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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost completely brilliant, Lerner is a funny, cooly confident and gorgeously thoughtful writer. Parts of it had me giggling.
Ben Lerner's first novel, "Leaving the Atocha Station" was one of the most powerful reading experiences I've ever had, largely for purely personal reasons; I started reading that book (set mostly in Madrid and Barcelona) literally a day after I myself had concluded a visit to Spain, and seeing almost all of the places I had just visited serve as the background for that...
Published 3 months ago by jafrank

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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great follow-up, unfortunately.
I was a big fan of Leaving the Atocha Station but this one seems rather slapped together by comparison. The pastiche (a child's book, a long poem, invented letters...) felt lazy, like padding to bring up the word count; I found myself doing a lot of skimming. Lerner is still frequently interesting to read, full of offbeat observations, wry self-observations, but overall I...
Published 3 months ago by laurel


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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost completely brilliant, Lerner is a funny, cooly confident and gorgeously thoughtful writer. Parts of it had me giggling., September 12, 2014
This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Ben Lerner's first novel, "Leaving the Atocha Station" was one of the most powerful reading experiences I've ever had, largely for purely personal reasons; I started reading that book (set mostly in Madrid and Barcelona) literally a day after I myself had concluded a visit to Spain, and seeing almost all of the places I had just visited serve as the background for that books gorgeous, misanthropic, elegantly sad narration was an extremely potent experience; like having a much more cynical, much more intelligent older sibling whispering a dark interpretation into my ear of some of what I had just experienced on my own. Lerner himself spent time in Spain on a poetry fellowship; the source of much of the novel's inspiration.

His new novel, 10:04 has an even stronger biographical focus than his first one. We follow the narrator, an up and coming writer and poet living in New York, as he wanders around the city in the space between hurricanes Irene and Sandy, the large, faux-meteorolgical apocalypses that shook New York in the last 3-4 years yet failed to produce the great post-9/11 disaster that was predicted. Between those storms (whose sense of tension and communal worry/excitement Lerner evokes with a cool, contemplative hysteria), we see a young intellectual in full post-millenial flower. He, worries about how to write his second book, tries to conceive a child (first artificially and then in the old fashioned way) with his female best friend, deals with an ambiguously fatal heart condition, simultaneously appreciates and loathes NYC's co-op/ethic food culture, goes to parties at artist colonies, lets an occupy wall street protester use his shower... the sort of experiences that one could imagine almost anyone living in a large city in the last half decade might have.

But what makes this book stand out from the endless and endlessly dull pack of other "slacker-ish young person who lives in New York" novels (which has become something of an entire genre these days), is the depth and calm of his thoughts. Lerner has a meditative style he's crafted on his own, he is completely unafraid to have his narrator lose himself in a chain of gorgeous, uber-modern reveries about the world we live in, about our perpetual sense of impending crisis, our tangled attempts to live morally and ethically in a time when the ugly truth behind even the most well-intentioned product or practice is just one smart phone search away. And above all, what it means to think on, care about, and create art in the midst of all of these dicey perspectives. His willingness to grapple, sincerely and deeply, with the impossible complexities of issues like these is what makes him, in this reviewers opinion, one of the finest American fiction writers working today.

That being said, 10:04 does have one weakness: Lerner suddenly includes a short story in the middle that was originally published in the New Yorker, and that story has all the typical lack of imagination and brilliance your average New Yorker story does, but which the rest of 10:04 contains in spades. It seems meant to be this sort of cute meta-fictional disruption showing how the narrator (who is not Lerner but sort of also is) fictionalizes his life (and by extension how the actual Lerner does) and the lives of those around him. Maybe there is some brilliant theoretical/aesthetic justification for it; I don't really care because it disrupts a 240 page novel with 20 pages of pathetically neutered pap that reads all the worse considering how scintillating all of the prose surrounding it tends to be. It's simply an authorial decision that doesn't really work.

