A bearded man in a badly soiled suit known only as The Stranger wanders into 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 alike--even by the author of this novel, whom he visits repeatedly in unsuccessful attempts to determine his own narrative--his impotence and rage are expressed in acts of seemingly senseless violence. The various characters he encounters on his journey--a 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 identify him as The One--avoid him 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.
"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
Praise for 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." — New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant, and at the same time moving. It's a relief to know that literature exists yet." — Juan Goytisolo