Examination for Capable Assistant by Jesse Ball:
+ Which month is best and why?
+ Take the overland route or a ship around? And (2) if possibility of bandits in mountain pass / pirates in straits — then which?
+ Shorthand: sad it has no use these days, or, it has a use! or never mind, it stinks.
+ Someone doesn’t like the great jazz singers of the mid twentieth century. How do we behave with/ trust such a person?
+ What book are you reading?
+ Do you occasionally put stones in your pocket? Why?
+ Why must we be friendly only to a point?
+ Which personal items should be of best quality?
+ Draw a map of your life, somehow.
+ If you had to appear in a photograph, would you want to be wearing a raincoat in 1948 or getting off a motorcycle in Cyprus in 1964 or standing on a Korean fishing boat in 1979 or sleeping under a bridge in Moscow this morning?
+ Someone of low quality wants to borrow something of yours, say, a book or a paring knife. Do you (1) let them borrow it, (2) give it them for good (it shall not be the same after they’ve had it), or (3) simply say no. What if you know it will get them out of a pinch?
+ Someone attempts to put you in his/her debt through purchasing you something without your permission (a drink, a coat, a roast chicken, a transit card, etcetera). Do you accept or not? What form would your analysis take?
+ Write a short plan for a bank heist.
(This is the written exam I give to prospective personal assistants. It generally allows me to determine whether a person would be suitable or not. There are many ways to go wrong. I’d say it is a test of discretion and imagination. - Jesse Ball)
“Copy out things that you really love. Any book. Put the quotation marks around it, put the date that you’re doing the copying out, and then copy it out. You’ll find that you just soak into that prose, and you’ll find that the comma means something, that it’s there for a reason, and that that adjective is there for a reason, because the copying out, the handwriting, the becoming an apprentice—or in a way, a servant—to that passage in the book makes you see things in it that you wouldn’t see if you just moved your eyes over it, or even if you typed it. If your verbal mind isn’t working, then stop trying to make it work by pushing, and instead, open that spiral notebook, find a book that you like, and copy out a couple paragraphs.”
“I set up a small red carpet in the dead center of the museum. Being dead center made me feel less cornered. Sheila and I sat there and I gave her these “acting lessons.” I’m not such a good teacher or a good student, but I understand having friends. So I gave Sheila some lessons, and she gave me some too. We made it up as we went along. The brochure was on a podium in front of us. When people picked up the brochure, they knew we were thinking of them and aware of them, but that we didn’t have to talk to them. It solved my problems. It was also surprisingly intimate and intense.”