Ben Lerner – 10:04 (5 stars)

‘Like a poem, is neither fiction nor nonfiction, but a flickering between them’

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Ben Lerner – 10:04

(Granta)

For an avant-garde poet, Ben Lerner’s first novel Leaving the Atocha Station was a surprise commercial success. Self-referential, mordantly funny, it followed a young American poet on a fellowship in Spain, and was animated less by conventional plot than by the narrator’s struggle to find meaning and authenticity in his life, and to bridge the disconnect between his thoughts and actions.

Through a series of autobiographical vignettes, 10:04 (the time refers to the moment the clock tower is struck by lightning in Back to the Future) follows a similarly Lerner-esque narrator, unexpectedly successful following the sale of his unwritten second novel, as he adapts to a serious heart condition and debates whether to help his best friend conceive a child.

A work of dark humour and great originality, set against a backdrop of ‘unseasonably warm’ weather and palpable economic decline, 10:04 is concerned less with authenticity than with the valorisation of memory and the past; like the narrator’s proposed new book, it is a work that, ‘like a poem, is neither fiction nor nonfiction, but a flickering between them’.

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