That single flaw aside, there are many parts of 10:04 that made me actually giggle out loud with the casual brilliance and the sorts of gorgeous musings that refuse easy answers which Lerner seems to have basically mastered. Highly recommended.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "If the memory is really abolished or just repressed, distributed differently.", September 2, 2014
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This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
In film, the notion of the time doubling on itself is introduced in "Back to the Future". At 10:04, the time traveling car returned to its driver's past, and the remaining film and its sequels concerned the ramifications of changing the past and destroying the present. This book proposes an interesting play on this idea: how do the changing permutations of memory alter our view of the past and of our reality today?

This premise is toyed with delightfully in this novel. At times the whole time continuum is as frothy as the foam on coffee. Other times the author struggles mightily with the notion of a twilight anesthesia not preventing pain but its memory. He has found that he has a potentially fatal atrial defect of unknown cause, and he sometimes struggles with the threat in the idle, trifling ways we all find to survive a day. Will a store be different if his book is never published? Will he not be a father to a child whose absence will resonate? How different would his friends be? The concerns skate under the surface, profound but somehow not vital.

In any stream of consciousness, the author is faced with the sheer weight of the myriad thoughts given to each day. In fact the main character has written a story in which the interior weighing of time is found to complicate his story to its detriment. Lerner has met this task with witty and literate aplomb, even avoiding working the "Back to the Future" past the point it can easily bear.I am delighted by the deceptive lightness of tone that brings the reader into that circle of time which memory weaves. This book is a lovely work that I am delighted to recommend.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be persistent, September 8, 2014
This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Hardcover)
‘10:04’ written by Ben Lerner is certainly not a book you'll fly through on your way to work or read it casually during lunchtime. It is a book that requires your full attention and regardless of just 250 pages reader will certainly need to reserve some time to read it.

Yet do not let above words frighten you because Lerner’s work definitely deserves your attention because he is a young author who was able in a short time to impose to public with a distinctive style, I’m almost certain, not with the aim to succeed in the mass market.

It is interesting that his origins are linked to poetry because ten years ago due to his collection of sonnets he became part of respectable company of that year’s best twelve books of poetry and one of the 25 important books of poetry of the 00s (2000-2009).

After several poetry collection his first novel ‘Leaving the Atocha Station’ received a lot of praise from many parties, mainly those intended to intellectual audience, therefore it was not surprise Lerner with his book received or entered into finals for many literary awards.

As some critic rightfully said, it’s almost impossible to put ‘10:04’ into some genre – simply, this is a mind-blowing book as Lerner himself said, in which author’s desire to play with words, writing endless sentences and twisting them into all possible ways would seem as too demanding for some.

But don’t give up easily because Lerner will surprise you many times with things you will not be able to resist laughing aloud and when you will come to its end (some will say finally) you’ll be happy that you did not gave up because it is a book definitely not to be forgotten soon what these days often happens with titles that besides good marketing can offer little or nothing to the audience.

Therefore, my recommendation goes to Lerner’s new novel. And be persistent.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great follow-up, unfortunately., September 7, 2014
This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Hardcover)
I was a big fan of Leaving the Atocha Station but this one seems rather slapped together by comparison. The pastiche (a child's book, a long poem, invented letters...) felt lazy, like padding to bring up the word count; I found myself doing a lot of skimming. Lerner is still frequently interesting to read, full of offbeat observations, wry self-observations, but overall I was disappointed, even in the writing itself, which often seemed slapdash.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant work for careful readers willing to wrestle, October 22, 2014
By 
John Hovig (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Ben Lerner's 10:04 is a poetic meditation on projection - through time and space, through thought and action, and through fiction and reality. It is a brilliant work, requiring careful readers to wrestle with the finely-detailed visions of Lerner's own self-examinations.

I couldn't help making comparisons to Don DeLillo and Nicholson Baker. DeLillo writes of urban individuals trying to make deeper connections to the world, and to each other. What does it mean to be a master financier who cloisters himself inwardly in a moving Manhattan limousine as his outer life crashes and burns? What does it mean to make one's own life and body into a work of art?

