Samedi the Deafness: a Novel
by: Jesse Ball
Published by: Vintage Contemporaries
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Reviewed by Janelle Martin
On a Sunday morning in a Washington park, James Sim – loner and professional mnemonist (someone who can memorize large amounts of data) – is witness to the aftermath of a stabbing. With his dying breath, Thomas McHale tells James: “I was one of them, but I left, and they didn’t want me to leave. Have you seen the paper? Samedi? The conspirators? I was one of them…You must do it. You must expose them.” The “them” in question is a group of individuals who commit suicide in front of the White House, one each day, all bearing a message from Samedi of doom to come on the seventh day.
McHale leaves James with a few clues; however, he is loath to get involved until a chance encounter with a young woman spurs him to action. James sets off to follow the dead man’s clues and, in the process, ends up a prisoner in an asylum for liars. As he searches for truth amidst the lies, James struggles to find out who Samedi is and what will happen on the seventh day.
Samedi the Deafness is the very strange novel from poet Jesse Ball. As he states in an interview, “Samedi is an investigation of lies and responsibility.” Despite this clear statement of intent, and being incredibly easy to read, reality is quickly undermined in Samedi. This is a novel which will frustrate, confound and challenge readers, who will quickly feel as if they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, into a David Lynch film where political commentary is provided by Hunter S. Thompson.
The character of Samedi has direct ties to “Baron Samedi,” the all-knowing loa of death from the Voodoo tradition, known for disruption, obscenity, debauchery. It should come as no surprise that Ball has chosen to take that disruption and undermine the very concept of the novel.
This is not a comfortable read, just when the reader is sure they’ve understand what is happening, Ball flips the tables. His underlining message is vital; readers who choose to fall into his dream world will find unexpected and important rewards hidden within.
Armchair Interviews says: The author turns the table on the unsuspecting reader.
Author’s Web site: http://www.JesseBall.com
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