“It’s always a projection back into the past, the idea that there was a single moment when you decided to become a writer, or the idea that a writer is in a position to know how or why she became a writer if it makes sense to think of it as a decision at all…”
Do you ever find yourself picking up a book purely based on its cover? Surely not, you would never judge a book by its cover! You turn the book around at least, read the blurb… Well what would you say to having a blind date with a book? This month’s book came to me through a date with a book, a great idea picked up by many book shops where you choose a book based on three words about it, take it home and unwrap it and discover a book which you may not have picked up otherwise!
Welcome to 10:04 by Ben Lerner, described in my ‘blind date with a book’ as ‘intelligent and constructed’ and one of the most original and unique books I’ve ever read. It’s very difficult to describe the story in a concise way, because it doesn’t operate like your standard work of fiction, and could just as easily be described as a book about a book, but even that isn’t correct because it explores so much more than that. At its most basic levels it’s about a writer in New York, faced with the reality of his own health concerns, navigating the modern world and potentially conceiving a child with his best friend.
The narrator struggles with his own anxieties and his ever expanding aorta, he develops an idea for a novel and their stories blend and twist, a tapestry where author and narrator could be one and the same. Alex, his best friend and potential co-parent wants a baby with him but not to be with him and he can’t help but wonder if it’s his obvious inadequacies that makes him attractive, a mildly present parent who provides genetic material and nothing more. He floats around the art and literary crowd, sometimes feeling a fraud, surprised at his own acclaim and monetary successes.
The writing is gripping, intense and descriptive. The language is beautiful but sometimes dense and the novel flows at its own rhythm, it’s up to readers to keep up. It’s an intellectual, constructed novel, about a writer, a ruminator, a thinker and the modern world and it’s beautiful. I felt like I came full circle from reading those words as I unwrapped my mysterious book, and upon closing it the final time.
If you’re looking for a light read, a conventional romance or popcorn novel, this is not it. If you want literature, to question, savour and experience through the eyes of a poet and writer, Ben Lerner’s 10:04 is for you!
Book Conversation Points:
What three words would you describe the novel in?
What did you think of the narrator?
What did you think of the witting style?
Do you think the novel is more fiction or non fiction? Do you think it matters?
Join us next week to read Funny Girl, the latest novel by Nick Hornby!