The 2008 Plimpton Prize, the Paris Review‘s award for the best work of fiction published in its pages in the past year, goes to Jesse Ball. I haven’t read his winning story, “The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr,” but I enjoyed his debut novel, the Kafkaesque Samedi the Deafness, which came out last year. (If you’re able to navigate all the HighBeam foofaraw, you can read my review in the Chicago Sun-Times.)
Bookslut’s Margaret Howie catches up with Ball:
At the award announcement, you described the judge’s decision as demonstrating “a belief in ambiguity”; do you feel that our current cultural climate shies away from the ambiguous in art?
I think that there is a general arrogance in our culture, or rather, in general among human beings of the atomic age, that the world can be precisely fixed and understood according to coordinates, facts, etc. I don’t believe this is so. I think things can only be gestured at, and that’s part of why we should be more careful about how we behave, individually, nationally, culturally. These assumptions extend even to moral ideas, and the way that morality affects science. People today are very sure of themselves, and they shouldn’t be. But they’ll all be dead soon! Us too.