Ben Lerner - Leaving the Atocha Station (1 star)

"The overall effect is like being stuck, sober, with a rambling stoner."

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Ben Lerner - Leaving the Atocha Station

(Granta)

Adam is an American poet studying in Madrid where he’s supposed to be writing something brilliant. He isn’t because he spends his time stoned, drunk or spaced-out on tranquillisers. Tales based on drug-use were once shocking, but they aren’t now. To create even a ripple in drug-based literature, it has to be something fresh and extraordinary. Lerner’s tale is neither.

I kept waiting to like/dislike/feel anything at all about the narrator, but the closest I got was finding him irritating and whiny. As a parody of the self-obsessed writer yearning to find meaning in anything at all, it’s occasionally funny, but I don’t think Lerner intends his depiction to be parodic.

The other characters barely exist because they’re based on what Adam thinks they might be saying in the Spanish he rarely understands. The internal monologues that make up the book could work if Adam had something interesting to say or a great story to tell, but he doesn’t. The overall effect is like being stuck, sober, with a rambling stoner.

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