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Leaving the Atocha Stationby Ben Lerner
Synopses & Reviews
Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his relationship to art. What is actual when our experiences are mediated by language, technology, medication, and the arts? Is poetry an essential art form, or merely a screen for the reader's projections? Instead of following the dictates of his fellowship, Adams research” becomes a meditation on the possibility of the genuine in the arts and beyond: are his relationships with the people he meets in Spain as fraudulent as he fears his poems are? A witness to the 2004 Madrid train bombings and their aftermath, does he participate in historic events or merely watch them pass him by?
In prose that veers between the comic and tragic, the self-contemptuous and the inspired, Leaving the Atocha Station is a portrait of the artist as a young man in an age of Google searches, pharmaceuticals, and spectacle.
"In Madrid on a fellowship, a young American poet examines his ambivalence about authenticity in this noteworthy debut novel by acclaimed poet Lerner, whose poetry collection, Angle of Yaw, was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. Adam, the hilariously unreliable narrator who describes himself as a 'violent, bipolar, compulsive liar,' is both repellent and reassuringly familiar, contradictorily wishing to connect and to alienate. His social interactions are often lost in translation: 'They wanted the input of a young American poet writing and reading abroad and wasn't that what I was, not just what I was pretending to be? Maybe only my fraudulence was fraudulent.' Lerner has fun with the interplay between the unreliable spoken word and subtleties in speech and body language, capturing the struggle of a young artist unsure of the meaning or value of his art. Even major events, like the 2004 Madrid train bombings, are simply moments that Adam is both witness to and separate from; entering into a conversation around the wreckage, he argues: 'Poetry makes nothing happen.' Lerner succeeds in drawing out the problems inherent in art, expectation, and communication. And his Adam is a complex creation, relatable but unreliable, humorous but sad, at once a young man adrift and an artist intensely invested in his surroundings. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A hilarious and insightful account of an artist's development in the digital age.” Electric Literature
I admire Ben's poetry, but I love to death his new book, Leaving the Atocha Station. Ben Lerner's novel...chronicles the endemic disease of our time: the difficulty of feeling....[A] significant book.” Los Angeles Review of Books
"One of the Top 10 of 2011....[Leaving the Atocha Station] is remarkable for its ability to be simultaneously warm, ruminative, heart-breaking, and funny.” Shelf Unbound
"Leaving the Atocha Station is, among other things, a character-driven page-turner and a concisely definitive study of the actual” versus the virtual as applied to relationships, language, poetry, experience. It's funny and affecting and as meticulous and knowing” in its execution of itself, I feel, as Ben's poetry collections are.” The Believer
"Lerner's novel is timely and relevant and, most importantly, a damn good book.” Hey Small Press
"Utterly charming. Lerner's self-hating, lying, overmedicated, brilliant fool of a hero is a memorable character, and his voice speaks with a music distinctly and hilariously all his own.” Paul Auster
"An extraordinary novel about the intersections of art and reality in contemporary life." John Ashbery
"Ben Lerner incisively explores the way our own obsessive critical thinking can make us feel that our role in the world is falsified, unreal, and inauthentic, even as, without knowing it, we're slowly growing into our future skin. Leaving the Atocha Station is a deft and meticulous reading of the development of an artist." Brian Evenson
"[A] noteworthy debut....Lerner has fun with the interplay between the unreliable spoken word and subtleties in speech and body language, capturing the struggle of a young artist unsure of the meaning or value of his art....Lerner succeeds in drawing out the problems inherent in art, expectation, and communication. And his Adam is a complex creation, relatable but unreliable, humorous but sad, at once a young man adrift and an artist intensely invested in his surroundings." Publishers Weekly
Adam Gordon is a brilliant, conflicted American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid. With a feigned interest in his research topic, Adam falls into a habit of using drugs, lying, and spending excessive amounts of money and simultaneously becomes besieged by feelings of fraudulence.
But when a sudden bombing occurs at the Atocha Station, Adam is forced to come to terms with his role as an artist. In layers of hilarity and erudition, ironic hesitation and self-contempt, Leaving the Atocha Station poses the complex and timeless question of the connection between art and experience for a new generation of readers.
About the Author
Born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979, Ben Lerner is the author of three books of poetry The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. He has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, a Fulbright Scholar in Spain, and the recipient of a 2010-2011 Howard Foundation Fellowship. In 2011 he became the first American to win the Preis der Stadt Münster für Internationale Poesie. Leaving the Atocha Station is his first novel.
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