Reading Jesse Ball

Fittingly, I can’t remember how or when I first picked up Jesse Ball’s fiction. His work, which is ever engrained into my thoughts, just appeared. I’ve been trying to properly put Ball’s works into words since I stumbled upon The Way Through Doors. It’s vintage Ball–themes throughout his work include unreliable narrators, the use of storytelling, how truth is perceived, and how it all ties into the mystique of the page’s action. Ball writes like a dream–in that, I mean everything seems familiar yet the possibilities are endless. Characters speak great and small truths or often not at all. They then they jump off the page and into the ether.

While there is no direct way to determine where he is going with a story, he never lets the reader feel ill at ease as a result–he is a master of the hook, and then letting the story seep in. Like great works of fiction, they feature moments that will last in the reader’s memory for years to come. While I feel having read his collected works that his best is still in front of him, I think anyone looking for something more surrealistic or off the beaten path could do no finer than to visit his books and see what I am trying to convey. I might push to recommend his latest, How to Set a Fire and Why, as a fine place to start, but with someone like Ball, it may be best to just pick a spot, begin, and see where it takes you.

How to Set a Fire and Why

Yet again kicked out of school and living in her aunt’s garage, Lucia spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother in a mental institution and following the only rule that makes any sense to her: Don’t do things you aren’t proud of. But when she discovers that her new school has a secret Arson Club, she’s willing to do anything to be a part of it, and her life is sud­denly lit up.

The Way Through Doors

In his new job as Municipal Inspector, Selah Morse comes to the aid of a young woman struck by a speeding taxi, rushing her to the hospital where he poses as her boyfriend. There he discovers that she has amnesia and takes her home with him to regale her with a series of inventive tales to help her remember her past.