Review: 10:04 by Ben Lerner

September 17, 2014 2 stars, Book Review 26 ★★

Review: 10:04 by Ben Lerner10:04 by Ben Lerner
Published by Faber & Faber on September 2, 2014
Genres: Literature
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

In the last year, the narrator of 10:04 has enjoyed unlikely literary success, has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal medical condition, and has been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child. In a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and social unrest, he must reckon with his own mortality and the prospect of fatherhood in a city that might soon be underwater.

A writer whose work Jonathan Franzen has called “hilarious . . . cracklingly intelligent . . . and original in every sentence,” Lerner captures what it’s like to be alive now, during the twilight of an empire, when the difficulty of imagining a future is changing our relationship to both the present and the past.


I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think I was smart enough to understand 10:04.

I don’t get how this was supposed to be so thought-provoking and powerful. I went to the University of Las Vegas and got my associates and bachelors in English Literature. Yeah sure, I didn’t get a 4.0, but I got all A’s with a few B’s here and there. I remember my hardest class was Literary Theory and Criticism. It was my only B senior year, but I was so damn happy because half the class failed. My Professor was utterly insane. I still remember that he told us to take opium before writing our papers…something about giving us clearer thoughts…and how he ignored every single one of our questions and the whole period was him going, “And how are you today, Thomas?” or “I’d like to have tea with Nietzsche”

Yeah, I’d like to have tea with him too, but what does that teach us? We basically had to teach ourselves in that course and he was so damn specific without specifying.

But do you even care about me talking about this shit? No. You don’t.

That’s because you don’t know me*

That’s pretty much how I felt about 10:04.

Y’know how you’re in school and when you read a work, you also read about the author so that you can have a better knowledge and association with their particular writing? This book was like skipping all of their work and going straight to the biography. I’ve never read any of this author’s previous work. NONE. So I can care less about his daily life. Which is all that this book is about.

Now, I’ve read The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath this year and it’s the only book that I can relate 10:04 to in terms of being about the daily life of the narrator, but also including some poetic elements and philosophical parts of the story. It was more satisfactory because I like Plath’s work and I enjoy reading about her as a person.

I didn’t enjoy this one.

Yeah, the writing wasn’t too bad–though at times I thought the narrator was a pompous asshole–there were some really nice details that were really poetic. I think the main downfall was that there was barely any plot and I couldn’t connect with the MC, which is what it usually comes down to.

Narrator goes on about how his best friend Alex wants to have a baby–insemination with his sperm. He talks about the different women in his life. All the characters are pretty much there and then gone, so you can’t really get close to them. I felt like it was “Hey, new character” and then shortly after “Okay bye, see you never??”

The beginning sounds so pretentious and annoying but that dies down later on (thank goodness). Second part talks about him going to the dentist…Third part is him contemplating the idea of insemination and watching porn to jackoff–and then thinking of the future and how they would explain it to the kid. That part was a bit funny. There’s also a discussion about his illness and death.

There’s little conversations that make me see the idea behind the concept of time and whatnot, but PLEASE DO NOT THINK THIS IS A TIME TRAVELING NOVEL like I did, unfortunately. The only semblance of time travel is the title, 10:04, which is a reference stated from the film Back to the Future.

Nothing really eventful happened

I don’t know, maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe this was just an artsy-fartsy-type read that I’m not interested in. Nothing really much more to say but not-my-cuppa-tea.

*If you did care about me and said ‘yes, I do care’ …then you are a sweetheart and thanks for caring!

26 Responses to “Review: 10:04 by Ben Lerner”

    • Kat

      There’s not much of a plot to tell you, but yeah…it was strangely all sorts of boring for me.

    • Kat

      I have no idea Tammy, really!! I mean I thought it would be at least a little Sci-fi, but I got nothing. HAHA, my college professor wasn’t all that bad to be honest. I would love to have a cup of tea with him…he just had no business being a professor, lol!

      Thanks girl.

    • Kat

      I’ve read other reviews that call it brilliant and an autobiographical metafiction…so basically the stuff that I don’t normally read. Not a fan either.

  1. Liv_TheAbsentHistorian

    Hmm this sounds like a novel that I am both curious and apprehensive about. I do not think it will be for me in all honesty, but it does sound like it is a artsy-type novel that’s trying to reach and make itself a new ‘edgy’ kind of read.

    I rather appreciated your little dialogue at the start because I can relate to you with teachers who want very specific things but then never really ‘teach’ you anything. A little bit of a mind-boggle really.

    I hope you enjoy your next book more! 🙂
    Liv_TheAbsentHistorian recently posted…Series Review (4-7): Morganville VampiresMy Profile

    • Kat

      It’s definitely a book for literary prestigious people. In fact, I think it’s a book to be discussed in class. Particularly that class I’m talking about. Maybe my professor could have wrote it, because the book digressed so much from the plot and had random philosophical details here and there.

      But there was nothing that really sang to me, it was just ‘meh’. The writing wasn’t too bad and I gave it a 2 because maybe some people out there could appreciate it more than I can.

      And thank you!! 😀 I hope so.

    • Kat

      It dies down, but it’s really in there in the beginning. I almost wanted to DNF because of it. I stuck out and it wasn’t too terrible enough to give it a 1.

    • Kat

      I don’t know Tabitha?? I think maybe it’s because we both assumed it was dystopian or dealt with time travel in some way…I mean some readers marked it as Sci-fi, but I’m going with full Literary on this one. No idea where they get the Sci-Fi from unless you consider “Talking about the future” a Sci-fi aspect….which it’s not.

      • Tabitha (Pabkins)

        Yeah I think that must have totally been what it was. Because I did like three sort throughs on the books.
        – Once when I initially picked it up and placed it in my tote bag (because that thing gets heavy by the end of the day so you gotta be choosy.
        – second time at the end of each night when I’m over the rush rush rush of the day
        – last time as I was packing and trying to fit all that madness into my suitcases and had to CUT a lot of books for space.

        We’ll both be more choosey from now on =)
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    • Kat

      LMAO, one where the professor has tenure and can say whatever the hell he wants ;D Plus, it’s in Sin City. I went to University of Las Vegas

  2. Danya @ Fine Print

    You’ve been reading some real stinkers, Kat! But karmically this means that you’re now in for a slew of awesome books. 😉 If I don’t connect with the characters then a book is pretty much guaranteed to be a flop for me. Sorry this was so unsatisfactory!
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  3. Lola @ Hit or Miss Books

    It’s okay. There are books I don’t get either sometimes as well (but mostly because of the writing though.) The narrator was a pompous asshole? Ouch. And you really do like poetry, don’t you? 🙂 That may be one of the reasons I remember you hated Ugly Love so much; no real poetry. Great honesty, Kat! 🙂
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