cover image Autoportrait


Jesse Ball. Catapult, $20 (144p) ISBN 978-1-64622-138-7

Modeled on French writer Édouard Levé’s work of the same title, this slender and innovative work from novelist Ball (Census) reflects on the vagaries of love, loss, and life in a single, unspooling paragraph. As he oscillates from one musing to the next without regard for chronology or resolution, Ball ruminates on having “no musical talent” (“when I try to play, my dogs howl until I stop”); his two marriages; his brother’s trip to the hospital in 1990 that rendered him quadriplegic; and a falling out with the proprietors of a favorite Chinese restaurant. Readers will not learn much about either wife, how his brother was injured, or the reason Ball and the restaurateurs parted ways. Though his writing implies a stream-of-consciousness approach, it may not be a coincidence that Ball, a self-identified absurdist, often recounts violence or tragedy, then swiftly changes the subject; a typical non sequitur: “Once, some years ago I was mean to my mother and she cried. I never wear watches.” While jarring, such punches mimic the ruthlessness of life. It’s a somewhat depressive affair, but Ball skillfully molds it into a rich self-portrait that evokes wonder at odd passions (cooking with strangely named spices, drawings of dead babies) and delightfully idiosyncratic opinions. Fans of Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too should take note. (Aug.)