Study Questions for "Bright Morning" and "What's Sure to Come" byJeffrey Ford

For the first and only time this semester, we will read two stories by the same author for a single class meeting. What about these two stories, despite their rather clear differences, establishes them as examples of slipstream? Does Ford create a sense of estrangement in each story despite their rather different structures and content? How does Ford complicate narative voice and narrator identity in these stories? Perhaps these two stories will help us to return to clearer definitions of "slipstream" as we enter our final week of classes. Here are a few questions to consider for each of the stories as you prepare for our class discussions:

"Bright Morning" by Jeffrey Ford, initially published in The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories [2002]

  1. We began the course with Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," and, here, Ford presents us with a narrator, himself a writer, who is obsessed with an obscure work by Kafka. Is Ford's choice of Kafka a self-conscious attempt to identify himself as a participant in the developing genre of slipstream?
  2. Kafka's story, "Bright Morning," does not actually exist; it is a fiction created by Ford to support his plot. How does Ford incorporate realistic detail to complicate the relation between fiction and reality here?
  3. What references to actual historical figures and to known published works can you identify in Ford's story?
  4. Why, according to this story, did Kafka write "Bright Morning"?
  5. Who is telling this story? If you briefly review Ford's biography at his website, then look over the listed accomplishments of our narrator [bottom 170], I think you'll see considerable similarity between the narrator's and Ford's careers. This induces us to associate the narrator with the author. How does the appearance of Ford in the story complicate this notion?
  6. How is the last line of the story an iterative moment? That is, where else does part of that line appear in the story?

"What's Sure to Come" [2002] by Jeffrey Ford

  1. Ford presents his story in five numbered parts or episodes. Does each episode have a singular point of some kind that builds toward a conclusion? What is the relationship [the thematic concern or developing plot idea] that unifies these five sections?
  2. The grandfather studies racing tout sheets and bets on horses, but is not as successful as the grandmother. How do their different results help to establish what is truly in conflict in this story?
  3. When the cardplayers decide to have the grandmother read the cards for them to determine the number of the horse likely to win the race, what is the flaw in their reasoning?
  4. By the end of the story, what kind of knowledge is validated?
  5. Is this story in any way similar to Ford's "Bright Morning"?