Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Jesse Ball  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1978 in Port Jefferson, New York


-- Website -- http://jesseball.com
-- Jesse Ball on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=jesse++ball


Illinois Connection

Ball lives in Chicago and is an Assistant Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago Master of Fine Arts Writing program.

Biographical and Professional Information

Jesse Ball is a novelist, poet, and artist. He received his BA in 2000 from Vassar College and his MFA in 2004 from Columbia University. He has written several novels and works of verse, bestiaries, and sketchbooks. A fellow of the NEA, Creative Capital, and the Guggenheim Foundation, his verse has also been included in the Best American Poetry series.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

March Book (Grove Press Poetry)
ISBN: 0802141226

Grove Press. 2004

March Book is a wonder and a revelation. A shockingly assured first collection from young poet Jesse Ball, its elegant lines and penetrating voice present a poetic symphony instead of a simple succession of individual, barely-linked poems. Craftsmanship defines this collection

it is full of perfect line-breaks, tenderly selected words, and inventive pairings. Just as impressive is the breadth and ingenuity of its recurring themes, which crescendo as Ball leads us through his fantastic world, quietly opening doors.

In five separate sections we meet beekeepers and parsons, a young woman named Anna in a thin, linen dress and an old scribe transferring the eponymous March Book. We witness a Willy Loman-esque worker who "ran out in the noon street / shirt sleeves rolled, and hurried after / that which might have passed" only to be told that there's nothing between him and "the suddenness of age." While these images achingly inform us of our delicate place in the physical world, others remind us why we still yearn to awake in it every day and "make pillows with the down / of stolen geese," "build / rooms in terms of the hours of the day." Like a patient Virgil, insistent and confident, Ball escorts us through his mind, and we're lucky to follow.

Vera & Linus
ISBN: 9979971568

Nyhil. 2006

Fiction. VERA & LINUS is a series of short sketches. The book's theme is the love between the two protagonists, Vera and Linus. They are mischief makers and tricksters of the most daring sort, and they are constantly up to no good, but the language holds them with a clear restraint, a restraint born perhaps out of the peculiar nature of their love, a love both for each other and the things of the world. Their mastery, and shifting natures allow them to compel the workaday world as they see it, but not to rule over each other, and so their game begins, as Vera struggles to outwit Linus, and Linus to outwit Vera.

Samedi the Deafness (Vintage Contemporaries)
ISBN: 0307278859

Vintage. 2007

One morning in the park James Sim discovers a man, crumpled on the ground, stabbed in the chest. In the man's last breath, he whispers his confession: Samedi.

What follows is a spellbinding game of cat and mouse as James is abducted, brought to an asylum, and seduced by a woman in yellow. Who is lying? What is Samedi? And what will happen on the seventh day?

The Way Through Doors (Vintage Contemporaries)
ISBN: 0307387461

Vintage. 2009

With his debut novel, Samedi the Deafness, Jesse Ball emerged as one of our most extraordinary new writers. Now, Ball returns with this haunting tale of love and storytelling, hope and identity.

When Selah Morse sees a young woman get hit by a speeding taxicab, he rushes her to the hospital. The girl has lost her memory

she is delirious and has no identification, so Selah poses as her boyfriend. She is released into his care, but the doctor charges him to keep her awake, and to help her remember her past. Through the long night, he tells her stories, inventing and inventing, trying to get closer to what might be true, and hoping she will recognize herself in one of his tales. Offering up moments of pure insight and unexpected, exuberant humor, The Way Through Doors demonstrates Jesse Ball's great artistry and gift for and narrative.

The Curfew (Vintage Contemporaries)
ISBN: 0307739856

Vintage. 2011

William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citizens. But when an old friend seeks William out, claiming to know what happened to his wife, William must risk everything. He ventures out after dark, and young Molly is left to play, reconstructing his dangerous voyage, his past, and their future. An astounding portrait of fierce love within a world of random violence, The Curfew is a mesmerizing feat of literary imagination.

Silence Once Begun: A Novel
ISBN: 0307908488

Pantheon. 2014

From the celebrated author of The Curfew (“A spare masterwork of dystopian fiction” —The New York Times Book Review), Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is an astonishing novel of unjust conviction, lost love, and a journalist’s obsession.


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 Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.


