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August 5, 2015

Book Notes - Jesse Ball "A Cure for Suicide"

A Cure for Suicide

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jesse Ball's novel A Cure for Suicide is a fascinating fable of identity reconstructed, an unforgettable book filled with precise prose and haunting dialogue.

In the New York Times, Sarah Gerard wrote of the book:

"With the simplicity of a fable and the drama of a psychological thriller, Ball tells a story about starting over from nothing, reconstructing life from its most basic elements. These acts of narrative deconstruction highlight his strength as a deeply questioning writer at home in fact as much as abstraction."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Jesse Ball's Book Notes music playlist for his novel A Cure for Suicide:


This book was written in about a week in Berlin in the summer of 2013. I was working on a project with the Poyais Group and living in the quarter called Moabit. Some of the other Poyais members went to Denmark for a little while, and so I had the time. I would wake up early and leave the house (a train station turned into a dwelling) without speaking to anyone. First I would go to a coffeeshop in Moabit and work for a few hours. Then, I'd ride over to Prenzlauerberg to a place called Godshot where I would keep going until about three or four when I would ride home.

When I was at the first cafe (in the morning) I would listen to The Caretaker: Patience (After Sebald). During the afternoon at Godshot I would listen to either Coffin for Head of State (Fela Kuti) or the soundtrack Orfeo Negro. Whichever one I chose, I would just play on repeat over and over. While bicycling in between the two places, I would not listen to anything at all.

The gentleness of Patience (After Sebald) is fairly obvious as a useful morning-tool. Coffin for Head of State on the other hand is what one needs if the path must be found at all costs. Orfeo Negro is an old favorite. I must have listened to it hundreds of times -- and seen the film dozens. When Marpessa screams out in the street it sends me reeling -- out of any body I have ever inhabited. What a power -- to snatch someone that way. The opening shot of that film -- the camera follows her as she walks -- from far off overhead, is one I think about often. It is hard to say which is superior, the film or the music by Bonfa & Jobim. Luckily -- it is unnecessary to decide such a ridiculous question.


Jesse Ball and A Cure for Suicide links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Bookslut review
Boston Globe review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Times review
New Yorker review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Curfew
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Silence Once Begun
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Village on Horseback: Prose and Verse, 2003-2008
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Way Through Doors


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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