I am really glad that this was my first read of 2011.
Jonathan Ball is a Canadian writer with an interest in film. This is completely obvious within the novel, which is actually a collection of plays that could never be preformed. Every play that is presented is short, usually no longer than a page long. There is no dialogue presented in the description, but instead only a brief overview of the events that would take place on the stage are introduced. While I was reading, I saw each presentation as more of a proposal made by Ball. A proposal that would (of course) never be picked up by any director or prospective investor.
The plays all differ in subject matter and purpose, but they all reside in the imaginary world. Many of them would not have the ability to be made into reality, even if there were to be someone to pick up the 'script'. With the inclusion of the end of humanity, apocalypses, murder, suicide and mass confusion, the text breaks free from the regular constraints of a play preformed before an audience, entering a world where anything and everything is possible.
I have recently had a (small) hand in the development of films, and to my limited knowledge it has been a difficult task to act something out in a way to make it seem like a reality. To create a play that becomes reality for an audience seems like it would be an even greater task, as the performance is played out in real-time. The amount of constrictions and impossibilities that are present in the world of dramatic arts are shattered in Ball's poetic scripts, allowing even the terrifying and the sadistic to enter into the world of entertainment.
I give this collection a 4/5. It was a brilliant first read of the new year, and I am completely in love with the concept. I think that it would be interesting to have full scripts written for the plays, as opposed to just the proposal, but I also understand that in many cases, an actual script would be completely impossible.