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Leaving the Atocha Station [Kindle Edition]

Ben Lerner
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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, Adam’s “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.

“[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

“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



Editorial Reviews

Review

One of the best books of 2011. - Jonathan Franzen
One of the best books of 2011. "...intensely and unusually brilliant." - The Guardian (UK)
One of the best books of 2011. - iTunes
One of the best books from indie publishers in 2011. "[Leaving the Atocha Station] is remarkable for its ability to be simultaneously warm, ruminative, heart-breaking, and funny. Which is all to say that this book is suddenly one of my very favorites and I have a serious crush on Ben Lerner's brain." - Shelf Unbound
One of the Best Fiction Books of 2011. "[Lerner] writes so candidly and exquisitely...a marvelous novel...fully dimensional and compelling..." - The Wall Street Journal
"[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...[and] 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
"Well written and full of captivating ideas..." - Library Journal
"...profoundly evocative...[Lerner] cleverly, seductively, and hilariously investigates the nature of language and storytelling, veracity and fraud..." - Booklist
"...subtle, sinuous, and very funny...beguiling..." - New Yorker
"...explores with humor and depth what everyone assumes is OK to overlook...incredible..." - Star Tribune
"Leaving the Atocha Station proves [Lerner is] a droll and perceptive observer, and a first-rate novelist." - New York Journal of Books
"...one of the most compelling books...flip, hip, smart, and very funny...unlike any other novel-reading experience..." - NPR
"...seductively intelligent and stylish writing, mercilessly comic in the ways it strips the creative ego bare. It will be fascinating to see where Lerner goes with his talent next." - The Independent (UK)
Winner of the Believer Book Award. "...hilarious and sensitive novel...dense and full of life and feeling." - The Believer
"Lerner's prose, at once precise and swerving, propels the book..." - The Daily Beast
"...darkly hilarious...a quintessential modernist expat novel...fiercely contemporary...beautiful, funny, and revelatory." - Book Forum
"This is far from the first novel about a young American finding himself in Europe or a young writer grappling with the problem of authenticity, but Leaving the Atocha Station transcends these tropes when Adam Gordon witnesses the Madrid train bombings of 2004, brutal reminders that the digital age is not defined only by problems of authenticity and language but also by mass violence and terror. Lerner's novel is timely and relevant and, most importantly, a damn good book." - Hey Small Press
"...a hilarious and insightful account of an artist's development in the digital age." - The Outlet
"I enjoyed it so much I read it twice (and laughed out loud both times)." - Lorin Stein, The Paris Review

About the Author

Ben Lerner is the author of three books of poetry: The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. Lerner was 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. He teaches in the writing program at Brooklyn College.

 

READER BIO

Ben Lerner is the author of three books of poetry: The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. Lerner was 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. He teaches in the writing program at Brooklyn College.


Product Details

  • File Size: 890 KB
  • Print Length: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IQBXTI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,500 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious, Funny, Smart, Sad December 24, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
James Woods recommended this book in The New Yorker. It's not unlike others he's liked: minutely observed, finely articulated novels featuring troubled men, alone, wandering about in major cities: O'Neill's Netherland, Cole's Open City, Dyer's Jeff in Venice, etc. I like them all too -- they are very intelligent, shrewd books -- but there is something tremendously sad about all of them, too. They share the theme of what I'll call the Unrealized, and it is utterly relentless. A sort of impotence of the soul that itself is an aesthetic, a philosophy, a zeitgeist. One can appreciate these novels for their accomplishment and their intelligence, but it's really very hard to care about them, their characters, and certainly one can't imagine re-reading them.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Either a 5 Star or a 1 Star, so I settled for 3 December 10, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is either a great novel, or one of the great literary hoaxes of all time . . . and I can't decide which. The writing is excellent, and if you're in the mood to increase your vocabulary, you'll love the language. But as I read, I kept wondering if this wasn't a super in-joke dreamed up by some Creative Writing grad student to demonstrate that it's entirely possible to write hundreds of pages without ever really writing about anything. True, we spend lots of intense time in the protagonist's drug-nicotine-alcohol frazzled brain, mostly worrying about whether the experience we're experiencing is the real experience, or if it's a reflection of someone else's experience of experiencing us experiencing them (or something like that). But as far as a real "story" goes--spoiled American student goes to Madrid to work on his poetry and discovers they speak a foreign language there. He maybe falls in love; he maybe writes some poems; he maybe grows up a little. Sort of a coming-of-age story about someone who doesn't ever come of age.

