Beejay Silcox reviews 'Census' by Jesse Ball

Beejay Silcox reviews 'Census' by Jesse Ball


by Jesse Ball

Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 272 pp, 9781925603446

You have come to see a magic show. You arrive at the theatre, take your seat. Before the show begins, the magician steps onstage in his street clothes and explains what you are about to see; where the mirrors are hidden – every trapdoor, false bottom, and wire. When the lights go down, impossibly – even after everything you know – you don’t see the trickery, you see magic. Such is the strange conjuring that is Jesse Ball’s Census.

‘My brother Abram Ball died in 1998,’ the author begins, addressing his readers directly in a candid letter that precedes the novel. ‘He was twenty-four years old and had Down syndrome.’ Census, we are told, was born of a desire to capture his brother’s life on the page, not by recharting its course through memoir, but by evoking its nature: ‘something so tremendous and full of light’.

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Beejay Silcox

Beejay Silcox

Beejay Silcox is an Australian writer, literary critic and cultural commentator, and the recipient of ABR’s Fortieth Birthday Fellowship. Her award-winning short fiction has been published at home and internationally and recently anthologised in Meanjin A-Z: Fine Fiction 1980 to Now, and Best Summer Stories 2018. Her story ‘Slut Trouble’ was commended in the 2016 Jolley Prize and republished in Best Australian Stories 2017. She is currently based in Cairo - writing from a house in the middle of an island, in the middle of the Nile. 

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