10:04 by Ben Lerner (2014) I think I heard about Ben Lerner from David Shields, writing about various authors whose work crosses the line, back and forth, from fiction and non-fiction, or maybe erases the line, which is something I'm interested in, at least reading. I'm not sure about doing it. Well, I do do it, but I also just like fiction—I like making things up. Okay, I guess I'm there, as far as stuff I write, and I relate to the approach in this book, but I also would not take quite this approach. It's hard to explain. I was always attracted to the earlier, kind of more crude versions of erasing that line, like in some works by John Barth, and Richard Brautigan, etc. I guess some of that's called “post-modernism” and also “metafiction.” To me, those kind of labels and categories aren't very helpful, unless it's helpful in finding other similar stuff. So anyway, the story in 10:04 is about an unnamed character (so it may as well be Ben Lerner) who is in New York during this specific period of time, that happens to be framed by Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy—which is when I was living in NYC, and so a lot of this is both historically and geographically familiar to me: Christian Marclay's The Clock, The High Line, post 911, pre-Trump. Other major references are the movie Back to the Future (1985) and the 1986 Space Shuttle disaster (which Ben Lerner is almost too young to remember, but I happened to experience while living in NYC, the first time I lived there). A lot of this book is also about the author's struggle with a possibly catastrophic medical condition, and attempts to be a sperm donor for a close friend... so there's birth and death, which adds a lot of weight to the narrative, while also, in my case, creating considerable distance. Ben Lerner is an interesting character (i.e., real person) in that in this kind of rarified literary world he's a rock star, a Superstar, i.e., he's the guy, while at the same time, not a household word, and in fact virtually unknown (certainly among my friends, family, co-workers, and the man on the street), which makes him, in a way, exactly the person I want to be. But I wouldn't trade places with him for a million dollars, all the tea in China, or that elusive “happiness”—which I guess brings me back to a kind of self-reflection where I realize that I love my life, am eternally grateful for it and happy about it, even while recognizing that, as a career, or looking at it from “above,” it's a disaster, a car-wreck, and an absolute failure. But anyway, thanks Ben Lerner!
Books I've Finished Reading