a novel // Soho Press
A darkly comic debut novel about advertising, truth, single malt, Scottish hospitality—or lack thereof—and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Ray Welter, who was until recently a high-flying advertising executive in Chicago, has left the world of newspeak behind. He decamps to the isolated Scottish Isle of Jura in order to spend a few months in the cottage where George Orwell wrote most of his seminal novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ray is miserable, and quite prepared to make his troubles go away with the help of copious quantities of excellent scotch.
But a few of the local islanders take a decidedly shallow view of a foreigner coming to visit in order to sort himself out, and Ray quickly finds himself having to deal with not only his own issues but also a community whose eccentricities are at times amusing and at others downright dangerous. Also, the locals believe—or claim to believe—that there’s a werewolf about, and against his better judgment, Ray’s misadventures build to the night of a traditional, boozy werewolf hunt on the Isle of Jura on the summer solstice.
“Burning Down George Orwell’s House is really most enjoyable, a witty, original turn on the life and memory of the Sage of Jura, taking place on the island where he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. Eric Blair serves as the McGuffin in this story, which is one part black comedy and one part a meditation on modern life. It is well written and truly original.”
“Burning Down George Orwell’s House is fiction as high-wire act, and Ray Welter is a nowhere man for the ages, going down and out in the shadow of the man himself. Ervin tosses up hilarity and horror, musicality and menace, with page after page of firecracker prose.”
“As all good comedies do, Ervin’s novel contains a sober question at its core—in this case, whether the idea of ‘escape’ itself is just another manipulation sold to us ‘proles’ by the very same wired world that engulfs and exhausts us. Take a wild guess what George Orwell would say.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
three novellas // Coffee House Press
Music, war, and imperial ambition touch three lives in this intricately woven story.
World-renowned composer and Holocaust survivor Lajos Harkályi has returned to Hungary to debut his final opera and share his mother’s parting gift, the melody from a lullaby she sang as he was forced to leave his Hungarian home for the infamous Czech concentration camp Terezín. Private First Class Jonathan “Brutus” Gibson is being blackmailed by his commanding officer at the US Army base in Hungary, one of the infamous black-sites of the global War on Terror, and he must decide between going AWOL or risking his life to make an illegal firearms deal in Budapest. Aspiring musician Melanie Scholes is preparing for the most important performance of her career as a violinist in Harkályi’s opera, but before she takes the stage she must extricate herself from a failing relationship and the inertia that threatens to consume her future. As this book reaches a crescendo, their three stories achieve an alchemical harmony, reminding us that each individual has the spirit to contend with tyranny, apathy, and the brutal circularity of history.
“I can’t decide what amazes me most about this book: the confident, muscular beauty of Andrew Ervin’s writing; the breadth of his imagination; or the depth and diversity of his profoundly engaging characters. Again and again, though the force of the narrative drove me relentlessly onward, I would stop simply to marvel. Extraordinary Renditions is an extraordinary debut.”
“Through the eyes of three outsiders, Extraordinary Renditions takes the reader deep into the heart of Budapest, both its past and present. The whole city is here, the banks of the Danube brimming with history, intrigue, art, food, drink, and most important of all, music. His characters may be lost—even the one native is a foreigner—but Andrew Ervin is a sharp-eyed, sure-handed guide.”
— Stewart O’Nan
“The variety of viewpoints and the author’s evident intimacy with an ancient foreign capital [Budapest] are promising, and Ervin makes it plain that he is taking on weighty themes.”
—The New York Times Book Review