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. 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.
©2014 Ben Lerner (P)2014 Dreamscape Media, LLC
This well-received quasi-novel focuses on a guy a lot like Ben Lerner, I guess. Other readers found it brilliant, but I found it too self-satisfied and too self-indulgent. There are lots of scenes around New York that show off his cleverness and sensitivity, at dinner parties and natural history museums and lunch with his agent and fertility clinics. But only one character struck me as real: Mr. Lerner himself. The others were one-dimensional mirrors for the narrator, not much more. (One exception: his colleague at the Park Slope Food Coop, who tells the narrator a surprising and suspenseful story about her family history, interrupted by Ben's having to deliver the dried mango he's been packing to the sales floor.)
I have one suspicion, that a story late in the novel about an intern at a literary retreat in Marfa whom the narrator comforts through a bad drug trip...was this based upon an adventure in which Mr. Lerner was the intern and not the comforting older figure? But a bad trip, was that too cliched and uncool for our narrator? Who knows. It's a novel.
The book was well-read by Eric Michael Summerer.
Have you ever talked to one of those pretensions know-it-all's who is SO much smarter/better than you and can't help but tell you? yea, that's this guy. I feel like the author set out to write the most pretensions book possible and did it. There are sentences that lasted half a page (i started to read the physical book for a book club but couldn't stomach it). There were times i was so angry at this story i wanted to throw something, namely the book. And seriously, how many times does one man need to mention quinoa in a book?
Ears picking up the slack so my eyes can work.
A couple of things. First is that I completely disagree with the other reviewer. He sort of looked past the writing and was more interested in trying to ascribe what was and wasn’t from Ben Lerner’s real life. Anyone interested in fiction knows that is unfair. Maybe Lerner invites the distraction given the narrative ambiguity about where the novel actually comes from. In any case, it’s beside the point and the most dull reaction you can have to sit and write a review guessing what might be the real Ben Lerner. Who cares?
I admit it took more than a minute for me to get into the novel. In retrospect, I’m not even sure when it fully had me or if it ever fully had me. it’s not for everyone. It’s intellectual. It can be dry. And there is a level of personal and philosophical self absorption that makes sense in context, but will piss off some people who have a narrow sense of what it means to be humble.
A big part of Lerner’s novel is dissecting how an artist processes life material to his art, which is by far the most interesting part. I suspect there is some autobiography in there and some completely made up stuff. Some recent history in NYC. It’s a stew of things. If you’re interested in a plot heavy journey where a character finds answers to flaws and changes forever, you probably won’t like this novel (although aspects of that kind of journey are in here).
If you ever tried to write a story or a novel, if you are a literary person, you’ll find something to latch onto here. It’s worthwhile. Literary. And I’m glad I read it. That’s about all. Don’t expect Ben Lerner’s autobiography though.
Please don't bother with this book, it is just full of self serving drivel, it seems that the writer wrote this for himself.
There is no plot, no story, nothing happens....
Ben Lerner gives us, his and Whitman's"you," a novel of walking and talking with a mind as sieve, straining out frightened emotions through the ink clouds of the overactive protection of intellect. A fine novel from a strong poet.
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