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Desert Notebooks

A Road Map for the End of Time

List Price: $26.00

ON SALE: July 7, 2020 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.25, 288 pages | ISBN 9781640093539
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For fans of Robert Macfarlane or Elizabeth Rush, National Magazine Award winner and The Nation columnist Ben Ehrenreich layers climate science, mythologies, nature writing, and personal experiences into a stunning reckoning of our current moment and our all-too-human urge to grapple with apocalypse.

A book about the literal and figurative end of time and what that means for us as conscious beings, Desert Notebooks looks at how both the unprecedented pace of destruction to our environment and our increasingly unstable global sociopolitical institutions have led to an existential crisis that is orders of magnitude greater than any humankind has confronted before. As inhabitants of the Anthropocene, what might some of our own histories tell us about how to grapple with apocalypse? And how might the geologies and ecologies of desert spaces inform how we see and act towards time?

Employing an elegant, discursive style that interweaves memoir with science writing, creation myths, and history, National Magazine Award winner and The Nation columnist Ben Ehrenreich uses the desolate landscape of the American desert –the main locales for the book are Joshua Tree and Las Vegas– as a springboard to examine how we formulate our concepts of time and what it means to confront the looming apocalypse. Desert Notebooks is a moving confrontation with deep time and a meditation on landscape in the face of climate change. Faced with an uncertain future, Ehrenreich argues there is comfort in reflecting on the role we humans have played in our own demise in the past. The difference is that this time the clock may finally be running out for good.

About Ben Ehrenreich

BEN EHRENREICH is currently a regular writer for L.A. Weekly, and his articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, the Village Voice, The Believer, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. His fiction has appeared in McSweeney's, BOMB Magazine, and other journals. He lives in Los Angeles.


"Ben Ehrenreich walked the deserts of the Occupied Territories for his previous book; in Desert Notebooks, he takes us with him into the Mojave--its coyotes, creosote, and Joshua trees. He descends barrancas and canyons, hikes boulder-strewn slopes into labyrinthine stacks of Jorge Luis Borges's great Library, from which he draws out stories from that time 'when animals were people, ' narratives by the Chemehuevi, the Serrano, the Mohave, and other desert peoples. These echo in texts by Martin Bernal, Walter Benjamin, the Marquis de Condorcet, and Jakob Böhme's mystical touchstone--The Signature of All Things--as well as James Mooney's classic, the Ghost Dance and the Sioux revolt of 1890. Climate change California is burning as Ehrenreich's meditations prismatically refract heat, smoke, and light. Desert Notebooks is a book for our time--that is, a time scorched by harsh solar rays, shimmering in searing, phosphorescent prose."—Sesshu Foster, author of ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

"Ehrenreich's haunting, poignant and memorable stories add up to a weighty contribution to the Palestinian side of the scales of history."—New York Times Book Review

"An impassioned and humane story."—O, The Oprah Magazine

"An elegant and moving account . . . [Ehrenreich] brings a novelist's eye to his subject . . . It should be read by friends and foes of Israel alike."—The Economist

"Ben Ehrenreich's The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine is a heartbreaking account of the brutal and often surreal realities of life under the Israeli occupation. After reading it, you don't know whether to despair at the callousness and self-righteousness of human beings, or to wonder at their resilience and creativity."—Yuval Noah Harari, The Guardian

"A devastating portrait of unending turbulence in Palestine."—Kirkus Reviews

"Teeming with heartbreak, irony, and intimate moments of joy . . . [Ehrenreich] paints a vivid portrait of life in three locations: the village of Nabi Saleh, where families have been protesting weekly for the right to use a spring that was theirs until Israeli settlers claimed it, and are consistently met with force; the city of Hebron, a puzzle box of checkpoints and segregated zones, and a powder keg of Jewish and Palestinian resentments; and the village of Umm al-Kheir, where a way of life is quietly dying in the shadow of ever-expanding settlements. With a journalist's keen eye for detail and a novelist's ardor for language and its ability to move people, Ehrenreich will incite renewed compassion in his readers."—Publishers Weekly

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