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10:04: A Novel Hardcover – September 2, 2014

3.3 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

“Just how many singular reading experiences can one novelist serve up? . . . 10:04 is a mind-blowing book; to use Lerner's own description, it's 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

“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.” ―Maggie Nelson, The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Ingenious . . . Lerner packs so much brilliance and humor into each episode. Some, like the narrator's 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 possiblity, leaving the observable world ‘a little changed, a little charged'.” ―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“This is only Lerner's second novel (and he is only thirty-five), and yet to talk about mere ‘promise,' as is customary with the young, seems insufficient. Even if he writes nothing else for the rest of his life, this is a book that belongs to the future.” ―Giles Harvey, New York Review of Books

“I've only reread two novels this year: John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van and Ben Lerner's 10:04 . . . they are also two of the finest works of fiction I have read in a long time . . . As much as I adored Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04 is an improvement . . . in every single way. The book is more ambitious, more intelligent, and, somehow, even more hysterical . . . Lerner's work feels so fluid, so natural that it feels like a magic trick when he moves from meditations about fatherhood to greater considerations of the world at large without batting an eye.” ―Kevin Nguyen, Grantland

“What is 10:04 by Ben Lerner? It is a book for people who like great writing--"great," here, meaning frequently brilliant, electrically hyper-conscious, extravagnatly verbose, aggressively sesquipedalian throw-the-book-across-the-room-in-despair-that-you-will-never-invent-that-metaphor-because-he-just-did writing . . . Nothing much happens, except for writing. But let me tell you: The writing happens.” ―Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, "Best Book I Read This Year"

“The boundaries between 10:04 and real life are porous, and it's exciting. But none of it would matter if it weren't for Lerner's excellent prose, which is galloping yet precise, his humorous, complex scene-settings (including one of the best extended party scenes I have ever read), his charming obsessions, and poingnant world-view.” ―Halimah Marcus, Electric Literature

“Deeply intelligent, just as deeply funny, and ultimately quite moving. Plus, it's the only book this year to talk about Back to the Future AND Walter Benjamin with equal insight.” ―Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

10:04, with its slippery relationship between narrator and author, its beautifully wrought sentences, and its intricate network of leitmotifs, allusions, and recurring phrases--from a jar of instant coffee to time travel, to the speech Ronald Reagan gave after the Challenger exploded--demonstrates the pleasures and insights . . . literariness can still afford.” ―Daniel Hack, Public Books

“[10:04] is a beautiful and original novel . . . it signals a new direction in American fiction, perhaps a fertile one.” ―Christian Lorentzen, Bookforum

“[Lerner's] concerns wrap around the modern moment with terrifying rightness . . . 10:04 describes what it feels like to be alive.” ―John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“This masterful, at times dizzying novel reevaluates not just what fiction can do but what is is . . . Hilarious and incisive, Lerner's [10:04] would succeed without the layers of fiction (on reality on fiction). But with that narrative device, the book achieves brilliance, at once a study of how fiction functions and an expansive catalog of life.” ―Tiffany Gilbert, Time Out New York [Five-star review]

“Lerner is talented at noticing his mind's feints and twitches, and thereby making the quotidian engaging . . . As I read 10:04 I began to feel life itself take on the numinous significance, the seriousness, or art.” ―Gabriel Roth, The Slate Book Review

“Lerner, with his keen poetic eye, manages to fill 10:04 with deft, breathtaking observations and possibilities . . . If indeed, as many postmodern critics tell us, there is no longer the prospect of the certified masterpiece or the Great American Novel, Lerner has created a meaningful substitute: a thinking text for our time.” ―Christopher Bollen, Interview

10:04, Ben Lerner's ingenious new novel, is a Sebaldian book made from starkly American material . . . If we are able to see things a little differently, the novel seems to say, if amid the chaos we can locate pockets of potential--for connection, for collectivity--then there's hope. Where Sebald mourns what has been lost in translation from life, Lerner steadfastly seeks what might be found.” ―Alexander Benaim, Bookforum

“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.” ―Steven G. Kellman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Frequently brilliant . . . Lerner writes with a poet's attention to language.” ―Hari Kunzru, The New York Times Book Review

“A funny, deeply observational metafictional romp.” ―Jacob Shamsian, Entertainment Weekly

“A brilliant novel . . . As promising a second effort as Atocha Station was a debut.” ―Juliet Lapidos, The New Republic

10:04 may be the best contemporary work of meta-fiction that I've ever read.” ―Emily Temple, Flavorwire

“In an era of ironic detachment and political apathy, Lerner's 10:04 makes a strong case for art that can move from irony to sincerity.” ―Alisa Sniderman, The Last Magazine

“Rampant self-deprecation and deft humor . . . separates 10:04 from other novels that focus on writers writing about writing . . . Lerner has now established himself firmly in the realm of fiction, adding to his triumphs in poetry and criticism. He will prove, if not already, to be an important figure in contemporary American literature.” ―Alexander Norcia, Slant Magazine

