Jesse Ball


The Repeat Room

A Novel

Franz Kafka meets Yorgos Lanthimos in this provocative new novel from one of America’s most brilliant and distinctive writers

In a speculative future, Abel, a menial worker, is called to serve in a secretive and fabled jury system. At the heart of this system is the repeat room, where a single juror, selected from hundreds of candidates, is able to inhabit the defendant’s lived experience, to see as if through their eyes.

The case to which Abel is assigned is revealed in the novel’s shocking second act. We receive a record of a boy's broken and constrained life, a tale that reveals an illicit and passionate psycho-sexual relationship, its end as tragic as the circumstances of its conception.

Artful in its suspense, and sharp in its evocation of a byzantine and cruel bureaucracy, The Repeat Room is an exciting and pointed critique of the nature of knowledge and judgment, and a vivid framing of Ball's absurd and nihilistic philosophy of love.


Nominated for the Chicago Review of Books Award

A work of unflinching honesty, Autoportrait is a hypnotic memoir of reflection, loss, and everyday joy from one of America's best contemporary novelists

Jesse Ball has produced fourteen acclaimed works of deeply empathetic absurdism in poetry and fiction. Now, he offers readers his first memoir, one that showcases his “humane curiosity” (James Wood) and invites the reader into a raw and personal account of love, grief, and memory. Inspired by the memoir Édouard Levé put to paper shortly before his death, Autoportrait is an extraordinarily frank and intimate work from one of America's most brilliant authors.

The subtle power of Ball's voice conjures the richness of everyday life. On each page, half-remembered moments are woven together with the joys and triumphs—and the mistakes and humiliations, too—that somehow tell us who we are, why we are here. Held at the same height as tragic accounts of illness or death are moments of startling beauty, banality, or humor: "I wake in the morning, I sit, I walk long distances. If there is somewhere to swim, I may swim. If I have a bicycle, I will ride it, especially to meet someone. There is no more preparing for me to do, other than preparing for death, and I do that by laughing. Not laughing at death, of course. Laughing at myself." 

An extraordinary memoir that reminds us what is possible and builds to the kind of power one might feel reading Anne Carson's Glass Essay, or Joe Brainard's I Remember. Autoportrait will leave you feeling utterly invigorated, inspired, and a little afraid.