Sunday, January 24, 2016

"10:04", a "novel" by Ben Lerner

This book was published almost a year ago but it has just come to my attention.  If it had then, it may not have seemed like something that would have been of interest as Lerner's first book, "Leaving the Atocha Station", did not catch me.  Two tries, months apart, and that highly acclaimed book could not be finished although on the second try I did make it halfway.  "10:04", on the other hand, grabbed me from the outset and was done in two days.

It is a stream of consciousness narrative that is, on the surface, about a man in his early thirties who has some success writing.  After a short story of his is published in "The New Yorker", he gets a sizable advance to turn it into a novel.  That not even begins to say what this book is about as it has multiple stories about multiple people, almost all separate apart from their impact on the mind of the main character. From the outset the style seemed so real as to be autobiographical and most of it actually appears to be as the book moves to a close.  It could be called an autobiographical novel, not a new concept, but so well done here.

The setting is primarily Brooklyn and Manhattan, with a side trip to Marfa, Texas.  The closing coincides with Hurricane Sandy, and the cover depicts that event that had a major impact on so many.

The writing style pulls one along easily, although Lerner at times sent this reader to the dictionary to understand unfamiliar words.  The writing would have still been compelling without some of those words and remained so with them.  The book has so many aspects that writing a comment that describes it as a whole is impossible here.  There are pages that are almost stand alone as having unique interest, and observations that are notable come from out of nowhere frequently.

Each to his own, but "10:04" seriously worked here.  

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