I make my debut with the Los Angeles Review of Books this week with a review of Jesse Ball’s novel, The Curfew. I didn’t think a whole lot of it, and nor did I think much more of what Ball has published to date (I pounded my way through his backlist for the review). For my next review I’ll be taking on the new work from an author that I consider to be much more emblematic of the exciting possibilities for U.S. fiction (albeit a long-term expat at this point . . .)
Anyway, here’s your quote:
All Ball’s work tends to the minimalist. His sentences are short and direct, his paragraphs too. His novels have plenty of white space — both literally and metaphorically — and they stick very close to their central character. Like Ball’s previous work, The Curfew’s small confines are packed with sparse exchanges of dialogue. There are very few details, the clipped narration used for utilitarian scene-setting. Rarely does the language venture into the abstract.
The book is about a man named William and his daughter, Molly, who live in a totalitarian regime. The overthrow of the previous regime is handled so briefly as to essentially be a parenthetical — at some point in William’s past the country wasn’t totalitarian, then things changed very quickly — and now William lives a dual life as a writer of epitaphs (or “epitaphorist,” in Ball’s coinage) for gravestones and a member of the sect-like insurgency against the regime. The narrative focuses upon him, his wife, whom he lost tragically, and his daughter, who cannot communicate via spoken language.
Character can be a very tough thing for minimalism . . .