The Suitors

Ben Ehrenreich, Author
Ben Ehrenreich, Author . Counterpoint $23 (295p) ISBN 978-1-58243-335-6
Reviewed on: 12/05/2005
Release date: 03/01/2006

Explicitly comparing itself to The Odyssey , Ehrenreich's first novel owes less to Homer's epic than to Joyce's. With his linguistic acrobatics, caustic wit and mix-and-match structure, Ehrenreich (son of activist journalist Barbara) shows the stirrings of an original talent. Set in a never-never land equal parts contemporary America and classical antiquity, the book centers on the romance of the Ulysses and Penelope–like lovers Payne and Penny. Payne gathers a loosely organized rabble of flunkies to assist him in building a palace for Penny, and soon mobilizes them into an army to fight for glory and riches. After a period of happy pillaging, Payne disappears on the warpath, and Penny and her suitors are left alone, wondering if their leader will ever return. Bound by their collective love (and lust) for Penny, the suitors begin to bicker, sinking into sadness and delusion. Ehrenreich is less concerned with his deliberately ramshackle plot than with the glories of his language. With a talent for literary mimicry, he tries on a multiplicity of voices (some more successful than others). As the story proceeds and echoes Homer more closely, the novel's wit ebbs, but for those with a lust for American modernist fiction, Ehrenreich's will be a journey they'll gladly take. (Apr.)

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