In the preface to his latest book, Census, Jesse Ball tells readers the book is not about what it is about. He wanted to write a book about the loss of his brother who lived with Down syndrome; in the end, he wrote a book about a traveling, dying man who must perform a census of an unknown, magical nature.
“The complexities of the human spirit intrigue me. Sometimes we believe we are working towards one goal when in fact we are up to something else entirely. I think of these as shadow rooms in the homes of our souls.”
“For a long time, there’s been this notion that men’s memoirs are conveying universal experiences, whereas women’s stories are self-indulgent, salacious—just too much. You see it in reviews—if a woman writes about sex in any way, she’s looking for attention, whereas someone like Philip Roth is brave and amazing. That’s really coming to a head right now, so it’s been an interesting time to do this sort of writing and this sort of work. Which makes it exciting but also terrifying, because you’re basically girding yourself for what you know is going to be an inevitable response.”