“A servant led him down a tiled passage. The tiles had pastoral scenes: cows, gypsies, birds of different sorts, wattle buildings, haystacks. No two of them were the same. This had a disquieting effect. You would obviously never have time to sit and look at all of them, even were it possible, and so it gave an elusive impression. William wouldn’t like to be forced to give an opinion about it.”
Jesse Ball is interesting, original, working in a particular vein of the current novel, out at the cutting edge. This is the sort of thing he does well, has done well across his earlier couple of books (which, apparently, were published out of order-of-writing, which means that I think this one predates Samedi the Deafness, which I read last). There’s the simply-laid-out, disquieting image of infinite variation, that comes from a place somewhere between Borges and Kafka. There’s the situation William, the protagonist, is in: a violinist who cannot play music, living in a tacitly totalitarian state, spending his days writing epitaphs that lie truthfully (Ball’s word, “epitaphorist,” is gorgeous and perfect). And there’s the last line, edging us toward something like Bulgakov, maintaining that vagueness (what precisely would he not like to give an opinion about? The tiles? The disquieting, elusive impression they give?), leavening with absurd humor. Ball does this well, and consistently, and that’s reason enough to pick up his books.
June 29, 2011, 12:00pm Comments