As if my weekend wasn’t scatterbrained enough, I just had to pick up the most provocative and mind-bending novel since “Simulacra and Simulation.” The difference between Ball and Baudrillard is simple: I was unable to put down “Samedi the Deafness” for fear of losing grip, and “Simulacra” wouldn’t allow a page to be read without losing what little grip I thought I had. Other than that, these aggressive challenges to my linear mentality are alike in all ways that really matter.
But, for the bloody sake of simplicity, let us focus on only one post-structural theorist, if we can at all reference Ball’s new book and ‘simplicity’ in the same sentence without feeling oddly distraught.
Well, turns out that I cannot help but feel unnerved and confounded with this book, but at least I’m not distraught.
“Samedi the Deafness,” the exciting new paperback release by Jesse Ball, is a complicated maze of lies and deceit, navigated by an ordinarily plain man calling himself James Sim. Sim lends us an impression of a routine, lonely life instantly thrown in a mix of conspiracy theory when he discovers a dying man in the park. With his last breath, the man, suffering from stab wounds to the chest, begs Sim to expose a deadly scheme and it’s participants before the seventh day arrives – the severity of which is not explained until the last 30 pages – but it is, trust me on this, a day of imaginative Armageddon if executed. This man’s unplanned murder is connected to a string of mysterious, disturbing suicides that warn the world of a man named Samedi.
Sim is abducted and held as a lab rat in a special hospital for liars, called a verisylum; the patients, orderlies, and doctors all follow strictly-structured rules in the hospital that discourage direct or spontaneous communication, but do not prohibit lying. The patients use the rules of the hospital to build an identity for themselves, even if that means leading a fictional life. Sim is careful to keep an eye out for him and the girl he’s fallen in love with, a patient named Grieve. Sim faces an ultimate challenge of separating reality from fabrication (or simulation) to get them out alive.
Wow, this book is tough to read. I really credit the author in being able to push the envelope on this one, meaning his style of writing is semi-psychotic. Ball has accomplished an incredible combination of Kafka surrealism, Joyce circular departure from plot and the creative literary liberties known of Danielewski. The language used is curt and deliberate, and is written like a poem. At times, the prose is so lyrical that the reader is given insinuation of carefully calculated meaning for each and every word.
Something to be dutifully noted of Samedi is the pace. I was surprised at how fluid the reading had become after my learning how Ball intends this novel to be read. Arriving at around the middle of the book, I was unable to put it down, and the rest really sped by with help of Mr. Coffee.
I think what will magnet most criticism about this book is the frustration spawning from abrupt phasing of tense (divided only by pages and not indicative words) and probably difficulty accepting constant changes in point-of-view. I really see the flak there, but in my opinion, this writer uses these inconsistencies in voice to really tie in a bigger theme. The prose poetry, strangeness in tense and perspective are used as a device to simulate the content with a fickle (thus powerful, and I’m sorry if that doesn’t make sense) voice. To make it make sense, grab a copy of this trippy, identity-twisting adventure by Jesse Ball.
I urge those who are curious about this title or would like more about it to analyze to visit the author’s promotional website at www.samedithedeafness.com. “Samedi the Deafness” was released only in paperback in September 2007 by Knopf Publishing Group.