by Ben Lerner
I have come to the conclusion that the more effusive the critical accolades, the less likely I am to enjoy a book. Obviously, this is a sweeping statement that I can refute myself almost immediately, but I am now becoming a lot more sceptical of the praise heaped on some books by established literary critics.
Ben Lerner’s “10:04” is one such book.
From the claims included on the book’s cover, I was expecting something on the very of inspirational. What I actually got was a well written but confusing ramble through the life and thoughts of a poet trying to become an author. It feels, and probably is, more than a little autobiographical, with Ben himself taking the leading role.
I was distracted more than once by the need to reach for a dictionary as he tries to astound the reader with his wonderful Lexicography skills! Now, I am not afraid to admit my own failings on the front, but be reminded of it so frequently, along with references to what are to me obscure poets and philosophers, made the effort of ploughing my way through the book’s 240 pages a little tedious.
The way the story meanders through the narrator’s trials and tribulations left me a little confused at times. At no point in the book did I feel in any way connected with the erstwhile author or his life. There was one small section I found witty and engaging, but rather than life the book, it acted as a reminder of just how uninspiring the rest of it was.
So, whilst I don’t say that the critics who claimed it to be the book of the year or extremely funny were wrong, for me it is proof of just how differently each of can interpret a book. The meanderings of the plot and the rambling nature of the narrator’s thought processes left me nonplussed and disappointed. Not for me Ben, sorry.