"Jupiter's Skull" reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman's short fiction. It has that wonderful feel of the fantastic amidst the mundane that is so often present in Gaiman's work. Also, like Gaiman's work, Jeffrey Ford's story centres on the importance of stories and the act of storytelling. In Ford's story, the act of storytelling is a transformative one. It allows the protagonist, who is burdened with his own sense of failure in life, to escape from the meaningless rut his life and become something more. Through the agency of an old woman named Mrs. Strellop, he and a young prostitute named Maylee tell the story of Zel and Jupiter, two young lovers. It is through the events of Zel and Jupiter's story that the protagonist is allowed (forced?) to leave behind his "life" in the Bolukuchet (a run-down district in a nameless city filled with people who have given up on life), and move on to telling his own stories.
So what does this say about stories in general? To be frank, I'm not entirely sure. Is Ford saying that all stories have the power to inspire people, to allow them to escape from their own lives? Or possibly that a well-told story pulls the reader in to such an extent that they almost become one with the main character, and are changed by the character's experiences? Maybe. It's something I'll have to think about.