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Silence Once Begun

A Novel

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Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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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.

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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.

Product Details
Paperback (256 pages)
Published: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780345805522
Other books byJesse Ball
  • Samedi the Deafness

    Samedi the Deafness
    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 Village on Horseback

    The Village on Horseback
    Prose and Verse, 2003-2008
    This second volume of poetry by experimental writer Jesse Ball is a philosophical recasting of myth and legend. Employing an eerie narrative simplicity, these always unpredictable poems are cautionary tales of the oppressiveness of monolithic culture on the development of artistic, philosophical, and political leadership. Alternating from the personal to the public, Ball attains a wide enough vantage to observe the cowardliness of historians in their refusal to ascribe causality. Unearthing parables from the compost heap of oral tradition, folklore, literature, and popular culture, this book projects shadows of figures we think we recognize: Helen Keller, Pompeii, Ellis Island, Houdini, Lazarus, the Pied Piper, Punch and Judy, Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, and more. Comprised of three separate “volumes,” The Village on Horseback creates an entirely original world of interrelated characters, with a mix of references, allusions, evocations—the result being a sort of Brueghel-esque feel—and yet there’s also a self-conscious acknowledgment of modernity as well as a questioning of the “authority” of the author in determining meaning. At times evoking Gorey, Chaucer, and the tale of Robin Hood, these fables, ghost stories, and riddles of human nature dissect the individual’s interaction with “culture,” particularly commenting on the ascribing of meaning by communal groups resulting in “truth-making,” and the limitations of our leaders (artists, philosophers, politicians) in their ability to break us out of communal indoctrination.

    The Way Through Doors

    The Way Through Doors
    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.

    March Book

    March Book
    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.

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