I am reading this for the second time right now. It's very funny, and weirdly straightforward stylistically for a novel where the narrator is obsessed with questions of literary translation and writes poetry that deliberately resists interpretation. I find the narrator's faith in the "negative power" of poems, which even when they fail, through their failure point to the possibility of some other, absent successful poem, or "poetic experience," to be moving. I have more definite thoughts on this book, which is one of my favorites of the past few years, but I am more interested in hearing if anyone else has read it and if so what they think of it.
― Treeship, Thursday, 11 July 2013 05:56 (seven years ago) link
its really relatable i found myself retelling it to friends a lot after reading it - thought it would be more autofiction but totally content it wasn't... think auster's blurb about the central character being a lovable idiot was otm (but ofc cliche i guess)
― niels, Thursday, 11 July 2013 16:15 (seven years ago) link
i keep wanting to read this guy but i want to read the poetry and i have this complex about buying poetry on the internet
― i better not get any (thomp), Thursday, 11 July 2013 18:14 (seven years ago) link
you can read these. they are from his 2004 collection, the lichtenburg figures
― Treeship, Thursday, 11 July 2013 18:16 (seven years ago) link
i think that's the third time those have been linked to me on ilx
― i better not get any (thomp), Thursday, 11 July 2013 19:16 (seven years ago) link
They stand up on the third reading
― Treeship, Thursday, 11 July 2013 19:22 (seven years ago) link
I read this book and really enjoyed it for the first half. It was funny about being a certain age and what we need to communicate and be understood. It was an interesting enough portrait of a certain kind of Spanish culture and it felt close enough to truth to be a little, I don't know, daring? But I did struggle with the narrator over the end of the book and found myself just thinking he was an asshole who I wouldn't like much in person, whereas I related to his self-consciousness and fear of being "found out" for the opening of the book. So I put it down a little deflated, but I have fond memories of the earlier parts and would happily read another book like it.
― admrl, Thursday, 11 July 2013 19:29 (seven years ago) link
My boss's office is covered in Ben Lerner quotes--until I googled him I assumed he was some kind of database guru.
I should check out those paris review pieces.
― BIG HOOS aka the denigrated boogeyman (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Thursday, 11 July 2013 20:14 (seven years ago) link
― Treeship, Thursday, 11 July 2013 20:33 (seven years ago) link
sorry for the rhetorical "what" but covering the walls of an office with lines of sometimes humorous, always vaguely cryptic post-language poems seems...unusual.
― Treeship, Thursday, 11 July 2013 20:35 (seven years ago) link
they must be quotes from essays, they're pretty uncryptic
― BIG HOOS aka the denigrated boogeyman (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Thursday, 11 July 2013 21:10 (seven years ago) link
what kinds of quotes are they?
― Treeship, Thursday, 11 July 2013 21:12 (seven years ago) link
Weird--I remember reading and liking this, but now I can barely remember anything about it. I need to revisit it, obviously.
― ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Friday, 12 July 2013 03:03 (seven years ago) link
Totally liked this.
― Guayaquil (eephus!), Saturday, 13 July 2013 06:33 (seven years ago) link
i liked the discussion of ashbery and wish i didn't have to pay to have access to lerner's essay on ashbery. "daffy duck in hollywood" is a poem that i love, and i think "adam's" account of asbery's poems -- that they allow you to "experience mediacy immediately" -- is a good description of at least one thing i like about it: the sense of narrative propulsion on the level of syntax, which is undermined by the poem's fragmented content.
― Treeship, Saturday, 13 July 2013 06:59 (seven years ago) link
also, full disclosure about why i like that ashbery poem: i like the image of daffy duck -- a new yorker if there ever was one -- stranded in los angeles and finding his surroundings hellish.
