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Other titles in the Vintage Contemporaries series:
Silence Once Begun (Vintage Contemporaries)by Jesse Ball
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Synopses & Reviews
Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as “the Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled — until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by one Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman.
Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated, but he refuses to speak. Even as his family comes to visit, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. And as a journalist’s obsession uncovers more to the story, Jesse Ball spins a wildly inventive and emotionally powerful take of unjust conviction and lost love.
"Absorbing, finely wrought...a piercing tragedy...that combines subtlety and simplicity in such a way that it causes a reader to go carefully, not wanting to miss a word." Helen Oyeyemi, The New York Times Book Review
"Jesse Ball's strange, brief, beguiling fourth novel, Silence Once Begun, flirts with the hermetic....Ball enjoys borrowing some of the conventions of crime writing but in order to use them rather than to be used by them....His language is chastely lyrical, with a discreet musicality....He is often appealingly funny, in an absurdist manner reminiscent of the English avant-gardist B. S. Johnson....One of the triumphs of Silence Once Begun is the way that Ball enriches his metafictional restlessness with [a] humane curiosity....The language seems aware of the charged space around it, as if one were praying aloud in a darkened, empty church. His characters speak at once lucidly and uncannily; words have become strangely heavy." James Wood, The New Yorker
“Remarkable...a clear nod to The Trial...not unlike the images that string together the similarly enigmatic quagmires of W. G. Sebald...a perfection of [Ball's] style...realism distilled to its barest essentials.” Michael H. Miller, The NY Observer
"A seductive 'Rashomon'-like chorus of competing explanations for Sotatsu's actions, each cunningly building upon, or canceling out, the last....Beginning as a work of seeming reportage, Silence Once Begun transforms into a graceful and multifaceted fable on the nature of truth and identity." Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“‘Jesse Ball’ investigates a series of disappearances, a wrongful conviction and a love story in modern-day Osaka, Japan. [He] makes readers’ heads spin yet again with a darker but more tempered version of his strange, almost whimsical multimedia creations....There’s no denying the fascination his aberrant storytelling inspires.” Kirkus Reviews
“An increasingly mysterious and conflicted portrait of Oda and his alleged crime. This methodical presentation makes for coolly suspenseful reading, but it’s soon clear there is more underlying Ball’s investigation than meets the eye....Intriguing and offers a riveting portrait of the Japanese criminal justice system.” Publishers Weekly
“Ball’s spare, meditative, Rashomon-like novel, a work of exceptional control and exquisite nuance, consists of contradictory transcripts, poetic letters, a striking fable, and melancholy musings. Enigmatic black-and-white photographs add to the subtly cinematic mode. With echoes of Franz Kafka, Paul Auster, and Kobo Abe, Ball creates an elegantly chilling and provocatively metaphysical tale.” Booklist
“Jesse Ball's Silence Once Begun resists the standard narrative tropes of contemporary novels....As in Kafka's The Trial, the justice of Silence Once Begun is both tragic and absurd....Ball has built in a few genuinely surprising twists that exist solely because of how the story is structured. That's an accomplishment; Silence Once Begun is a fascinating project in which almost everything is stripped away but the contradictory stories people tell.” Carolyn Kellogg, The LA Times
"Daring...Silence Once Begun is a wondrous and provocatively strange reading experience that places the actual Jesse Ball among our most compelling and daring writers today." Nathan Deuel, The LA Review of Books
"A great page-turner...as hypnotic as any metronome....Think Camus's The Stranger, but with bonus material, like interviews from some of Meursault's closest confidants. Or think Kafka—only a version where the agents of power will pull up a chair and tell you exactly what was at stake in the trial...[a] daring and beautiful little book." Hannah Gold, The Chicago Reader
About the Author
Jesse Ball is the author of three previous novels, including Samedi the Deafness, and several books of verse, bestiaries, and sketchbooks. His awards include the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize; his verse has been included in the Best American Poetry series. He gives classes on lucid dreaming and lying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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