“Lerner as author is a master manipulator, immersing you into the flow of a story and then pulling you back up to the surface at will . . . What makes Lerner one of the most compelling young writers working in both fiction and poetry is that he's fascinated by, and engaging convincingly with fascinating things.” ―Elisa Gabbert, Open Letters Monthly

“[10:04 is] disarmingly clever, unstintingly intelligent, and intensely a product of our contemporary moment.” ―Josh Lambert, Haaretz

“Lerner conjures a compelling vision of what it means to live now, examining our ties to the past and the forces that threaten to sunder us from it.” ―Joe Fassler and Margot E. Fassler, Commonweal Magazine

“Lerner's perceptiveness makes his writing not only engaging but funny . . . Ben Lerner tells a story that moves and provokes.” ―Maddie Crum, The Huffington Post

“Reading Ben Lerner gives me the tingle at the base of my spine that happens whenever I encounter a writer of true originality. He is a courageous, immensely intelligent artist who panders to no one and yet is a delight to read. Anyone interested in serious contemporary literature should read Ben Lerner, and 10:04 is the perfect place to start.” ―Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Marriage Plot

“Ben Lerner is a brilliant novelist, and one unafraid to make of the novel something truly new. 10:04 is a work of endless wit, pleasure, relevance, and vitality.” ―Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

“A work so luminously original in style and form as to seem like a premonition, a comet from the future.” ―Geoff Dyer, The Observer on Leaving the Atocha Station

“Lerner's writing [is] beautiful, funny, and revelatory.” ―Deb Olin Unferth, Bookforum on Leaving the Atocha Station

“[A] subtle, sinuous, and very funny first novel . . . There are wonderful sentences and jokes on almost every page.” ―James Wood, The New Yorker on Leaving the Atocha Station

“One of the funniest (and truest) novels . . . by a writer of his generation.” ―Lorin Stein, The New York Review of Books on Leaving the Atocha Station

“Flip, hip, smart, and very funny . . . Reading it was unlike any other novel-reading experience I've had for a long time.” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross on Leaving the Atocha Station

“Remarkable . . . a bildungsroman and meditation and slacker tale fused by a precise, reflective and darkly comic voice.” ―Gary Sernovitz, The New York Times Book Review on Leaving the Atocha Station

“The overall narrative is structured round [these] subtle, delicate moments: performances, as Adam would call them, of intense experience. They're comic in that obviously, Adam is an appalling poseur. But they're also beautiful and touching and precise.” ―Jenny Turner, The Guardian on Leaving the Atocha Station

Leaving the Atocha Station is a marvelous novel, not least because of the magical way that it reverses the postmodernist spell, transmuting a fraudulent figure into a fully dimensional and compelling character.” ―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal on Leaving the Atocha Station

“An extraordinary novel about the intersections of art and reality in contemporary life.” ―John Ashbery on Leaving the Atocha Station

“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 on Leaving the Atocha Station

“Last night I started Ben Lerner's novel Leaving the Atocha Station. By page three it was clear I was either staying up all night or putting the novel away until the weekend. I'm still angry with myself for having slept.” ―Stacy Schiff on Leaving the Atocha Station

“A character-driven ‘page-turner' and a concisely definitive study of the ‘actual' versus the ‘virtual' as applied to relationships, language, poetry, experience.” ―Tao Lin, The Believer on Leaving the Atocha Station

“Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station is a slightly deranged, philosophically inclined monologue in the Continental tradition running from Büchner's Lenz to Thomas Bernhard and Javier Marías. The adoption of this mode by a young American narrator--solipsistic, overmedicated, feckless yet ambitious--ends up feeling like the most natural thing in the world.” ―Benjamin Kunkel, New Statesman's Books of the Year 2011 on Leaving the Atocha Station

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 Review's 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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (September 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865478104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865478107
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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This book started off interestingly enough. However, it quickly turned into a pretentious, over written and overly self admiring piece. I thought the poetry was awful; he just retold some of his story in line form with no poetic tone. I became curious about certain things in the novel, about whether they were real or fictional. I looked up Marfa on wikipedia and found that Lerner's description of the lights was taken almost verbatim from wikipedia! I don't mind learning new vocabulary as I read, but it seemed that Lerner had certain words that he overused in such a way that I wondered whether a friend had dared him to use it more than once. "I'll give you $10 for every time you use the word passerine."

I've been saving the worst offence for last: Marfan syndrome is a dominant gene which is passed on to 50% of offspring. With the increasing age of the "parents" and the expenses and long odds of fertility treatments, why would anyone want to use his sperm?
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I wish I were erudite enough to give a good explanation of why I liked this book. Basically, I found it stimulating and abstract. If you are looking for a straightforward narrative, this is not the book for you. I think you just have to let go and take the ride and not think too much about what it all means or how it fits together, although it did feel like it came together at the end.

Lerner does sling around a lot of vocabulary words--thank goodness for the Kindle's interactive dictionary!--but it mostly seems in keeping with the character. If you've read any David Foster Wallace, you can't get annoyed at the vocabulary used here. It pales in comparison.

The writing was excellent. Nice to find something different out there that is still readable.
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