Jesse Ball

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Jesse Ball
Jesse Ball in Chicago, October 25, 2016
Born (1978-06-07) June 7, 1978 (age 41)
  • novelist
  • poet
Notable work
  • Silence Once Begun
  • A Cure for Suicide
  • Census

Jesse Ball (born June 7, 1978) is an American novelist and poet. He has published novels, volumes of poetry, short stories, and drawings. His works are distinguished by the use of a spare style and have been compared to those of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino.[1][2][3]


Ball's reputation as a leading American novelist was first made in 2007 and 2008 with the arrival of the critically acclaimed Samedi the Deafness and then the novella The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp & Carr. The latter won the Paris Review's Plimpton Prize. He followed up that success in 2009 with The Way Through Doors, and in 2011, The Curfew, whose style The New Yorker described as "[lying] at some oscillating coordinate between Kafka and Calvino: swift, intense fables composed of equal parts wonder and dread."[4]

His career and his 2014 book Silence Once Begun were reviewed by the literary critic James Wood in The New Yorker in February 2014.[5] In 2015, he was a finalist for the NYPL Young Lion Prize[6] (also for Silence Once Begun). Later that year, he published A Cure for Suicide, which was long listed for the National Book Award.

In 2017, Granta included him on their list of Best Young American Novelists.[7] On June 30 of that year Ball published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that all American citizens be incarcerated periodically, as a civic duty. The article likens this incarceration to already existing jury duty and states that no one, not even sitting politicians, judges or military officers would be free from it.[8]

Ball's The Diver's Game made it on The Best Books of 2019 by The New Yorker. Staff writer Katy Waldman provides a brief synopsis of the novel that includes, "This dystopic fable imagines a society riven in two, with the upper class empowered to murder members of the lower class, for any reason." [9]

Personal life[edit]

Ball was born into a middle-class, English-speaking Irish-Sicilian family in Port Jefferson, New York, on Long Island. Ball's father worked in Medicaid; his mother worked in libraries. His brother, Abram, was born with Down's syndrome and attended a school some distance from the place where they lived.[2] Ball attended Port Jefferson High School, and matriculated at Vassar College.

Following Vassar, Ball attended Columbia University, where he earned an MFA and met the poet Richard Howard. Howard helped the then 24-year-old poet publish his first volume, March Book, with Grove Press.

In Iceland, Ball met Thordis Bjornsdottir, a poet and author who he collaborated with on two books and married.[2]

Ball has lived for ten years in Chicago. He is on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he teaches courses on lying, ambiguity, dreaming, and walking.[10]


  • March Book. Verse. (New York, NY: Grove Press, 2004)
  • Og svo kom nóttin, Drawings. With Thórdís Björnsdóttir. (Reykjavík: Nyhil, 2006)
  • Vera & Linus. Stories. With Thórdís Björnsdóttir. (Reykjavík: Nyhil, 2006)
  • Samedi the Deafness. Novel. (New York: Vintage, 2007)
  • Parables & Lies. Prose. (Lincoln, NE: The Cupboard Pamphlet, 2007)
  • Pieter Emily, novella serialized in Guernica Magazine (2009)
  • The Way Through Doors. Novel. (New York: Vintage, 2009)
  • The Village on Horseback: Prose and Verse, 2003-2008 (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2011)
  • The Curfew. Novel. (New York: Vintage, 2011)
  • Silence Once Begun. Novel. (New York: Pantheon, 2014)
  • A Cure for Suicide. Novel. (New York: Pantheon, 2015)
  • How to Set a Fire and Why. Novel. (New York: Pantheon, 2016)
  • The Lesson. Novella. (New York: Vintage, 2016) [11]
  • Notes on My Dunce Cap. Nonfiction. (Brooklyn: Pioneer Works Press, 2016) [12]
  • Sleep, Death's Brother. Nonfiction. (Brooklyn: Pioneer Works Press, 2017) [13]
  • Deaths of Henry King. Stories. With Brian Evenson, Lilli Carré. (New York: Uncivilized, 2017)
  • Census. Novel. (New York: Ecco, 2018) [14]
  • The Diver's Game. Novel. (New York: Ecco, 2019)[15]



  1. ^ Giraldi, William (Aug 26, 2011). "The Curfew - By Jesse Ball - Book Review". Retrieved Jul 31, 2019 – via
  2. ^ a b c "Where Dreams Lie: Inside the strange compelling worlds of Jesse Ball". Newcity. Feb 25, 2009. Retrieved Jul 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Ape, The (Aug 4, 2011). "Review: THE CURFEW by Jesse Ball". Retrieved Jul 31, 2019.
  4. ^ "The Curfew". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  5. ^ Wood, James. "James Wood: Jesse Ball's "Silence Once Begun"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  6. ^ "NYPL's Top Authors Under 35: 15 Years of Young Lions Fiction". The New York Public Library. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  7. ^ a b "Granta's list of the best young American novelists". The Guardian. 2017-04-26. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  8. ^ "Everyone should go to jail, say, once every ten years". LA Times. June 30, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Best Books of 2019". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  10. ^ "Profiles". School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved Jul 31, 2019.
  11. ^ "The Lesson by Jesse Ball | Books". Retrieved Jul 31, 2019.
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "Jesse Ball: Sleep, Death's Brother | Pioneer Works". Pioneer Works. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  14. ^ "Census". Harper Collins. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  15. ^ "The Divers' Game - Jesse Ball - Hardcover". HarperCollins Publishers: World-Leading Book Publisher. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  16. ^ "The 2018-19 Berlin Prize - American Academy". Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  17. ^ Flood, Alison (11 October 2018). "Jesse Ball's 'strange and beautiful' Census wins Gordon Burn prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2018.


  • The New Yorker: "But He Confessed." Review of Silence Once Begun. February 2014.
  • Publisher's Weekly: Review of Vera & Linus. October 2006.
  • Reykjavik Grapevine, "A Deep Strong Hope in Its Core" Profiled with Thordis Bjornsdottir following publication of Vera & Linus. Issue 15, 22 September—5 October 2006.
  • Frettabladid, "Natturulega skaldleg saelstilling" Interview with Thordis Bjornsdottir following publication of Vera & Linus, 9 September 2006.
  • Reykjavik Mag "Elegantly Brutal" Profile with Thordis Bjornsdottir following publication of Vera & Linus, July 2006.
  • POETRY DAILY: 3 July 2006, "Missive in an Icelandic Room 3" (From Denver Quarterly)
  • POETRY DAILY: 10 November 2005, "Parades," "I Followed A Ribbon" (From Paris Review)
  • Fréttabladid: Interview about poetry and about the life of a poet, 27 July 2005.
  • Icelandic Radio FM 90.9: Reykjavík, Iceland. Interview by Gunnar Peturrson for upcoming NYHIL festival, July 2005.
  • Boston Review: Boston, MA. Review of March Book by Desales Harrison. February/March 2005.
  • Book/ Mark: Long Island, NY. Review of March Book by Claire Nicholas-White. 2004.
  • The Times, Smithtown, NY; Port Times Record, Port Jefferson, NY. Profile following the publication of March Book. March 2004.

External links[edit]