“If there had been a way to say it without it sounding like presumptuous co-op nonsense, I would have wanted to tell her that discovering you are not identical with yourself even in the most disturbing and painful way still contains the glimmer, however refracted, of the world to come, where everything is the same but a little different because the past will be citable in all of its moments, including those from our present present happened but never occurred.” (p. 109)
I was first introduced to Ben Lerner’s writing from his debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station which came out in November 2011. Leaving the Atocha Station was about an American poet on a fellowship in Madrid. His second novel, 10:04 Learner blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction to tell a story of a writer living in New York who has achieved unexpected success who finds out he has a potentially fatal medical condition. To complicate matters even further, his best friend wants him to have a baby with her through artificial insemination.
As always Lerner’s writing style is fascinating and thought provoking. And while there is not much, other than a basic plot, he builds upon the story by making it more interesting through the difficult questions his characters ask which provide the readers much to think about. I often found myself pausing after every few sentences to take in everything that has been mentioned and to reflect on what it means to me. And while I definitely could not relate to his characters in the book, I admired how they were written to be imperfect people. Another element that I felt added to the reading experience was the employment and references to works of modern art in the novel. Lovers of modern art would probably take pleasure in the numerous references to and photos of modern art pieces incorporated throughout this novel.
On the other hand, the one element of the book that I was not the biggest fan of when it came to this book was the storytelling method employed in this book. There was a bunch of jumping around from the protagonist’s story and to the short stories that he writes, and there is even a time skip that occurs near the end without much warning. However it works for this book, and I suppose I understand why it was done the in the manner that it was.
Overall 10:04 was an extremely intriguing read, and not at all what I had initially expected it to be. In fact the ending, while meant to be satisfying left me realizing that I had grown attached to these characters. Thus while 10:04 is not something every person may enjoy, I would suggest that if you are a fan of contemporary literature and/or of introspective novels that you give 10:04 a go. 10:04 is definitely not a book that should be rushed, be rather it is one that should be taken in gradually so that you don’t miss a thing.
If you like this book, you’ll love: Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.