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Ball, Jesse

Entry updated 24 February 2020. Tagged: Author.

(1978-    ) US poet and author whose first novel, Samedi the Deafness (2007), which is set in a world sufficiently alternative to the consensual to be described in terms of Fantastika; in this world, as articulated through a complexly allusive telling, human paranoias shape events, as though they were genuinely predictive (Ball has been compared in this to Thomas Pynchon). Much of the tale is set in a "verisylum", governed by Kafkaesque rules (see Franz Kafka); thriller tropes intervene, surreally; a Biblical apocalypse is due on the seventh day of the tale. The surreal rule-bound Dystopian City of C featured in The Curfew (2011) evokes the verisylum of the previous novel, as does the paranoia-inducing plot. The intimate drama of interrogation that shapes A Cure for Suicide (2015) is set in a solipsistically abstract village. In Census (2018), a census taker embarks on a Fantastic Voyage through an increasingly surreal America, each town he visits (or invades) identified solely by a letter of the alphabet. (C from The Curfew does not appear.) Z comes, climactically, at the end.

Ball is of most direct sf interest for The Divers' Game (2019), an elaborately depicted Near Future Dystopia, set after a violent Ecological collapse (see Climate Change) and something like World War Three. Not unusually for this genre, but here very savagely, the remaining population is broken into citizens and non-native-born "quads", who are marked by facial surgery and the amputation of a thumb. They can be killed at will. The world is shaped as a theatre of cruelty, the only release being annual Walpurgisnachts, when the quads roam free for a day. But the day queen they choose is not expected to survive. The twenty-first century Satirical targets of the tale – especially in scenes where those declared to be outside the pale are murdered – are clearly articulated. [JC]

Jesse Ball

born Port Jefferson, New York: 7 June 1978

works (selected)


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