Synopses & Reviews
A bearded man in a badly soiled suit known only as The Stranger wanders an apocalyptic landscape on the fringes of a dying metropolis, looking for a way to "get back on top." Thwarted and rejected at every turn by old friends and strangers alikeeven by the author of this novel, whom he visits repeatedly in unsuccessful attempts to determine his own narrativehis impotence and rage are expressed in acts of seemingly senseless violence. The various characters he encounters on his journeya pack of sadistic boys, skinheads who beat him senseless, a deaf-mute woman who tries to heal him, a sidewalk preacher, and a deranged man who identifies him as The Oneavoid or abuse him, or attempt to follow him.
Entertaining, disturbing, and wildly intelligent, written with sinister humor and great compassion, Ether reflects on the possibilities and consequences of forgiveness, the problems of faith, and the trials of creation.
Ben Ehrenreich is an award-winning journalist and fiction writer. Ether is his second novel.
Praise for Ben Ehrenreich's first novel The Suitors:
"Smart and postmodern in a puckish, Calvino-like sense. . . . Ehrenreich writes with an ease and pure line-by-line skill that's rare." The New York Times Book Review
"Ehrenreich blends Tom Robbins' sly humor with Steve Erickson's bubbling sense of the subconscious and Voltaire's irreverent twists of plot." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Ehrenreich shows the stirrings of an original talent." Publishers Weekly
"Brilliant, and at the same time moving. It's a relief to know that literature exists yet." Juan Goytisolo
"A stranger walks into town · Lyrical and blindingly clear, Ben Ehrenreich's Ether unfolds in dreamy simultaneous timescapes punctuated by flashes of violence. Moving between busses and bars, rail yards and suburbs, Ehrenreich's novel depicts the teeming activity that persists in the world beneath an ether of numbness. Like a David Lynch movie transcribed by Pierre Reverdy, it's a brilliant and unforgettable book, written somewhere between sleeping and waking." &mdash Chris Kraus author of Torpor and Where Art Belongs
"A compact work of biblical noir . . . like "Bambi" directed by Quentin Tarantino . . . . In Ether
God is one of us: fickle, self-obsessed, senselessly malicious . . . . Drink in Ehrenreich's sculpted sentences . . . language for the weary and the dispossessed, the rich or the poor. Have a seat; stay awhile." Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times
"I found Ether to be the most creative moment in literature this last year."--Karl Travis, The Chico News and Review
"Ether is a book made from rage. Like Becketts engraver who 'alone had been spared' because he saw only ashes, Ehrenreich is furious at the fallen world, where 'rain falls on the fields of the rich' but drowns the poor, and where compassion and understanding are futile when they arent impossible. . . . Ehrenreich puts his reader in place of both torturer and tortured, and the pain inflicted comes back at us in both directions, and sonorously. "-- John Cotter, The Quarterly Conversation
"Ether is an usual road journey novel. For all its slimness, it tells the stories of a surprisingly vast array of characters . . . the setup here is more important than the journey or its resolution. A true 'writer's writer,' he doesn't so much tell a story as imply it, using layers of characterization and subterfuge." -- HTML Giant
"In the stylistically diverse world of contemporary literature, Ehrenreichs works fall squarely into the postmodern camp. His stories have appeared in counterculture magazines such as McSweeneys, and his debut novel, The Suitors (2006), presented a surreal retelling of Homers Odyssey. In this slender new novel, Ehrenreich casts himself as a troubled first-person narrator clashing with his own characters, including the tales protagonist, an unnamed, disheveled stranger making his way through a postapocalyptic landscape. Bearded and badly soiled, if messiah-like, the stranger totes a mysterious wrapped package others covet. In a series of loosely connected vignettes, the stranger crosses paths with a wide variety of eccentrics and malcontents, including a cocaine-snorting bar patron who tempts him, a homeless bagman who idolizes him, and a gang of skinheads that brutally attacks him. Throughout a roving narrative filled with luminous yet often disturbing imagery, Ehrenreich freely interjects his own voice and ambivalent musings about his characters fates and motivations . . . Ehrenreichs fans will be delighted." Carl Hays, Booklist
"A stranger walks into town · Lyrical and blindingly clear, Ben Ehrenreich's Ether unfolds in dreamy simultaneous timescapes punctuated by flashes of violence. Moving between busses and bars, rail yards and suburbs, Ehrenreich's novel depicts the teeming activity that persists in the world beneath an ether of numbness. Like a David Lynch movie transcribed by Pierre Reverdy, it's a brilliant and unforgettable book, written somewhere between sleeping and waking." Chris Kraus author of Torpor and Where Art Belongs
"Ben Ehrenreich's Ether is anything but. The descriptions pop. The world is rendered without qualification, without fear. The structure is challenging, refreshing, effective. This is an intense, intelligent novel novel that paints a vivid picture of an America that most of us refuse to see, are afraid to see. This is real art." Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier
"A book that's both pure as snow and filthy as dirt, with the lovely detachment of ice. Like Beckett, Ehrenreich has the talent of being particular and general at once, and thus steps outside time." Lydia Millet, Pulitzer Prize finalist for Love in Infant Monkeys
"Ether is a dark and powerful work, with disturbing metaphysical overtones. Ben Ehrenreich is a gathering power in the literary land." John Banville, author of The Infinities and The Sea
"Ben Ehenreich transforms the brutal human and urban blight into a landscape of cosmic battle. Ether is a dark, complex, richly written, beautiful novel. It is a rarity in American fiction today." Frederic Tuten, author of Self Portraits: Fictions and Tintin in the New World
"Ether, perhaps even more than his previous novel, The Suitors, shows Ben Ehrenreich unafraid of storytelling that is terrifically bold and sly. Ehrenreich seems to have returned from hiking the ruined wastelands and margins of Port-au-Prince and New Orleans, Mexico City and Los Angeles, Arizona and Phnom Penh, having cracked open the hard nut of the world. Or perhaps Ehrenreich himself has cracked, allowing him to tell this wild, eerie tale of forgiveness for blasted, shattered times. Cries of seabirds from the Gulf of Mexico and pale forms of dying dolphins and porpoises glimmer darkly through it. But in Ether, the heart opens and shines a light, magnetic and acrid, smudged and infrared." Sesshu Foster, author of World Ball Notebook and Atomik Aztex
A God whose powers are reduced to petty acts of destruction attempts to reclaim his lost seat in the heavens.
About the Author
Ben Ehrenreich: Ben Ehrenreich lives in Los Angeles, where he works as a novelist and journalist. His first novel, The Suitors, was published by Counterpoint in 2006. His short fiction has been widely published and anthologized. Ehrenreichs articles and essays have been published in Harpers, the New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books,The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications.