic devices you might use in the course of your day.
  • Do the fanciful ways that memory is discussed in the novel have any bearing on your own concept of the working of memory?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Below and Misrix?
  • Misrix tries to capture the story of the Well-Built City by collecting debris from the ruins. How do the objects in your house tell your story? If you weren't there to piece the tale together for an observer, would the be able to come close to the truth of your life by "reading" those objects?
  • Cley must find the antidote for the sleeping disease in Below's memory world. To do so, he must now determine meaning by reading the surface of mnemonic objects. How does that differ from hispursuits as Physiognomist First Class.
  • Why is Anotine obsessed with "capturing the moment?"
  • In relation to how your memory really works, what kinds of processes might the Fetch and the Delicate represent?
  • Is Scarfinati's story to be taken at face value?
  • Discuss the relation between the mnemonic happenings in this novel and how they might be seen to parallel the concepts of virtual reality.
  • Is Cley's love for Anotine merely the return of his addiction or is it more than that?
  • Does Cley fail or succeed in his mission in MEMORANDA?

The Author Recommends
The following novels have influenced Jeffrey Ford: "The writing styles, the craft, the stories of these books all seem to be in perfect balance as if one small change would ruin them. Most importantly, they instilled a sense of wonder in me -- something childlike, mystical and profound."

THE FOUR WISE MEN by Michel Tournier
THE BARON IN THE TREES by Italo Calvino
ARABIAN NIGHTS AND DAYS by Naguib Mafouz
FREDDY"S BOOK by John Gardner
MYSTERIES by Knut Hamsun
THE STREET OF CROCODILES by Bruno Schultz
MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS by Amos Tutola
THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES by Kobo Abe

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