Friday, March 5, 2010

Dancing Ducks and Talking Anus – James Ferry

James Ferry – ???

It was observed by reviewers of this collection that John Gardner picked authors for this collection that were not necessarily “known”.

Well- second story in, and I have a nobody!

I can’t find ANYTHING about James Ferry.

In the bio section located at the rear of the book, Ferry’s bio indicates that this was his first published story.

I have to wonder if it was his only published story.

In the intro, Gardner claims that he almost set this story aside into the “not chosen” pile based on the title alone. Then after the first sentence, again, he felt a stronger inclination to toss it away.

The first sentence reads:

“I suppose you’ve heard that Renée douched herself with sulfuric acid.”

Gardner pushed into the story a bit further and discovered a beautiful piece of art. I’m glad he decided to include it.

What did I get out of this story?

Well- it’s difficult.

-It caused me to think about love and the lengths we’ll go for it. It caused me to think about how it alters our perception of the world – both for the positive and the negative.

-Our positions in various stages of our lives – and the various lives we all lead throughout our time on earth.

-Just as it is thought that our taste buds change every seven or eight years, I feel that we make changes in life – of course, sometimes not of our own will.

Travel, changes in cultures, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, career paths, addictions – so many factors that can cause our little ship in this violent ocean to be swept under.

With everything I’ve been through in my life, I’m lucky – I’ve never felt the need to douche with sulfuric acid-so to speak.

Now, a mental douching from time to time can be healthy – perhaps not with something as strong as sulfuric acid – but close.

Ingest thoughts and ideas, music and visions that shake you up. Reset your mind from time to time.

These stories do that for me - The words, sentences and stories that pass through my brain – traveling across all the lightening fast connectors – forming new ideas and actually growing my brain – swelling it, I envision a bit fat pulsating mind.

-good stuff in here – really good stuff.


  1. Absolutely my favorite short story ever, and I've never been able to find another sign of James Ferry either. Man, that guy could write -- at least once!

  2. Jim was a good friend of mine. He passed away about 14 years ago. I don't think he published any more stories after Dancing Ducks.

    He grew up in Calumet City, just south of Chicago. He was studying at a writers workshop (?) in Syracuse when he died of a brain aneurysm.

    He moved to Grand Rapids in his senior year of high school. He attended Ann Arbor off and on for years.
    I am no critic and I appreciate your praise for Jim's story. Even as kids, one of the games we played was writing stories. It was more Jim's game. He did a wonderful job of ripping off the Hardy Boys, with the two of us as protagonists. All he ever wanted to be was a writer.

    If you want to learn more, I am happy to tell what I know. If not, thanks for liking my friend's life work.

    jim kuehl

    1. I am Jim's sister-in-law we have been going through Jim's writings. Boy could he ever write. Thank you for such kind words. Patty Ferry

    2. Thank you Ms. Ferry for commenting. As you can see, Jim was greatly admired.

  3. Hello Mr. Kuehl!
    Thank you so much for commenting and passing along your story about Jim. I'm glad you decided to share. It's so sad to hear of his passing. I just figured he was smart and stayed off the grid...or was writing under another name. He really had some talent. John Gardner recognized it and I can only imagine how Jim felt to be included in this anthology...and chosen by Gardner. I of course would love to learn more. I can be reached by email at the following address.
    Jakon247 (you know what symbol here)
    Thanks again for commenting and giving us fans of the story, and Jim, a little more information.

  4. Hi, all,

    I knew Jim well at Vermont College of Fine Arts (not Syracuse) in the MFA program (Montpelier, VT). He died in early January of 1999 in his dorm room, having skipped lunch with a headache. Almost impossible to believe over 14 years later. He'd moved back home to care for his ailing mother. The low-residency program was an effort to re-energize his writing after many years 'off.' JIM KUEHL: thank you for sharing some childhood stories about him! When I met him he already had a graying mustache.

    I miss him terribly, still. HE NEVER MENTIONED that he'd had a short story selected in "Best American ..." but the editor at The Literary Review was kind enough to send me the issue that his "Dancing Ducks ..." first appeared in. They were wondering what had happened to him, too.

    Thank you for talking about this story, and about Jim. The story knocked me off my feet. He was so smart and funny and compassionate, and my best reader. We mailed each other manuscripts in progress, and I wish I'd made a copy of something before sending them back. All I have to do is think about him kicking my ass to get me back to my own writing.
    Mary in Maryland

  5. Hello Mary in Maryland!
    It's been over three years since I first encountered Jim's story and I am so happy to see that people are willing to share comments and recollections of him. Thank you for taking the time to write about him here. He truly was an amazing writer and it pleases me that he is remembered so fondly. As an aside, your information placing him at Vermont College brings me even closer to him. I attended Norwich University from 90-94 (VC was part of Norwich in those years and I attended a class or two on that campus). Take care and all the best -

  6. Right - my diploma masthead says "Norwich U." I'm so glad to hear you know the campus, and can picture Jim traipsing from the cafeteria (NECI catering, yum) to the reading rooms and dorms. Such a lovely piece of Earth, Montpelier.

    Oh, there's now a bench on the grounds dedicated in his memory. I haven't been up there to see it myself, but if you're ever there again ...

    I'd been feeling so nostalgic about him, and can't thank you enough for this blog entry. He'd have blushed deeply, then felt deeply touched. Thanks again, and Happy Reading,

  7. "Dancing Ducks and Talking Anus" will be released as an e-story for the Kindle platform by Tough Times Publishing before the end of the year. We're working on some supplemental materials right now ...

  8. James Ferry's amazing story is now available as an e-story for Kindle: Enjoy!