Jesse Ball on Fiction, Suddenness, and Expectations of Realism

Jesse Ball © Joe Lieske

The fiction written by Jesse Ball rarely lets the reader keep their bearings. Narratives disappear into narratives; storytelling styles overtake one another while never losing a particularly sense of atmosphere. Ball’s latest, Silence Once Begun, follows a writer (also named Jesse Ball) investigating a series of disappearances in Japan, and delves into questions of guilt, ambiguity, and perception. I caught up with Ball with a few questions about his past work and his forthcoming novel.

Silence Once Begun is the first of your novels to be set in an overtly realistic, specific place and time. What about this story made you opt for this approach? 

All my work is extremely realistic. The expectations of realism have been perverted.

How did the structure of this novel come together? 

It is through playfulness and an attempt to have the moment of writing be itself real and realized life.

What prompted the decision to include elements that weren’t simply text–i.e. the photographs? Do you see this as something you might return to in your future work? 

The photographs create a blank space of relief–so that the next part does not begin in a hurry.

I like using any and all possible elements–and hope to.

Almost all of your novels have utilized unconventional structures. What’s the process of finding the right structure for a particular story like? 

The things I do in fiction are essential to fiction–that is why they are possible.  If anything it is the current publishing environment that is unnatural.

In an interview with The Brooklyn Rail last year, you mentioned that you were working on some radio plays. Did this arise from the same place as the usage of transcripts in Silence Once Begun

Not at all–just a coincidence.  I am always happy to employ any of a variety of forms.

Your next novel, A Cure For Suicide, is due out later this year. How would you say that it relates to your earlier work?

It is full of love and the things of love, so it is like the earlier work.

Do you generally focus on one project at a time, or are you more often working on multiple work–whether it be stories or novels or plays–at the same time?

There are things I am always doing and there are things I do suddenly.  Novels are in the latter group.


Image: Joe Lieske

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