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The Curfew (Vintage Contemporaries Original) Paperback – June 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[A] brilliant work of speculative fiction that calls to mind Kafka’s The Trial, Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and, most prominently, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” —New City Chicago

“Few authors have the guts or the skill to pull off a book like this.” —Time Out Chicago
 
“There is a hushed and elegiac quality to this nocturne of a novel. . . . Ball possesses a remarkably mythic sensibility, achieving a spare yet merciful mode that brings Borges, Calvino, and Simic to mind. Solemn beauty, beguiling invention, and unnerving insights into insidious tyranny and terror and depthless sorrow make for a haunting dystopian tale.” —Booklist

“[A] delicately etched nightmare.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“Jesse Ball once again manages to deliver a devastating blow with a deceptively small package. In his third novel, father and daughter William and Molly live as happy a life as they can under a shady, authoritarian regime. The horrors are only hinted at in Ball's poetic and economic style, but the love among family shines through it all.” —AM New York
 
“Written in clipped and brutal prose . . . [the] narrative is buoyed by nuanced characters. . . . Ball’s ideas and heart make this a very compelling read.” —Publisher’s Weekly

About the Author

Jesse Ball is a poet and novelist. His novels include The Way Through Doors (2009) and Samedi the Deafness (2007), which was a finalist for the Believer Book Award. He has published books of poetry and prose, The Village on Horseback (2010), Vera & Linus (2006), March Book (2004). A book of his drawings, Og svo kom nottin, appeared in Iceland in 2006.  He won the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize in 2008 for The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp & Carr.  His poetry has appeared in the Best American Poetry series. He is an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and teaches classes on lying, lucid dreaming and general practice. 

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Original
  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Original edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307739856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307739858
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jesse Ball is the author of numerous prize winning works of fiction and poetry. 2011 will bring a novel, The Curfew, from Vintage, and a collected verse/prose omnibus, The Village on Horseback, from Milkweed Editions. He lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Ettner on July 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
Jesse Ball's third novel, "The Curfew," is not as ambitious, experimental, or beholden to metafictional devices as its predecessors. The new book is more accessible. Shorter too: Samedi the Deafness (Vintage Contemporaries) contains 279 pages of text; The Way Through Doors (Vintage Contemporaries), 228 pages; while the "The Curfew" flows fast at 193 pages. "Samedi" offered readers a hallucinatory cat-and-mouse game, and TWTD presented a whirling dervish of endless tales. A few readers found those books wearying. In contrast, "The Curfew" has at its heart an elemental story of protective love between a father and his eight-year-old daughter. You are likely to be genuinely moved.

That's not to say the author has jettisoned his signature interests. The things Ball does well in all his fiction he continues to do in "The Curfew." He gives readers permission to pay attention. He knows how to conjure up off-kilter and perilous environments (here, a military coup has reduced an American city to a condition of pervasive terror). As before, he relies less on the traditional moorings of the novel and more on his own bizarre and generous wit to propel the story. As usual, he trusts that the reader's own imagination similarly will rise to the occasion. He trusts in silence. He knows how to exploit the design of words on a page -- how the judicious use of empty space, insertions, and irruptions of very large type, can positively serve the story. He has a command of rhythm, which is not a surprise, as Ball is a poet too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jex on March 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What can you say about Jesse Ball? Fans of his can recognize his laconic prose from twenty paces. It's as distinctive as a fingerprint. With that said:

The value of Jesse Ball's "The Curfew" lies not in what it sates for readers, but what it frustrates. Like his previous "Samedi the Deafness," Ball sets "The Curfew" in an acid climate of domestic terrorism, but he never really looks that terrorism in the face. His is not a political bent. We don't know why the citizens in the city of C have a curfew. or what time it starts, or even if it is government-enforced. Only one thing is certain; someone enforces that curfew, whether it's the police or frightened citizens or some other entity, and if you're out at night, you're likely to forfeit your life.

Eight year-old Molly's father has just ventured out into the night and left her in danger of becoming an orphan by morning. She stays with her neighbors, who help her put on a puppet show to occupy her through his absence. The puppet show becomes a nesting-doll story within the larger account of Molly and her father, but unlike how these box-within-a-box stories usually go, when the puppet show ends, the entire novel ends. Ball doesn't give his protagonists any space to close the novel's circuits.

Therein lies the frustration Ball offers readers in "The Curfew", and also the story's strength. Our questions and speculation are all we have left by the final page, and they flood out of the book at large. Eventually, Ball's refusal to give a more satisfying end for the protagonists draws us back to the beginning of the novel.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on August 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
Pick a sunny day to read Jesse Ball's latest novel, The Curfew. There's despair and darkness in a city under authoritarian rule. In this dystopian setting, William and Molly, father and daughter, try to carve out a life rooted in their love for each other. Ball's lyrical writing contrasts with the bleak context, and the puppet show at the end of the novel allows a fantasy to pull the story together. Readers who like Cormac McCarthy's The Road are likely to enjoy this novel.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cinamon on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I finished The Curfew a few days ago and I am still thinking about Molly, her father, and the puppet show.

The Curfew was short and lovely but maintained throughout it a sense of sadness and paranoia.

It was certainly an enjoyable read, not because of the sense of sadness and paranoia alone. There is a sense of wonder throughout as well.
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By Westarmagh on June 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dark, quasi Orwellian, and tautly written. Has a haunting quality to it that had me go back and reread it a week after finishing it the first time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mhcv on January 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
Very lean prose, similar in style to McCarthy's 'The Road', but without the depth. The daughter and neighbors are sympathetic, and the puppet show at the end lended a bit of warmth to a very cold, bleak story. It was a very fast read - I might not have finished it otherwise.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jake on December 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Curfew started off strong, with lean and interesting prose. In the end, though, its abstract universe ended up putting me off. The character of the daughter is occasionally very poignant, but the novel progresses further and further into abstraction as it advances, rather than particularizing its characters more and more and engaging us in their lives. Instead of making us feel for the situation, the book spins off aphorism after aphorism, most of which are more impressive for their rhythm and structure than their insight. The puppet show that dominates the book's final pages was particularly puzzling to me; in a book already so cold, abstract, and removed, did we really need to be pushed a level still further away? Perhaps Ball had some sort of Brechtian intentions here, but given the lack of substantive political analysis here--dictatorship is bad, art is good, art and dictatorship are enemies--it felt like a simple failure of craft.

Ball has apparently claimed that he wrote this book in just a few weeks, and it certainly feels that way; lots of first impulses and weak lines mixed in with the strong, presented to the reader unedited. (One small upside: you can read this book in about ninety minutes.) Ball's obviously a talented writer, and I may still buy his next... but let's hope he can invest at least a few months on it this time.
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