tenohfourI hate to start the new year off on a bad note, but damn. I hated soooo many things about this book. Don’t worry, this’ll be a quick review.

10:04 is by Ben Lerner, who, I gather, is mostly a poet. It’s like he tried to write his version of The Bell Jar but failed miserably. He should stick to poetry, though I won’t be reading it.

It’s about a poet (who is currently writing a novel) who lives in New York. He teaches at a New York college, has New York friends, and is using various means to get a friend pregnant because she thinks it’s a good idea. He’s also doing other various New Yorky things. Two minor hurricanes happen, and he might or might not have a tumor slowly growing in his sinuses. So very exciting.

Now I’m going to list some of the things I hate about this novel.

  1. It’s a memoir, dammit, and Ben Lerner is no Sylvia Plath and is not good enough at writing to make a memoir pass as a novel.
  2. He can’t get his head out of his ass. 10:04 is the most self-indulgent book I’ve read in…I don’t remember how long.
  3. He likes to display his diverse vocabulary, which is fine in poetry but terrible in most novels. Don’t think Cormac McCarthy. Lerner makes it almost intolerably awkward.
  4. Nothing really happens. That can totally work for better authors. This isn’t an episode of Seinfeld.

So why, you ask, did I even finish this novel when I figured out very quickly that I hated it? Mainly because I listened to the audiobook. I’ve talked before about how that more passive form of reading can make difficult novels easier to wade through. That, and I’m also reading The Stand, which is really long and will take a while to finish (right now, I’m somewhere around 43%). Keeping my 50-book goal (and regular blog-posting) in mind, I figured that the benefits of slogging through a few hours of crappy book might outweigh the annoyance factor. And I was hoping that Lerner might redeem himself at the end. He didn’t. I’m not even sure I remember how 10:04 ends, and I just finished it a couple days ago. Meh.

Here’s to better books in the (very near) future!

Image credit: Davide Costanzo