In “Leavers’ Events,” a teenage girl awaits exam results and has a sexual encounter with a teacher that she hopes will define her. In “Sunday’s Child,” a middle-aged actress evicts a homeless woman from her garden, which precipitates a crisis of conscience. In “The Bachelor’s Table,” a lawyer takes advantage of an accounting mistake and sets in motion a sequence of events that force him to evaluate his actions. In the title story, “Ether,” a blocked writer plagiarizes his own life with devastating consequences.
All the characters in Evgenia Citkowitz’s first collection of short fiction are connected by the quest for identity. Some are poised at a crossroads, while others teeter on the edge of a moral precipice. The stories are startlingly original, haunting, and often funny. From a hamster cage in Los Angeles to the bowels of the great houses of London and Long Island, Citkowitz depicts her characters’ frailties and humanity with a mordant humor and tenderness that never diminish their complexity.
“How coolly poised, Evgenia Ciktowitz’s prose! And how elegantly and richly detailed her fictional worlds! It’s something of a shock then to realize that in this debut collection the young author is depicting individuals devastated by emotion, if not decorticated, numbed . . . sharply observed, resolutely unsentimental, and wholly engaging.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books
“Although Citkowitz trawls familiar territory, what she does with this material is unexpected and often startling. . . The kind of imaginative leap you expect in a poem, it gives an otherwise slight story a small radiance. . . Citkowitz has an impressive literary pedigree: her mother was the novelist Lady Caroline Blackwood, her stepfather the poet Robert Lowell. But her voice, particularly her rhythm—half staccato, half headlong rush—is wholly her own. She doesn’t sound like anyone else you’ll have read in a very long while.” —Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times Book Review
“Evgenia Citkowitz’s Ether moves from Hollywood to estates in Long Island and London in pursuit of characters who inhabit glamour’s shadow—a novelist married to a starlet, a famous fashion editor’s daughter—but are compelled to stray outside socially acceptable margins.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com
“Try approaching the stories by asking, is this one the ghost story? In the eerie fictions of Ether, a character’s disorientation—whether due to supernatural causes, mental illness, or bad choices—serves as a metaphor for the unsettled times in which we all live.” —Karen Laws, The Rumpus.net
“This engaging debut collection looks at diverse characters on the edge, as they struggle with vulnerability and the conflicts in their choices, large and small . . . Citkowitz deftly balances the rawer emotions of life—resentment, desire, humiliation—with a crafted, clever tone.” —Leah Strauss, Booklist
“These stories are totally unique: they’re at once strange and graceful, macabre and funny. Evgenia Citkowitz burrows so deep inside her characters’ heads, she evokes feelings and impulses that become impossible to distinguish from our own. She understands that deep down, even in our own homes, we all feel like outsiders.” —Noah Baumbach
“These stories are so funny and electric and honest, so beautifully and artfully done, you barely notice, until you feel that slow pain in your throat, that they’re absolutely breaking your heart.” —Katherine Taylor, author of Rules for Saying Goodbye