Tuesday, January 13, 2015

10:0410:04 by Ben Lerner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just put down Ben Lerner's 10:04 which is the semi-autobiographical story of a young author who is on sabbatical from college teaching and may or may not have Marfan's Syndrome (which Lincoln had). He is trying to impregnate his best friend, Alex,not his "girlfriend," but a platonic friend whom he met in college. She is 36, unemployed and wants to have a child and he is elected as good father material. The plot rambles through Brooklyn on their walks and Manhattan to the fertility clinic. He acts as big brother to an 8-year-old Latino boy named Roberto. He sells a book contract for a strong six figures ( “about twenty-five years of a Mexican migrant’s labor, seven of Alex’s in her current job. Or my rent, if I had rent control, for eleven years. Or thirty-six hundred flights of bluefin, assuming the species held.”) and flies to a residency in Marfa, Texas where he hibernates, walks, writes a poem rather than his novel. The themes of walking and of art and poetry run through the book, along with his fear of a dissecting aorta, another symptom of Marfan's. He watches the movie "Back to the Future" during two threatening hurricanes (Irene & Sandy) which is where the title originates. The language challenges: he does not cry but has a "lacrimal event." He suffers proprioception, a sort of unconscious awareness of the body's internal stimulii to external events. And I experienced the usual challenges of reading in bed, unwilling to get up and look up the words because I am smitten with the story, the writing, the references to Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Robert Creeley, the obscure National Book Award winner William Bronk, the teaching/writing couple whose "house [was] so full of books that it seemed built of books," movies like The Stranger with Orson Welles, the exhibit of the Institute for Totaled Art (rescued from an insurance company warehouse). It is a book which is worthy of its challenges and I will be first in line for his next one. I loved it. Slate reviews it expertly here:
Or bookforum here http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/021_...

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