A Vintage Contemporaries Original, June 2011
$15.00; 198 pp.; ISBN 978-0-307-73985-8
I’D JUST CONSUMED Murakami’s 1Q84 – originally a three-volume publication in its native Japanese – as though it were one. What was presumably a then-necessary penchant for recapping became, to me, in English translation, a sleepy, no-poetry miasma of redundancy. Was reading this admittedly imaginative and thought-provoking story worth my time and occasional detachment? In retrospect, sure, I’d dog-eared scores of academically and alchemically stimulating pages but limited by my arguably post-modern attention span, I might’ve appreciated an infantile in-two-minutes YouTube version or the Cole’s Notes all the same.
More accurately, however, I guess I’ve my biases as a writer. If you aren’t reconciling the lean muscularity of minimalism with the romanticism of stylized prose? Don’t produce almost a thousand narrative pages for someone to gift-guilt me into reading on their behalf.
I know, I know.
I sooo put the “I” in ennui.
Anyway this is how I came across Ball’s The Curfew; a sparely written dystopian novel sustained by some thirst-quenching formatting – which I believe to be a kind of performance art that’s all too often critically eschewed – and a tenderly slaking relationship between widower-father William and mute daughter Molly.
Note: This’s indie. Not Oscar.
Disallowed to leave their gray-flagged homes after dark, the citizens of the town of C encircle the “huge” centralized “death cell” that its seemingly totalitarian milieu has installed alongside, for example, a musical embargo.
Working thereafter as an “epitaphorist,” prodigy violinist William moves case to case, one pencil at a time, to appropriately memorialize the exponentially multiplying dead. Thing is? His wife has mysteriously disappeared.
Eventually Ball sends his lead, the aforementioned William, out into the night to pursue an intimation as to her potential whereabouts as purported by like-minded dissenters – despite his better judgment – while Molly, under the supervision of the kindly and eccentric Mr. Gibbons, a puppeteer, reveals her family’s history in a sensationally and compassionately absurd, allegorical and yet ultra-violent Beckett-esque play entitled A Ladder of Rain and the Roof Beyond.
No character is granted the solidarity of stillness, of sleeping with both eyes closed.
Will William return on time, alive, at all?
Although Stanislavski popularly posited that, “The enemy of art is generality,” I sometimes feel it fundamental to discuss the ways in which an inherently over-opinionated specificity is capable of alienating an otherwise larger and self-composed audience. How important are your ideas to you and to which demographic do they appeal? Why not risk none to gain any and all? Or, rather, why play by the rules? If bravery is f**k it I’m going for it and confidence is a kind of borderline cockiness or the result of “grinding” for any of you that are video game savvy, then, can’t writing, that is, brave (in this context) open-minded text function like an Impressionist’s painting? No fixed image. No fixed reaction.
To me, Ball has accomplished exactly that, a work of speculative fiction that reads like a gentle breeze despite its wintry warnings and, much to my I-feel-understood-ness, does, in the end, belong to us as much as it belongs to him.
I read it in two days.
I also felt compelled to write this review – my first – that evening. Why? Because we’ve all been unemployed, unacknowledged, oppressed, suppressed and taken for granted somehow, somewhere, sometime. Like so I couldn’t help but identify with William as he was forcibly denied the superlative love of a woman and that which rightfully and most independently qualified him not just as a man but moreover – through his once unbroken violin-playing hands and heart – as a religious vehicle. Emphatically:
We tire differently if we love or love not. I was never tired when playing violin. I became exhausted. I fainted occasionally from practicing without eating and drinking. But I was never tired. Now I am almost always tired.
In a sentiment: The Curfew offers light heavy-hearted reading that does not over- or under- whelm.
Is it pitch perfect?
Albeit only vaguely memorable for the endearing interactions of its cast – such as when William and Molly play a game with an orange peel, reconstruct the news to suit their own sensibilities or come up with riddles to safely pass the time indoors and apart from Ball’s obscurely Orwellian government – what it ain’t is middling or mainstream.
Get ch’you some.