What does it mean to remove yourself from the world - to seek a mutual abandonment of any such relationship with the outside - and yet find yourself forced to confront individuals who terrorize and demand the ultimate of it? And what does it mean when the world suffers a disaster? What is "the world"? What is "society"? At what point does a collection of individual people become a "society"? And how can such a vaguely-defined entity experience (the rest of) the world?

Lerner confronts many of these themes - self-cloistering, art as life / life as art, and shared-society disasters - but wonders more about how a person projects one's self into the world, and how people act in, around and through the particulars.

And more fundamentally: What does it mean that moments advance through time? What does it mean that people advance though space? How do people interact through time, with time, against time, and in defiance of it? How do the artifacts of the world around us represent the results of past activity, or the promises of future results?

In "Mezzanine", Nicholson Baker deconstructs a single act in such painfully excruciating but exuberantly brilliant detail that Proust himself would have needed to rest between chapters. Lerner is highly observant himself, and also quite keen to find connections between all manner of people, places and things.

But Lerner's observations here are never as obsessive-compulsive as Baker's in Mezzanine. They are deeply insightful, however, and lend support to his interest in illustrating the ways people project themselves through the many dimensions of the world.

The theme's third leg is the exploration of fiction and reality. He discusses a book advance. His book advance. He prepares a treatment, and submits it to his publisher, but isn't exactly sure he intends to finish it. (He writes many times of freely spending his advance on non-writing activities).

The book itself - meaning the one he has promised with questionable intent to the publisher - is a false epistolary document of the deleted email correspondence of the poet William Bronk, as if an executor had chosen, like Kafka's, to publish the writings instead of burning them.

But his treatment of the material is problematic, not least of all because he's not even sure Bronk used email all that much. Nor is Lerner's narrator too keen on solving the problems he faces. So he writes the current book instead. By which I mean this book, the one entitled 10:04. The one where he discusses writing it instead of the promised one.

Which makes this book a documentary of its own writing, and Lerner's narrator an agent of himself! But wait! Lerner is spending so much of the book discussing fiction and reality that we need to wonder where the line is. There are passages in this book where I almost laughed out loud because I had completely forgotten which version of reality I was supposed to be keeping in mind at that point in the text.

As to plot, the book is certainly event-driven, and the characters do develop in time, but it is not strongly plotted nor dramatically structured. There is no climax as such, no denouement. Only plenty of drama. Navel-gazing, if you must.

Like DeLillo he starts the story at one point in time, and ends it at another, hopefully illustrating enough of his theme that the reader leaves satisfied. I'm not sure if I'm satisfied by the totality of the book - I don't know that I put the book down after the last page and issued a final exhalation of satisfaction - but I am glad to have given thought to the issues Lerner raises, and I have a feeling I will return to this book again.

Lerner is a master craftsman of prose, and a fine turner of phrase. He is also a published poet, which may explain his facility with the language (tho I admit I entirely disliked the real-Ben-Lerner poem sandwiched inside the text at one point). This is both a writer's-writer's book and a reader's-reader's book. If you're in either of those categories, it will be a great joy to read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, No, and, finally, Maybe, September 21, 2014
This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Hardcover)
Ben Lerner writes beautifully. No matter how you might feel about 10:04: A Novel as a novel, you'll find the writing brilliant. It's writing you glide along on. It's so smooth, so effortless, you forget you are reading and just experience what the fictional Ben experiences. This, that the words from time to time disappear so well are they selected and organized, is the superlative strength of the novel. You'll find going from Lerner to an ordinary novelist, even a literary one, a bit jarring.

However, if you must identify with a character to enjoy a novel, 10:04 might present something of challenge. That is unless you happen to be self-absorbed and puzzled by almost everything and, a big one, always trying to orient yourself in a world that may seem to change dramatically but which really only inches along, so that after a year of events, some pretty monumental, you end up not much farther from where you started.

