27 May 2015

Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner

It would be very easy not to like this book. The narrator is fairly unpleasant, and his time is alternately spent making bad decisions and reflecting on art in what to many people will seem a fairly pretentious way. It's a tricky question, whether you have to at least partially share his view on poetry to enjoy the novel -- I suspect you do, even if (like me), you didn't necessarily endorse his way of expressing them. But I would wager that what makes the narrator worthwhile, though not necessarily likable, is that he manages to say things about literature that are actually somewhat poignant and interesting. And moreover, that it is entirely believable that such a thoroughly hapless, self-absorbed, and unappealing guy could come up with such insights -- and that his drug-addled, booze-soaked, largely aimless days in Madrid could produce them.

This is not a typical novel: it's a fragmented collection of thoughts, almost akin to a diary, and there is no real narrative arc or resolution. Impressively, however, it feels complete, and is exactly the right length. In many ways, it is structured very much like a poem, but it also has the satisfying, simple feeling of straightforward sentences, things happening.

Frankly, I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed it.

1 comment:

yoobgames said...
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