Victoria James reviews Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun: The Japan Times
If you’ve ever thought book reviewing was a questionable business — so opinionated! so subjective! — this may be the review to prove you right. Not only do I have no idea what any prospective reader might make of “Silence Once Begun,” the new novel from American poet Jesse Ball, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it myself.
In one sense, that’s a very good thing indeed. In these days of identikit publishing, where each breakthrough novel seemingly releases a torrent of genre imitators — from “Scandi crime” to “mummy porn” — a novel that lacks simple comparators and defies easy conclusions is refreshing. On the other hand, when you can’t decide whether a book is really rather good, or actually pretty awful, it doesn’t make for a rewarding reading experience.