Leaving The Atocha Station
- Granta Books
- Publication Date:
- 05 July 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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This is not a book to pick up if you are in a mood for a quick read, a suspenseful, plot driven novel - if you aren't in a mood to enjoy Ben Lerner's lovely prose and to sit back and think about what he is writing, then wait to start Leaving the Atocha Station until you are, so you don't miss out on a very good book. Personally, I tend to be more of a plot driven reader so I do know what I'm talking about here. I started reading this and found my mind was zooming way to fast and there were too many other things I could be doing to really get into this book. For many of us, it's not one you pick up and then don't go to sleep until you finish it. Two things stopped me from putting it in my big pile of books to be read some other time though. First, I received this advanced reader copy as a lovely gift through the early reader program at GoodReads.com and I felt some obligation to give it a solid chance to be at least read. Second, and more importantly, even from the very beginning I could see how very wonderful Lerner's style of writing was. It was like reading waves of words. I found it funny as well, especially when the the protagonist, Adam Gordon, is trying to follow Spanish conversations and listing all the things that might or might not have been said.The plot itself is disjointed and nearly nonexistent. I started to slow down a little but then I started to realize this book was a modern version of the philosophy books I had read in school - I think therefore I am and whatnot. Adam Gordon, for a variety of reasons, has completely dissociated himself from his emotions and circumstances - he struggles with whether he really is a part of life, whether anyone is, maybe whether life is real itself. Age-old questions presented in terms of the modern condition, as people isolate themselves from who they really are and those who surround them with the help of mind and mood altering medications and too much time spent looking at computers rather than the world around them. At least, that's what I got out of the book anyway.I liked it - I recommend it.
A light novel about the artistic process and the dishonesty inherent in building up an artistic reputation.
The narrator gives us beautifully phrased and subtle observations of his inner state, which is clouded, or perhaps clarified, by hashish, psychiatric meds and other drugs. The motives of others and the state of things around him remain mysterious. The randomness of events in the story and the self-absorption of the narrator tried my patience at times, but I stuck with it because of the author's eye for detail and gift for capturing states of mind in prose. I'm glad I did. Our hero seems to have learned something by the end.
Ben Lerner's debut novel is an often very funny chronicle of a young American writer living and working in Spain on a poetry fellowship. Adam Gordon's project proposal has been accepted by the fellowship awards committee and he finds himself in Madrid, in the period leading up to the March 2004 national elections, where he is expected to produce work of publishable quality. Instead of working diligently on his poetry however, he drifts from one day to the next partying with new friends, falling in love and getting high. In the wake of the March 11 train bombings, he begins to suspect that he is a fraud and that poetry itself is an exhausted medium. Can poetry influence political outcomes? Does an ignorant young American with no life experience have any right to comment on Spanish politics? These are questions that he grapples with as he entertains serious doubts with regard to both his talent and his aesthetic intentions. To his amazement, however, the work he produces is taken seriously by the very people whose opinions matter the most. Adam's voyage of self-discovery through Spanish culture frequently goes off the rails, and Ben Lerner's prose--steeped in irony--seems to call into question the validity of all art. Leaving the Atocha Station is a comic novel for the serious reader; or, to put it another way, it is a serious novel with a comic vibe that challenges the reader to consider art in new ways. It is also vastly entertaining and nothing less than a triumph.
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