Autoportrait

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9781646221387 | Hardcover 5 x 8 | 140 pages Buy it Now

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Book Description

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 young 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.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

“Jesse Ball is a writer of formal mysteriousness and neon moral clarity . . . His language is spare, strange, and evocative . . . His themes are human savagery, often state-sanctioned, and human kindness, a thin thread of resistance . . . The final section [of The Divers’ Game] is breathtaking.” —The New Yorker
 
“Jesse Ball (“Census”) levels a steely gaze at the very concept of humanity in this three-part novel that introduces the lower-class “quads” and the rich “pats,” who treat those below them with impunity. When a group of pats conceals the grisly fate of a young quad girl behind an elaborate festival, you may start to wonder just how different this dystopian world is from our own.” —The Washington Post

"Ball invites readers into a meditative engagement with the text and suggests that perhaps the best way to understand a person is to sift through their mental clutter. Koan-like moments hum throughout . . . A hypnotic personal reflection penned with clockwork discipline." —Kirkus Reviews

"Slender and innovative . . . A rich self-portrait that evokes wonder at odd passions (cooking with strangely named spices, drawings of dead babies) and delightfully idiosyncratic opinions." —Publishers Weekly