The cynic in me just couldn't stop feeling like I was being had. Yet, I enjoyed the read. "Leaving the Atocha Station" will either end up being required reading for Lit students, or it will fade away like one of the protagonist's many hangovers.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thoughtful Debut Novel ... But I Prefer His Poetry September 18, 2011
Format:Paperback
Ben Lerner's debut novel has been cast as a philosophical meditation on art, as seen through his narrator's, Adam Gordon's, eyes while on a poetry fellowship in Madrid. Adam moves through the Spanish streets, in Madrid and farther afield, and ends up wandering through museums, dating a gallery owner, visual artist and poet, partaking in a public panel on "Literature Now," and, albeit unwillingly, reading his poetry to the crème de la crème of Madrid's art and literature scene. But more than the art itself, the import of Lerner's novel lies in Adam himself and the way he uses art, among other things, as a way to experience the inexplicable world and, at times, as a shield against experiencing it at all.

Lerner's background, like Adam's, is as a poet and a very fine one. Three books of poetry preceded his first novel and plenty of awards. While the plot of the novel is easy to fall into, Adam's vacillations between women and friends providing both humanity and humor, the aspect that heightens the slim book is Lerner's language. His tendency towards the poetic, a rhythm and a way of stringing together unlikely phrases, creates a mimetic novel, art about art.

"You can view any object from any angle or multiple angles simultaneously or you can shut your eyes and listen to the crowd in the arena or the sirens slowly approaching the red car or the sound of the pen writing down the years as silver is hammered and shaped."

In essence, the novel is less about art and more about the other elusive big word, self. Adam struggles with his poetry and with being a poet as he struggles with his relationships, with his medication (prescribed and not), and the idea that he has no substance in the world without them. He is the sum of his parts and his arts.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Translating the Damaged Life November 9, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reading the first section of this novel on line, I immediately wanted to buy it. Adam Gordon is a young poet living in Madrid on a postgraduate fellowship. He describes his morning routine of staggering out of bed, taking his pills, smoking a joint, and then going to the Prado Museum to stand before the Rogier van der Weyden "Descent from the Cross." On this occasion, though, there is a strange man in his accustomed place, a man who suddenly bursts into copious tears. Is he personally troubled, or is he having a Profound Experience of Art?

For Adam feels himself incapable of profound experiences, whether of art of of life. He portrays himself as a layabout and a liar, spending most of his time self-medicated or high; if I see the word "spliff" one more time, I'll scream! He claims that his own poetry is a con, created by taking a line from Lorca, for instance, mistranslating it, then braiding it together with scraps from his journal. He even claims to be indifferent to poetry as an art form, and yet his disclaimer says something quite profound: "Poetry actively repelled my attention, it was opaque and thingly and refused to absorb me; its articles and conjunctions and prepositions failed to dissolve into a feeling and a speed; you could fall into the spaces between words as you tried to link them up; and yet by refusing to absorb me the poem held out the possibility of a higher form of absorption of which I was unworthy, a profound experience unavailable from within the damaged life."

Translate that last sentence to everyday life, especially to that curious stage in life that you can experience as a young man, when you feel outside the world rather than part of it, and strive in vain to connect.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What it's like to be a young person living in today's world
This book evokes lots of mixed emotions in me.

Adam strikes me as both appalling and strangely laudable. Read more
Published 17 hours ago by JWANG
5.0 out of 5 stars review by ramzi shalabi
i like this book a lot. my only gripe is that i recieved a publication that has an awful cover of an empty warehouse with a painting showing its backside. UGHHH. so ugly. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Ramzi Shalabi
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaving the Riot on a Merry-Go-Round
I don’t like stories told in first person and that goes double for those where nothing much really happens, like this one. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joe
3.0 out of 5 stars whiny baby
The author is a whiny baby in a grown mans body who had an need to be seen and heard and who wanted sympathy.
Published 2 months ago by Fatima Ggweta
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious
Couldn't put it down. Just the right blend of self-deprecation, travelogue and humor. Not so self-involved as to be cringeworthy.
Published 3 months ago by Kfor24
4.0 out of 5 stars European Flavoured Bildungsroman
What is striking and surprising about this short, probingly interior novel about a young American poet living in Spain is the way in which he makes the progression from immaturity... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Louis Foster
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic studenthood
I liked this book for it's individual style, like nothing I'd read before. What won me over was a description of his patchy understanding in a foreign language - spot on and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by S. Cowell
2.0 out of 5 stars There are too many better books to read
The narrator of this book is completely self-involved and annoying. Some people might like it. Lerner writes well but I could not stand the narrator and all of his angst. Read more
Published 5 months ago by K.F.
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice in a strange way.
The main character is not very likeable. Can you depend on what he says? Or is he a fraud, as we all are?
Published 7 months ago by Betty Van Dyck
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid and insightful
This is less a coming of age novel than a sort of coming out of self absorption novel, as we follow the thoughts, observations of a drug addled and callow but bright student moving... Read more
Published 7 months ago by hs
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