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Samedi the Deafness

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,045 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
One morning in the park James Sim discovers a man, crumpled on the ground, stabbed in the chest. In the man's last breath, he whispers his confession: Samedi.

What follows is a spellbinding game of cat and mouse as James is abducted, brought to an asylum, and seduced by a woman in yellow. Who is lying? What is Samedi? And what will happen on the seventh day?
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 4th 2007 by Vintage
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(showing 1-30 of 1,999)
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Dec 20, 2007 m.lady rated it did not like it
I feel like Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld, where she's the only person in New York who doesn't like "The English Patient."

Jesse Ball is very nice and very smart. I am moderately nice and mildly smart. I didn't like this book. But I don't blame him, I blame me.
Feb 13, 2008 Lee rated it liked it
What I said outloud to myself when I finished this, after rereading the last page a few times, was "f--king stupid." Yet, I admire a lot about this book: it seemed like it was initially composed as a screenplay, but then transformed into a VERY SPARE whodunnit, apparently heavily influenced by Ben Marcus more than any of the canonical surnames mentioned all over its covers. At times, yes, it reminded me of Kafka (Grieve instead of Lena, the egg room instead of the whipping room, etc) and Lewis C ...more
Nov 04, 2007 Colette rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone riding the 'L'
Amanda lent me her copy before she left for China. It was difficult to put down after getting through the first 10 pages. Occasionally I would laugh out loud to myself while reading it, which I rarely do these days (maybe with Pynchon). I found myself reading it on the subway mostly, even when drunk (which almost made me miss my stop - something I've never done before).

I love the way he presents characters and their speech patterns and trains of thought, and the ideas presented about truth and f
Apr 20, 2014 Prowisorio rated it really liked it
De hoofdpersoon, James Sim, ia een 'mnenomist', iemand die - in dit geval na langdurige training - over een fotografisch geheugen beschikt. Het is niet alleen een eigenschap van James, maar ook zijn werk. Maar hoe, waarom en voor wie hij dit werk doet blijft 'duister'. Het betaalt in ieder geval goed.

Op een dag, tijdens een wandeling, is James net niet getuige van een moord. De daders heeft hij nl. niet gezien, maar hij is wel net op tijd bij het slachtoffer om van hem nog het e.e.a. te horen o
Patrick Brennan
Sep 02, 2007 Patrick Brennan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People that like to think hard
So this is one of the best books I have read in a long while. Jesse Ball is firstly a poet, and his writing style is amazing and easy to read, and he is also a great plotter, and this story has an amazing fast-paced plot that keeps you on edge for most of it.

The story centers around James Sim, a mnemonist that seems to moonlight as a detective, who stumbles upon a dead man that says he knows what Samedi is doing, and that his friends are planning something horrible. A string of suicides on the l
Will Kaufman
Feb 04, 2008 Will Kaufman rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I started off really liking this book, and it had its moments the whole way through. In the end though there were too many moments when I either just wanted the book to get on with it, or felt like uninteresting diversions were distracting the story. This book didn't really live up to its potential. Ball's poeticism is undeniable, but the book gets bogged down in poeticizing certain seemingly minor plot elements.
For anyone who's read the book: I didn't give a damn about all the minutiae of the m
Barbara Bagatin
Scrittura premiata, grazie all' "invenzione" di personaggi fantamoderni da romanzo rosa. Trama del tutto inesistente, vuota come una pubblicità di detersivi per la casa con uomo catatonico e donna passiva. Impossibile riuscire a seguire la vicenda: in pochissime pagine, di cui molte scritte solo a metà ( i nuovi metodi di scrittura di chi non ha idee) riesce a rendere la narrazione una matassa talmente ingarbugliata che neanche se uno riuscisse a leggere "Guerra e pace" all' incontrario potrebbe ...more
Sean Carman
Aug 18, 2010 Sean Carman rated it liked it

In the end it was like Jesse Ball had a great idea that didn't quite pan out.

