The Village on Horseback by Jesse Ball
Prose and Verse, 2003-2008

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This second volume of poetry by experimental writer Jesse Ball is a philosophical recasting of myth and legend. Employing an eerie narrative simplicity, these always unpredictable poems are cautionary tales of the oppressiveness of monolithic culture on the development of artistic, philosophical, and political leadership. Alternating from the personal to the public, Ball attains a wide enough vantage to observe the cowardliness of historians in their refusal to ascribe causality. Unearthing parables from the compost heap of oral tradition, folklore, literature, and popular culture, this book projects shadows of figures we think we recognize: Helen Keller, Pompeii, Ellis Island, Houdini, Lazarus, the Pied Piper, Punch and Judy, Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, and more.

Comprised of three separate “volumes,” The Village on Horseback creates an entirely original world of interrelated characters, with a mix of references, allusions, evocations—the result being a sort of Brueghel-esque feel—and yet there’s also a self-conscious acknowledgment of modernity as well as a questioning of the “authority” of the author in determining meaning. At times evoking Gorey, Chaucer, and the tale of Robin Hood, these fables, ghost stories, and riddles of human nature dissect the individual’s interaction with “culture,” particularly commenting on the ascribing of meaning by communal groups resulting in “truth-making,” and the limitations of our leaders (artists, philosophers, politicians) in their ability to break us out of communal indoctrination.

About Jesse Ball

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Jesse Ball (1978-) is an American poet and novelist. He is the author of Samedi the Deafness, released last year by Random House and shortlisted for the 2007 Believer Book Award. His first volume, March Book, appeared in 2004, followed by Vera & Linus (2006), and Parables and Lies (2008). His drawings were published in 2006 in Iceland in the volume Og svo kom nottin. He won the Plimpton Prize in 2008 for his novella, The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp & Carr. His verse appeared in The Best American Poetry 2006. He is an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Published July 12, 2011 by Milkweed Editions. 368 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Ball's superb new volume is strange, haunting, and wise, but hard to characterize: it's an omnibus of new short works and a compendious introduction to an imaginary preindustrial land, with its own folkways, myths, and codes of honor, in two great novellas, one wise long poem, many worse short on...

May 09 2011 | Read Full Review of The Village on Horseback: Pro...

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