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A Cure for Suicide: A Novel Hardcover – July 21, 2015

3.8 out of 5 stars 77 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“Elegant, spellbinding . . . With the simplicity of a fable and the drama of a psychological thriller, Ball tells a story about starting over from nothing, reconstructing life from its most basic elements. These acts of narrative deconstruction highlight his strengths as a deeply questioning writer at home in fact as much as abstraction . . . There is yearning at the core of A Cure for Suicide and in that yearning is the reason for carrying on when doing so feels impossible. Balls asks whether, given the chance to start over with the mind of a child, we would want to do so—to what extent pain informs identity, and what parts of us would remain were we to shed that pain . . . Ball deftly explores questions with the eye of a poet and the logic of a philosopher, revealing new facets with perfect timing and acuity. At each unforeseeable turn, A Cure for Suicide is a story Ball ensures we understand and, because it is subtle and breathtaking, we are happy to be told.” —Sarah Gerard, The New York Times Book Review

“War doesn’t exist anymore, and neither do prisons, in the seemingly not-so-distant future where Jesse Ball’s magnetic, suspenseful, occasionally heart-rending fifth novel, A Cure for Suicide, unfolds . . . There are echoes of the Peter Weir movie The Truman Show and the Tom McCarthy novel Remainder . . . Seeded with humor . . . Ball also weaves in romance—the sweet triumph of a resilient heart . . . Hypnotic.” —Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe

“Ball . . . craft[s] a full, satiating story . . . A rich, tragic love story . . . The heart of the claimant’s motivations—a dense kernel buried and reshaped by the Process of the Villages—is revealed, richly adorned with sensuous scenes . . . Ball is commenting on the texture of our strongest memories—jagged rocks that jut out amid the steady tide of daily life . . . An enthralling thought experiment that considers the value of memory versus the pain of grief.” —Maddie Crum, The Huffington Post
“Ball, also a poet, writes with a restrained specificity, his language so precise and clinical that it compounds into lyricism.” —Natalie Beach, O Magazine

“This dystopian novel from Ball is both a puzzle box and a haunting love story . . . Each section illuminates the characters and situations from the previous portions, which draws the reader into the material more effectively and heartbreakingly than a traditional structure would allow . . . Whatever the source of this book’s elusive magic, it should cement Ball’s reputation as a technical innovator whose work delivers a powerful emotional impact.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“There are few things more tantalizing, more compelling, than wondering what the hell is going on… Hushed, enigmatic . . . Elegant . . . This turns out to be a love story about a penniless man and a rich, dying woman, and it’s one of the finest things Ball has ever written, a magical, gripping burst of emotional history, which interrogates the book’s ultimate subject, suicide and the desire for oblivion . . . In Ball's best and eeriest work, it gives him the power to touch deep, luminous emotions.” 
—Charles Finch, Chicago Tribune 

“The juxtaposition of the commonplace and the darkly bizarre has become something of a specialty of the author's, as has his books' skill at reflecting the ongoing struggle of the individual in a society based on conformity. In his latest novel, A Cure for Suicide, Ball hauls another of his strange-yet-familiar worlds into vibrant life.”
—Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune 

“Its tone and soft, murky edges make me think of Margaret Atwood's Gilead — a place where it's the quiet that haunts you, the incredibly short distances between the real and the fictional… With semiotic precision… it is in the small space between the truth and the lie that Ball's dystopia festers… the precision of the language ticks along, as lulling as a clock.”
—Jason Sheehan, NPR

“Profound... Ball performs the remarkable task of pruning away layers of readerly skepticism in order to find the inherent beauty of small moments.”
—Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire

“A Cure for Suicide
, Ball’s fifth book, begins without providing any context: we’re plunked down in a tiny, unnamed town, as a woman teaches an male amnesiac how to be human again. At first the lessons are basic and literal—this is how a chair is used, here is how to greet a stranger—but they grow in difficulty and complexity… A vision of a society that flees from hurt, numbing the tormented in order to save them.”
—Joe Fassler, The Atlantic
“Jesse Ball is a master of dialogue . . . The book prompts a conversation about life—how we enter it, how we navigate its shoals, and how we exit it.” —Tara Sonenshine, New York Journal of Books  

