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10:04: A Novelby Ben Lerner
Synopses & Reviews
A beautiful and utterly original novel about making art, love, and children during the twilight of an empire.
Ben Lerner's first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, was hailed as “one of the truest (and funniest) novels...of his generation” (Lorin Stein, The New York Review of Books), “a work so luminously original in style and form as to seem like a premonition, a comet from the future” (Geoff Dyer, The Observer). Now, his second novel departs from Leaving the Atocha Station's exquisite ironies in order to explore new territories of thought and feeling.
In the last year, the narrator of 10:04 has enjoyed unexpected literary success, has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition, and has been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child, despite his dating a rising star in the visual arts. In a New York of increasingly frequent super storms and political unrest, he must reckon with his biological mortality, the possibility of a literary afterlife, and the prospect of (unconventional) fatherhood in a city that might soon be under water.
In prose that Jonathan Franzen has called “hilarious...cracklingly intelligent...and original in every sentence,” Lerner captures what its like to be alive now, when the difficulty of imagining a future has changed our relation to our present and our past. Exploring sex, friendship, medicine, memory, art, and politics, 10:04 is both a riveting work of fiction and a brilliant examination of the role fiction plays in our lives.
"In his second novel, an associative, self-aware roman á clef that ably blends cultures high and low, Lerner (Leaving the Atocha Station) explores the connections between contemporary life, art, and literary writing. The unnamed narrator is a 33-year-old Brooklyn-based novelist, poet, and teacher, at work on his second autobiographical novel, a follow-up to his debut, which was a surprise success (though a limited one). Much of his future hangs on the book's marketability, and whether he can secure a sizable advance for it. Though he is in poor health (possibly Marfanoid), he has consented to the request of his best friend, Alex, that he help her conceive a child by being a sperm donor for her. Still, he frets over the degree to which he wants to be involved in the process and worries that it might jeopardize his relationship with the 'mysterious' artist Alena. In his spare time, he also mentors a boy named Roberto, whose company leads him to even more self-doubt regarding his fitness for fatherhood. Lerner's insistence on showing off his skill and his display of syntactical acrobatics sometimes result in overwrought constructions that detract from the narrative momentum, but readers who can overlook the sluggish start will be rewarded with engaging streams of thought and moments of tenderness. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Ben Lerner is a brilliant novelist, and one unafraid to make of the novel something truly new. 10:04 is a work of endless wit, pleasure, relevance, and vitality.” Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers
“Mr. Lerner is among the most interesting young American novelists at present....In 10:04...he's written a striking and important novel of New York City, partly because he's so cognizant of both past and present. He's a walker in the city in conscious league with Walt Whitman....We come to relish seeing the world through this man's eyes.” Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“At 240 pages, his new novel does not announce itself as a magnum opus. But given Lerner's considerable humor, rigorous intelligence, and shred breed of conscience — his bighearted spirit and formal achievement — it is. A generous, provocative, ambitious Chinese box of a novel, 10:04 is a near-perfect piece of literature, affirmative of both life and art, written with the full force of Lerner's intellectual, aesthetic, and empathetic powers, which are as considerable as they are vitalizing.” The Los Angeles Review of Books
“[Lerner's] concerns wrap around the modern moment with terrifying rightness....10:04 describes what it feels like to be alive.” The Boston Globe
“Lerner writes rich, ruminative fiction....Like Whitman, and like W. G. Seabld and Teju Cole, Ben Lerner is a courageous chronicler of meditative ambulation, of the mind reflecting on its own vibrant thinking processes before they congeal into inert thoughts.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Ingenious....Lerner packs so much brilliance and humor into each episode. Some, like the narrators blunders while making his donation to a hospital fertility specialist, are worthy of Woody Allen in their comic neurosis. Others yield sparkling essayistic reflections on the blurred lines between art and reality....This brain-tickling book imbues real experiences with a feeling of artistic possibility, leaving the observable world ‘a little changed, a little charged.'” The Wall Street Journal
“[10:04] is a beautiful and original novel...it signals a new direction in American fiction, perhaps a fertile one.” Bookforum
“Just how many singular reading experiences can one novelist serve up?...10:04 is a mind-blowing book; to use Lerner's own description, its a book that's written 'on the very edge of fiction.'...Lerner obviously loves playing with language, stretching sentences out, folding them in on themselves, and making readers laugh out loud with the unexpected turns his paragraphs take....10:04 is a strange and spectacular novel. Don't even worry about classifying it; just let Lerner's language sweep you off your feet.” Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross
About the Author
Ben Lerner is a poet, novelist, essayist, and critic. He has been a Fulbright scholar, a finalist for the National Book Award, a Howard Foundation fellow, and a Guggenheim fellow. In 2011 he won the Preis der Stadt Müenster für Internationale Poesie, the first American to receive this honor. He is the author of a novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, and the poetry collections The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. Lerner is a professor of English at Brooklyn College.
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