As a reporter, Ben Ehrenreich has won awards for reporting from places like post-Katrina New Orleans, post-quake Haiti, post-war Cambodia, post-war El Salvador, drug war Mexico City, post-1070 Arizona, and post-modern Los Angeles. The following story is like some of that reportage, except it uses fiction to get there. It takes us to a far-flung extremity of the American interior and locates scars of terrible violence there, reflections of a terrifying amputation.
Ehrenreich is that triple threat: he’s a working journalist currently on assignment in a Palestinian village investigating the conditions of Israeli occupation for The New York Times, he’s a critic, book reviewer for The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books and elsewhere, and a novelist, author of The Suitors, and Ether. The Suitors retells the ancient mythical return of Ulysses to vanquish the suitors of long-suffering Penelope and recasts the tale amidst the endless war of the contemporary era; Ether likewise brings deity to earth in the extremity of the dehumanized contemporary human condition. In his fiction, perhaps even more than in his reportage, Ehrenreich goes to extremes and refuses to stop asking hard questions, refuses to look away (even if the characters may flinch).
You may flinch.