Over the course of the novel's 240 pages, Lerner covers lots of territory, while leaving New York City only once, for Marfa, Texas. There are the hurricanes Irene and Sandy bracketing the events, worry over his illness (a potential aortic aneurysm) and his problematic sperm, his relationships with his maybe girlfriend and the woman who enlists him as a sperm donor, his tutelage of a young Hispanic boy that sends him running in circles about the degree of fatherhood he's cut out for. In the end, nothing much changes, except his decision to disregard what he told his agent he would write about and for which his publisher advanced him a significant sum in favor of what you will read, if you read 10:04.

And there in lies the problem some may have with Lerner. Unless you are young in the present, you may find him, the fictional Lerner, pretentious and self-absorbed to the point of suffocation. Otherwise, you might be like my son, who devoured the book in a night, and recommended it enthusiastically; it will speak to your own questions about life, change, and where you fit, and, perhaps, reconcile you to the incrementality of life.

Finally, having praised Lerner's prose, I should leave you with a sample, as it by itself warrants your reading time. There's no better passage than this, as it encapsulates the point of the whole thing, and, like many passages, provides fuel for mulling:

"If there had been a way to say it without it sounding like presumptuous co-op nonsense, I would have wanted to tell her that discovering you are not identical with yourself even in the most disturbing and painful way still contains the glimmer, however refracted, of the world to come, where everything is the same but a little different because the past will be citable in all of its moments, including those that from our present present happened but never occurred."
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My review in the style of Ben Lerner, or, why upon a desire to consume modern literature, I ... blah blah blah, November 7, 2014
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This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Hardcover)
10:04, an incessant, self-absorbed, stream of urban prattle (of which I had higher than usual hopes) - the hardback print take on incomprehensible diarrhea - uses sentencal structures of such unnecessary complexity and snooty vocabulary (though educated at a center of higher learning [a college - during which I consumed a literary cornucopia] I still endured a headache as I parsed out the words, retrieving their definitions in an attempt to make some sanity out of what was otherwise, to my dismay, a train wreck of overly elaborate words); a hurricane of pretentiousness that tries to embellish an otherwise plotless and uneventful story.

In other words, 200+ pages of, "blah, blah, blah".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It dissolves. Into everything., September 27, 2014
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This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Atocha" was an amazing debut, and 10:04 reads like the author managed to compress a long, distinguished career (yeah it's kind of a quote) into a couple of years. Fitting for an epic about fluidity of time, truth, water, etc. etc.

It reads like a multi-volume epic Hemingwayed down to 240 pages. So it may take you weeks or even months to read. Enjoy every moment and every word. The book bends on itself in at least seven different dimensions, or maybe even 7.44 different dimensions.

If you're like me, you're not even reading this review. I only read negative ones, since the positive ones are mostly fake and redundant. I don't want anyone to buy the book on the strength of its Amazon positive reviews (perhaps on the weakness of its negative ones, yes).

10:04 is one of the best books I've ever read. And my other favorite authors are Bellow, Chekhov, Cheever, Munro, Curtis, D'Ambrosio, Lodato, Nelson, Franzen, Saunders, ...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow Lerner, November 3, 2014
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This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
loved me some a-toke-a-Station but found this one's solipsistic charms started to wear thin after a few chapters. Geoff Dyer is better at laughing at his ponderousness, Nicholson Baker is just funnier in his noticings. Ben Lerner's got serious chops though and I want him to tackle something more specific next time--he needs something to do for once beside the usual flanneurish stuff--dissing art openings, doubting his authenticity, kinda being into this or that girl etc...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seems like a series of ideas from essays that were pieced ..., October 16, 2014
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This review is from: 10:04: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Intermittent worthwhile insights into the interplay of time and experience contained in a loosely structured narrative. Seems like a series of ideas from essays that were pieced together.
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10:04: A Novel
10:04: A Novel by Ben Lerner (Hardcover - September 2, 2014)
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