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.
“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
In the last year, the narrator of 10:04 has enjoyed unlikely literary success, has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal medical condition, and has been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child. In a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and social unrest, he must reckon with his own mortality and the prospect of fatherhood in a city that might soon be underwater.
A writer whose work Jonathan Franzen has called "hilarious . . . cracklingly intelligent . . . and original in every sentence," Lerner captures what it's like to be alive now, during the twilight of an empire, when the difficulty of imagining a future is changing our relationship to both the present and the past.
About the Author
Ben Lerner was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979. He has been a Fulbright Fellow, a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, a Howard Foundation Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. His first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, won the 2012 Believer Book Award, and excerpts from 10:04 have been awarded The Paris Reviews Terry Southern Prize. He has published three poetry collections: The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. Lerner is a professor of English at Brooklyn College.