― Treeship, Saturday, 13 July 2013 07:16 (seven years ago) link
new ben lerner novel coming out september 2nd. similar in ways to leaving the atocha station, but more structurally adventurous. not quite as funny, sadly, but still funny in parts. i like the way lerner's narrators are always thinking about artworks, and how there are lots of critical texts embedded within the larger fictional text. i wish i knew of more novelists who did this, i'm sure they're out there.
― lars von (Treeship), Tuesday, 26 August 2014 20:07 (six years ago) link
retrospectively this guy can go fuck himself
― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 29 August 2014 22:40 (six years ago) link
Lol why? I still haven't read him.
― ODB's missing grammy (bernard snowy), Friday, 29 August 2014 23:19 (six years ago) link
this novel irked me. idk, more when im not posting from the bathroom
― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 30 August 2014 17:04 (six years ago) link
take your time
― ODB's missing grammy (bernard snowy), Saturday, 30 August 2014 18:02 (six years ago) link
it gave up its best schticks ("was he having an authentic experience of art??") ("but you're a fluent speaker") way too early
it enlisted the madrid train bombings for emotional heft
the ending, at the poetry reading, was unearned given that the narrator is an insufferable butthead throughout -- like whatever we are meant to draw from the stuff about the translating/creating that's going on is suddenly not being played for laughs unlike his praxis/existence before, but it seems if anything more banal, trite, an obvious set of shibboleths. it occurs to me as i write that maybe the novel was playing a smarter game than i thought, that whatever's happening at the end should be taken in the same mood as i.e. his projections about women and his getting lost, but then it's just a dumb nihilistic novel instead of a dumb novel featuring unearned redemption
― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 31 August 2014 08:01 (six years ago) link
i did read the linked bit of the lichtenberg figures, the other night, while i was waiting in an airport terminal: those i liked, i guess
― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 31 August 2014 08:02 (six years ago) link
I tried hard to imagine my poems or any poems as machines that could make things happen, changing the government, or the economy or even their language, the body or its sensorium, but I could not imagine this, could not even imagine imagining it. And yet when I imagined the total victory of those other things over poetry, when I imagined, with a sinking feeling, a world without even the terrible excuses for poems that kept faith with the virtual possibilities of the medium, without the sort of absurd ritual I'd participated in that evening then I intuited an inestimable loss, a loss not of artworks but of art, and therefore infinite, the total triumph of the actual, and I realized that, in such a world, I would swallow a bottle of white pills.
― Treeship, Monday, 5 January 2015 02:48 (five years ago) link
i thought the first 30 or 40 pages of this were really good, but as soon as it got into the lovesick girl stuff i just tuned out. boring & typical. gonna read 10:04 next, hoping for something better
― flappy bird, Thursday, 29 October 2015 18:15 (four years ago) link
New Lerner short story here. If you liked 10:04 you'll like this, but it's kind of the same old schtick.
― Zelda Zonk, Friday, 3 June 2016 08:53 (four years ago) link
read abt half of 10:04 on a plane yesterday and one of my first reactions while reading was i bet treeship likes or would like this
― johnny crunch, Thursday, 28 July 2016 13:07 (four years ago) link
the new novel -- the topeka school -- is excellent until the last section, when it devolves into moral pedantry. the failure is more pronounced given how good the climax was -- and how complex the characters were. it shouldn't all resolve into a bite size/social media ready comment about masculinity
― treeship., Friday, 10 January 2020 21:22 (eight months ago) link
I have only been peripherally aware of this dude, but seeing Topeka School on best of 2019 lists piqued my interest. Where should I start?
― jaymc, Friday, 10 January 2020 21:31 (eight months ago) link
Leaving the atocha station and then the short monograph, the hatred of poetry, which follows up on themes from the novel about negative capability
― treeship., Friday, 10 January 2020 21:38 (eight months ago) link
If you like those then the topeka school next.
His poems are kind of cool too. I like the first collection best—the lichtenberg figures.
I liked 10:04 better than either Atocha or Topeka, haven't read the poems.
― Guayaquil (eephus!), Sunday, 12 January 2020 18:54 (eight months ago) link