Ben Ehrenreich’s The Suitors by Frederic Tuten

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 96 Summer 2006
096 Summer 2006 1024X1024
Ben Ehrenreich

Courtesy of Basic Books, Counterpoint. Design by Nicole Caputo.

There is something inexhaustible in Homer’s Odyssey that makes us want to go back to it, to the archetype of a hero’s going forth and arduous return, of bravery and cunning, and, finally, of the test of a wife’s fidelity. That story is all here in Ben Ehrenreich’s first novel, The Suitors, and, as they say, here with a vengeance. His is an incantatory retelling, whose lexicon is the dream set in a contemporary landscape, itself a little nightmare of toxic sludge and mall junk, of glue sniffers without a cause.

Payne and Penny, the novel’s version of Ulysses and Penelope, are teenage misfits in mad love, the kind we are all glad to have been done with and would kill to recapture. With the help of other teenage derelicts, whom Payne enthralls with his macho authority and Penny enchants with her macho beauty, a little fiefdom, complete with palace, is built. Payne leaves this little kingdom to fight in the wars for Freedom, leaving Penny waiting behind—for decades—with a court of lecherous and greedy sycophants lusting for her hand.

It is into this familiar narrative mold that Ehrenreich pours his fresh magic, sometimes with the charm of Raymond Queneau, sometimes with the grit and verve of Celine—both Americanized. I admire this book, its authority—minus any preening; its daring not to be safe—not to be another well-made boredom turned out from the trade schools. There is not a line of waste in the telling, not a tired verb, not a cliché of sentimentality in this novel tense with romance, not a sorry gap in the story as it drives at a pace at once leisurely and speeding, not one gimmick in its originality. This is truly a ravishing book.

The Suitors was published in April 2006.

Love (ii) by Ben Ehrenreich
Ben Ehrenreich 01
Related
Power, Desire, and Belief: Emily Temple Interviewed by Julie Buntin
Bomb The Lightness Gray

The debut novelist on the mercurial desires of teenage girls, the musicality of language, and embracing the digressive quality of the human mind.

Ben Whishaw and Édouard Louis
Norma Jeane Baker Of Troy Sberger 2

The actor stars opposite an opera diva in Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, Anne Carson’s verse play that reflects on the histories of two iconic women millennia apart.

Ligia Lewis by Catherine Damman
23263 C Julien Barbe S Ligia Waterwill

The recent conclusion of the choreographer’s trilogy, Water Will (in Melody), employs mime, gothic imagery, and a Grimm tale, to consider entanglements of nature, the feminine, and blackness.

Originally published in

BOMB 96, Summer 2006

Featuring interviews with Bernard Piffaretti, Liz Larner, Tony Oursler, Kimiko Hahn, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Park Chanwook, Anthony Coleman, Jesper Just, A.R. Gurney, William Forsythe.

Read the issue
096 Summer 2006 1024X1024