"Samedi" starts with a kick. James Sim, who thinks and speaks cautiously, and in formal sentences, discovers, on his Sunday morning walk, a man dying in the park. He's been stabbed in the chest, and in his dying words utters a string of clues about a sinister-sounding conspiracy led by "Samedi." He tells James to start with a man called "Estrainger," who lives in "The Chinese district" and poses as a playwright. The nex
Feb 18, 2008 Deepthi rated it really liked it
As a child, I learned to conceal my love of fantasy. Reading it was apparently a geeky pastime, and other kids didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm for talking animals and magical forests. These days, it’s a very different story, with pop culture tropes like cute robots and unicorns, artists like Bjork making living in an elfin world a reality, and a slew of mainstream movie adaptations following in the vastly successful footsteps of Lord of the Rings. Having cast off my mantle of fantasy shame, I ...more
Oct 29, 2009 Adam rated it really liked it
I'm very glad this was a good book. I very much wanted it to be. Kind of Murakami-esque, which is to say, post-modern semi-noir combined with a few strange occurrences, talking animals and shifting identities. I also liked the jacket's comparisons to David Lynch and Kafka. I get it. Probably not enough violence to merit the Lynch, but certainly enough confusion. And the largely passive, seldom speaking, always observing narrator connects to Kafka. I've only just now finished the book, but I'm st ...more
Apr 07, 2009 Nicola rated it it was amazing
Okay. Am totally biased. I had such a crush on Jesse Ball when he was at Columbia studying for his MFA. It was a shocker to pass by a bookshelf and see him on it. Now I'm ready for a binge. I remember he was into Kafka, Rilke, Borges--all of whose influence you can see in this fast-paced, quirky, detective novel. For me it's his phrasing of things, as well as the off-kilter images--i.e. man receiving a mask of his own face, girl sewing herself into a sack so she can sleep next to a guy, etc.--th ...more
May 29, 2008 Eliza rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any fans of Lewis Caroll, Children of Men, Fight Club, or apocalyptic literature
Somebody please read this and explain to me what the hell happened! It was very Alice in Wonderland crossed with Waiting for Godot or some other surreal, existential whatever. It begins with an average man (who's profession is as a mnemonist--rememberer) witnessing the assassination of a man who claims to be part of a global conspiracy. Things the dead man said begin coming true and soon the main character is abducted and taken away to the conspiracy headquarters, which doubles as a "verisylumn, ...more
Jan 26, 2014 Steven rated it it was amazing
There certainly is the standard cat and mouse mystery feel to this, but the book is much richer. Thanks to Ball's poetic language, a sense of surreal encompasses that story. This atmosphere adds credence to why the characters act the way they do and makes it believable. Another aspect of this book that was enjoyable was the examination of liars. Ball postulates that the liars lie in to create or destroy identity. The hospital that James Sim, the main character, is taken to is created to establis ...more
Oct 31, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing
Such a bizarre book. I could not put it down. I wanted to know what was going to come out of the author's imagination next.... The plot was really secondary to the details of the strange little world that the main character was caught up in... It was a very quick read.
Jun 07, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
I assume this work is meant to be a comedy, in which case I am inclined to laugh, very loudly. Otherwise, I would be left quite bewildered.

It starts off feeling sort of fake Kafka. Like Kafka in every way , even the atmosphere of early 20th Century Europe (when in fact it appears to be set in a species of near-contemporary America) but not quite Kafka. It quickly becomes a sort of Kafka's Kafka - the sort of work Kafka himself might have called Kafkaesque. But this time the Joseph or James style
Aug 29, 2007 dave rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Fastest I've read a book since Angels & Demons. Completely engrossing and thought-provoking. And weird too. Really weird.

The only flaw was maybe the ending.
Jan 15, 2008 G rated it it was amazing
Toss Alice in Wonderland and Kafka into a blender, with a bit of Hitchcock, Bond, and Orwell thrown in. A witty and perceptive meditation on truth, lies, and perception.
Oct 31, 2007 Tanya rated it liked it
It's good...but there were moments when i was, like, ok, cut it out...yes, I'm impressed by how completely disjointed and insane you can be. Or maybe that was me...
Dec 21, 2007 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Breathtakingly good. I almost dismissed it as gimmicky (a most favorite way for me to immediately despise a book), but was pleased to be proven wrong.
Sep 21, 2015 Scott rated it really liked it
Only someone demented could write a book like this. It's loosely about a mnemonist who gets caught up in this crazy and mysterious conspiracy and is eventually kidnapped and taken to this asylum/hospital run by these weirdo eccentrics and where everyone lies about everything and he has to try and figure out what the hell is going on, but you're never quite sure until almost the very end, because everyone is constantly making up shit and lying about everything. This was the second book by Jesse B ...more
Aug 01, 2007 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of noir, spy novels, Remainder, and David Lynch
This comes out in September. Full disclosure, I edited it. But it's a great psychologcal spy novel.
Jun 08, 2010 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tucker Leighty
Mar 30, 2016 Tucker Leighty rated it really liked it
This book made itself very urgent - so urgent perhaps that it didn't give me the time to process any of what I was reading. The lying motif kept me confused, on my toes, and often times frustrated as I couldn't figure out who was reliable and who wasn't (and this often made me wonder if the protagonist himself was reliable). The book had some great language at times ("And James knew then that all children at some time mistake themselves and choose to leave childhood. Yet once it is done, it cann ...more
Lee Glanville
Jul 18, 2015 Lee Glanville rated it did not like it
I really loved this book. A momentous story filled with poetry and paranoia.