“As in his elegant, enigmatic previous novels, The Curfew (2011) and Silence Once Begun (2014), Ball imagines a spare, spooky, muffled realm of continual surveillance and absolute control . . . Ball slyly exposes the survival-focused aspects of human interactions, from small talk to shared meals . . .  a tragic love affair further complicates the disquieting and profound mystery of it all.” —Booklist

“Ball’s disorienting novel takes its time revealing the scope of its philosophical concerns, but it rewards patience... Patterns emerge—the claimant has disturbing dreams and keeps meeting a woman with whom he seems to have had a relationship. When the novel unveils some of its secrets, the result is unexpectedly moving.”
The New Yorker

“The School of the Art Institute writing professor follows his well-received Silence Once Begun with this experimental tale of a man simply known as the ‘claimant,’ who, with the help of a mysterious woman, must relearn how to function in society.” —“Great Summer Reads,” Chicago Magazine

“A poet by trade, Ball understands the economy of language better than most fiction writers today. His poignant Silence Once Begun uses each word and margin with precision, so his next book promises to interest those with a penchant for brevity. [A Cure for Suicide] begins with a man who's relearning everything the way a child might, asking questions like, ‘What is a painting?’ ‘What is imagination?’ But soon, urged on by unpleasant dreams, he discovers the truth behind his state.” 
—“18 Brilliant Books You Won't Want To Miss This Summer,” The Huffington Post

“Jesse Ball's A Cure for Suicide is a novel about learning to forget the past . . . It also functions as a kind of mystery . . . a beautifully written quest for meaning that challenges assumptions about the tie between memory and the creation of meaning . . . a quiet poignancy . . . heartbreaking and hopeful . . . it is important not to let the search for answers get in the way of the constant, subtle pleasures of its language . . . devastating.”
—John Anspach, Bookslut

 “Elegant and spooky, dystopian and poetic, Jesse Ball’s follow-up to the well-reviewed Silence Once Begun follows a man known only as ‘the claimant’ as he relearns everything under the guidance of an ‘examiner,’ a woman who defines everything from the objects in their house to how he understands his existence. Then he meets another woman at a party and begins to question everything anew. A puzzle, a love story, and a tale of illness, memory, and manipulation, A Cure for Suicide promises to be a unique novel from a writer already known for his originality.” 
“Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview,” The Millions

“Jesse Ball’s fourth novel is full of disquieting ideas and probing questions… Captivating… Ball’s slippery novel stubbornly refuses to be pinned down and tagged, and to synopsize it is, in a way, to simplify its riddles and dilute its inventiveness. A Cure for Suicide skillfully stokes feelings of paranoia and persecution… Ball’s lean, clinical prose puts us in mind of Samuel Beckett, and his heady concoction of unsettling atmosphere, sterile environments and authorial obfuscations and distortions is redolent of the potent brew that powered recent dark fables from Chang-rae Lee and Howard Jacobson… It possesses more than enough momentum to keep disturbing and provoking. Refreshingly unconventional, the novel sees a highly original writer take another left-field leap in a daring and rewarding direction.”
—Michael Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“With A Cure for Suicide, Ball has successfully launched an intriguing sci-fi story arc while establishing a series of thematic questions: the nature of communication, the meaning behind names and the purpose of life itself… Poignant... Ball handles his intriguing premise with subtlety and authority, marching his plot through the momentous consequences-unexpected and inherent-of a truly life-altering decision. A Cure for Suicide ponders memory, identity, love, desire and choice. The question that remains is a heavy one indeed: Would you choose to start over?”
—Eric Swedlund, Paste Magazine 

About the Author

JESSE BALL is the author of four previous novels, including Silence Once Begun and Samedi the Deafness, and several works of verse, bestiaries, and sketchbooks. He has been named a finalist for the 2015 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and a 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Ball received an NEA creative writing fellowship for 2014 and the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize, and his verse has been included in the Best American Poetry series. He gives classes on general practice at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Master of Fine Arts Writing program. A Cure for Suicide is long-listed for the National Book Award 2015.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pantheon; 1st Edition (July 21, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1101870125
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1101870129
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.8 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.8 out of 5 stars 77 ratings

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Jesse Ball is the prizewinning author of numerous volumes of fiction and poetry. His work is a part of the tradition of Borges, Abe, Kafka, Walser, Kristof, Erpenbeck, Bernhard, Gogol and Schulz. He was born in 1978 in New York. He lives in Chicago and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5
77 global ratings

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