Winner of the 2005 Drue Heinz Literature Prize
Between Camelots is about the struggle to forge relationships and the spaces that are left when that effort falls short. In the title story, a man at a backyard barbecue waits for a blind date who never shows up. He meets a stranger who advises him to give up the fight; to walk away from intimacy altogether and stop getting hurt. The wisdom—or foolhardiness—of that approach is at the heart of each of these stories. In “I’ll Be Home,” a young man who has converted to Judaism goes home for Christmas in Miami, and finds that his desire to connect to his parents conflicts with his need to move on. “The Movements of the Body” introduces us to a woman who believes that she can control the disintegration of her life through a carefully measured balance of whiskey and mouthwash. These are stories about loss and fear, but also about the courage that drives us all to continue to reach out to the people around us.
Ebenbach captures the anxious musings of characters in transition in this debut collection of 15 stories, many focusing on younger male protagonists who find themselves adrift in the wake of romantic failures. In the title story, a lonely young man whose nights are marked by "masturbation, sighing journal entries, and then... bed" goes to a party hoping to meet a particular girl, but instead encounters a pretzel-noshing pseudo-philosopher who posits that in life, one is always moving from one false Camelot to the next, and that only fools keep seeking interpersonal bonds. The recently dumped, morose Oberlin grad of "Getting Back onto Solid Foods" returns to his college town for a vegetarian Thanksgiving with old friends, while the confused narrator of "Rebbetzin" feels awkward at a memorial service for his wife's former art professor. Ebenbach does a fine job of exploring his characters' longing for connection between brother and troubled sister in "Pointing Up"; between a young teacher and his students (and his brand-new girlfriend) in "Social Games" but his emphasis on interior monologue dampens the stories' power.