Wow! I feel like I’m coming down from a two-day acid trip… or maybe I just climbed out of the rabbit hole.

Either way, my past weekend’s read of Jesse Ball’s The Way Through Doors was a trip not to be missed. I’m no professional reviewer by any stretch of the imagination. However, to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart‘s comment about pornography; I may not be able to accurately define what constitutes quality writing, but I know it when I see it. Jesse Ball has a gift.

I don’t believe his style of writing will be to everyone’s liking. That’s as it should be. The enjoyment of fiction writing is a very subjective thing. I like it, though, so I believe I will continue to keep this young author on my active to-read list for years to come. About this current book that I’m writing about here… to paraphrase another quote from someone (Winston Churchill); it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Here’s a decent description from the New Yorker:

In an inversion of the Scheherazade legend, the hero of this dizzyingly circuitous novel must tell stories all night to a beautiful amnesiac, to keep her awake and alive. He begins by explaining himself: he writes pamphlets (sample title: “An Inquiry into the Ultimate Utility of the Silly, as Prefigured in the Grave and Inhospitable”) and works as a municipal inspector, in an office reachable only by ladder. His stories dissolve, unfinished, into other stories; characters—including a “guess artist” who reads minds with a thirty-three-per-cent accuracy rate, a girl who accepts only written communications (preferably typed), and a spurned Russian empress who forces her former lover to marry “the ugliest of women”—vanish and resurface; and reality is generally given the heave-ho. It’s a thrilling ride through an alternative New York (think Steven Millhauser on acid), where the tallest building extends hundreds of feet below ground and cabbies are paid in gold doubloons.

Yup. That about covers it.

If you get the chance, give this one a spin. You might like it. I did. 🙂



Grab yourself a used copy by searching at

About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

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