Actually I didn't. That was a lie. I haven't even read the book. Here follows a review of The Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua instead.

That was another lie. I have read it right through to the end and I didn't like the book at all. But how do you know even if that is true?

You don't. And so it follows in Jesse Ball's frustrating novel Samedi, the Deafness.

The problem with basing a novel around lying is that eventually you ha
Feb 01, 2015 Josh rated it liked it
So this was sort of a mixed bag. "Sort of" is, in fact, a really good way to sum up this entire book, so I'm planning on doing that at the end of this review. Just you wait.

I really thoroughly enjoy Jesse Ball's voice as a writer - there's an old soul-ness to it, the sort used to tell a tale being spun by a fire, and to establish that voice and sneak in a thriller through it is really effective.

But the book's ideas are kind of all over the place, and the pacing of the story is an unfavourable pa
Jessica D. Bicking
Aug 18, 2015 Jessica D. Bicking rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-in-paper
While reading this book, I could never quite decide whether I liked it or not. It was quirky for sure, and quirky in a charming way. Though, then again, was it too much sometimes? Or is he just being consistent?

Mr. Ball undoubtedly created a niche of style for himself and one that is recognizable on top of that.

I like the simplicity of language with which he achieves so much. I got distracted so often because I have been pulled away from the pages by this or that little sentence. They have a qua
Marc Kozak
Nov 27, 2013 Marc Kozak rated it really liked it
You can tell you're reading a good mystery when you develop a new theory every other page as to what is actually going on. Jesse Ball's first novel (written when he was 29!) is a way-out-there trip, a surrealist noir mystery that had me flipping pages furiously.

Ball's prose is minimalist, with simple words -- the fact that they build into a beautiful web of confusion is really to his credit. Our main character finds a dying man in a park, and is thrust into a giant conspiracy (or is he?) with a
Mar 23, 2009 Debbie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Debbie by: nyt book review?
ihe idea was that there were three types of people. the first were those who became immediately angry about what had just happenened, and who rthen thereafter lessened in their anger. any danger from such a person came in the moments after the first difficulty.
The second type seemed only sloghtly angry about what had happened. they might even say to you oh dont worry about it. its just fine. its fine. but as time passes they ecome more and more angry. an hour after the incident they are steaming
Nov 15, 2012 Michael rated it liked it
Ball has a beautiful poetic aesthetic. Unfortunately it never seems capable of sustaining itself as a “traditional” narrative. Aside from slipping into sentimentality (which I think is his biggest crime) it becomes contrived. He begins to use these poetic hyperboles as a substitute for drama. He presents naïvety as a form of emotional purity that deflates any possibility of real conflict because the naïve sentiment/aesthetic or point of view is never challenged. Therefore, the narrative remains ...more
Oct 31, 2011 Ben rated it liked it
I'm not sure what to think about this book. Firstly, it struck me as being very similar to Jose Saramago's books, on both content and also story. It also have very many lovely moments of description or phrasing, however these mostly occurred in the first quarter of the book. The dual endings did not particularly bother me, as by the stage I was not taking the book particularly serious anyway.

It's hard trying to balance a books pros and cons to arrive at a star rating. I was originally intending
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Is Jesse Ball's writing unconventional? 3 61 Jul 12, 2011 08:39AM  
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Jesse Ball (1978-) Born in New York. The author of fourteen books, most recently, the novel How To Set a Fire and Why. His prizewinning works of absurdity have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. The recipient of the Paris Review's Plimpton Prize, as well as fellowships from the NEA, the Heinz foundation, and others, he is on the fa ...more
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“Sunday was always the best of days for being the self you had intended to be, but were not, for one reason or another.” 6 likes
“You live your life, you try to live compassionately, and that's the end of it. You do a little more than you should have to in order to be a good person, but you don't go making big changes in the world, trying to fix things. It presumes too much to do so. There's only this: if everyone acts quietly, compassionately, things will go a little better than they would have otherwise. But people will still suffer.” 3 likes
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