Wildly inventive and emotionally powerful, Silence Once Begun is a devastating portrayal of a justice system compromised, and evidence that Jesse Ball is a voraciously gifted novelist working at the height of his powers.

A Cure for Suicide: A Novel
ISBN: 1101870125

Pantheon. 2015

***LONG-LISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD***

From the author of Silence Once Begun, a beguiling new novel about a man starting over at the most basic level, and the strange woman who insinuates herself into his life and memory.

A man and a woman have moved into a small house in a small village. The woman is an “examiner,” the man, her “claimant.” The examiner is both doctor and guide, charged with teaching the claimant a series of simple functions: this is a chair, this is a fork, this is how you meet people. She makes notes in her journal about his progress: he is showing improvement yet his dreams are troubling. One day the examiner brings the claimant to a party, where he meets Hilda, a charismatic but volatile woman whose surprising assertions throw everything the claimant has learned into question. What is this village? Why is he here? And who is Hilda? A fascinating novel of love, illness, despair, and betrayal, A Cure for Suicide is the most captivating novel yet from one of our most audacious and original young writers.

Notes on My Dunce Cap
ISBN: 0990593541

Pioneer Works Press. 2016

A text for those curious about education as a context for creativity and collaboration, and for teachers who want to reconsider hierarchy in their classrooms, Jesse Ball’s Notes on My Dunce Cap includes advisory material regarding the creation of syllabi and the manner in which groups may evaluate the work of an individual without harm. Ball is renowned for the unique courses he teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago, which are compiled in this volume along with extended notes on pedagogy. His meditations consider pedagogy in terms that are at once usefully broad and insightfully profound: "When it is possible for any of us to simply go and sit somewhere in the grass, and when it is such a delightful thing to do, to go and sit in the grass, whether by oneself or with others, then it is important to remember that anytime we think about teaching, or indeed, about any other activity―that we do it instead of sitting somewhere in the grass. We are passing up on the joy of solitude, and all its virtues and pleasures. Therefore, it is crucial that what happens when we teach be of the same value as time spent alone. And that is true both for ourselves and for those we teach."
Jesse Ball (born 1978) is the author of five novels, including The Curfew, Silence Once Begun and A Cure for Suicide, which was longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award, as well as several collections of poetry, including March Book. His work has appeared in numerous publications including The New Republic, The Paris Review, Oberon, Circumference and Guernica Magazine.

How to Set a Fire and Why: A Novel
ISBN: 1101870575

Pantheon. 2016

A teenage girl. A shattering loss. An obsession with a secret arson club. This is the story of a girl who has nothing and will burn anything.


Lucia’s father is dead, her mother is in a mental hospital, and she’s living in a garage-turned-bedroom with her aunt. And now she’s been kicked out of school—again. Making her way through the world with only a book, a zippo lighter, a pocketful of stolen licorice, a biting wit, and the striking intel­ligence that she tries to hide, Lucia spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother 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. As Lucia’s fascination with the Arson Club grows, her story becomes one of misguided friendship and, ultimately, destruction.

Sleep, Death's Brother
ISBN: 1945711027

Pioneer Works Press. 2017

Sleep, Death’s Brother is an instruction manual on dreaming for children or incarcerated persons, teaching such individuals

to lucid dream and thus use their dreams to somewhat escape their situations. While it is often the case that dream life is passively experienced, acclaimed novelist Jesse Ball (born 1978) reminds us that dreaming life is also a place where a sense of agency can grow. Even in the midst of physical or emotional environments that do not support such development in waking life, dreams are a place where one can take control. Ball calls for bravery in the exploration of this practice, and provides the dreamer with useful habits and techniques. Full of affirmation and wisdom, Sleep, Death’s Brother is a guidebook “for all oneironauts young and old.”


Awards

'''Body of Work'''

Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2014

Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 2015

Finalist, New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, 2015 '''Story: ''The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp and Carr'''''

Plimpton Prize, Paris Review, 2008'''''A Cure for Suicide'''''

Long-list, National Book Award, 2015

Best Fiction, Huffington Post 2015

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly'''''How to Start a Fire and Why: A Novel'''''

Starred Review, Booklist

Starred and Boxed Review, Publishers Weekly

Availability for Public Speaking

Speaking Engagement Availability: (No)