ben lerner’s 10:04

Cover00Christian Lorentzen at Bookforum:

So 10:04 is a novel of intensities, an unfolding present. Some of this present is personal. At the start, Ben is diagnosed with “an entirely asymptomatic and potentially aneurysmal dilation of my aortic root” that could turn the artery into “a whipping hose spraying blood into my blood.” He’s also trying to impregnate his best friend Alex by artificial insemination (“fucking you would be bizarre,” she tells him). And he’s casually dating a conceptual painter named Alena with a taste for autoerotic asphyxiation. Other strands of the novel put Ben into contact with aspects of the city. He tutors an eight-year-old boy named Roberto, a well-drawn character but also a surrogate-son figure and an emissary from the immigrant class—Ben is constantly aware of being served by people who speak Spanish. Politics enters in the form of an Occupy protester who uses Ben’s shower and eats a meal he cooks, and an Adderall-addled student fixated on environmental apocalypse. Ben sits at the bed of a hospitalized mentor, who represents a connection with a vanishing avant-garde. He publishes a story in the New Yorker, fretting over whether he’ll let its editors “standardize” his work. After he signs his book deal, there’s an interlude in Marfa, Texas, where he sees the specter of Robert Creeley.

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