Tea of Ulaanbaatar
"As the minutes passed, the recycled air in the fuselage became like old breath. The planeload of Americans shot nervous looks at each other. Pinpricks of sweat forming on skin, cool but quickly warming. Charlotte joked that they had been abandoned, left to suffocate on the tarmac as a message to all foreigners.
They crowded around the windows to look at their new home. The skyline was made of Soviet-built apartment compounds, sooty smokestacks. They saw a man from the ground crew idling on the tarmac. The man looked up, saw their faces pressed against the portholes. They slapped the glass and called to him. He smiled, revealing rotten teeth, but made no move to assist.
The temperature soared."
So begins National Magazine Award finalist Christopher Howard's debut novel, Tea of Ulaanbaatar: the story of disaffected Peace Corps volunteer Warren, who flees life in late-capitalist America to find himself stationed in the post-Soviet industrial hell of urban Mongolia. As the American presence crumbles, Warren seeks escape in tsus, the mysterious "blood tea" that may be the final revenge of the defeated Khans—or that may be only a powerful hallucinogen operating on an uneasy mind—as a phantasmagoria of violence slowly envelops him.
With prose that combines Benjamin Kunkel's satiric bite, William Burroughs's dark historical reimagining, and a lush literary beauty all his own, Christopher Howard in Tea of Ulaanbaatar unfolds a story of expatriate angst, the dark side of globalization, and middle-class nightmares—and announces himself as one of the most inventive and ambitious of the new generation of American novelists.
"At his best, Howard can be a truly hypnotic writer … leaves the reader thirsty for his next work." —Boston Globe
"It's youthful idealism gone wild in Howard's striking debut … Howard's tight and witty writing gives spry life to what could otherwise be a ho-hum stranger-in-a-strange-land kind of tale." —Publishers Weekly
"An accomplished novel with a keen sense of atmosphere and description." —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
"Christopher Howard does an amazing job of painting incredible scenes, sparsely yet wholly describing a gross, decrepit nightclub and an annihilating dust storm over the Gobi Dessert with equal aplomb." —Chicago Center for Literature & Photography
"Like Robert Bingham's Lightning on the Sun, Tea of Ulaanbaatar is a merciless dissection of lost young American volunteers drifting through a violent and absurd third-world capital." —Stewart O'Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster and Songs for the Missing
"With Tea of Ulaanbataar, Chris Howard takes us to a rarely seen corner of the world, and then takes us further, into a spooky, trippy, gritty realm that is entirely his own." —Eli Horowitz, Publisher of McSweeney's
About Christopher Howard
CHRISTOPHER HOWARD grew up in Illinois and spent a few months of an aborted Peace Corps sojourn in Mongolia in the late 1990s. His short story, "How to Make Millions in the Oil Market," published in McSweeney's, was nominated for the 2008 National Magazine Award in Fiction. Along with Jodi Picoult, he was one of two authors selected to provide a short story for the launch of Amazon Singles in January 2011.