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Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Leaving the Atocha Station (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Ben Lerner

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3672429,545 (3.63)11
Title:Leaving the Atocha Station
Authors:Ben Lerner
Info:Coffee House Press (2011), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 186 pages
Collections:Your library

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Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner (2011)

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    The Sorrows of Young Mike by John Zelazny (jashleigh)
    jashleigh: These books are both great travel books and the main characters are going through a similar time in their lives.

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English (20)  Spanish (2)  Piratical (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
completed 10/23/14 ( )
  bookmagic | Oct 25, 2014 |
This was probably the most irritating book I have read this year, and if weren't for the fact that I had a train journey to complete and no other book to read I would not have bothered to finish it.

Adam Gordon is, by his own admission, a fraud. Funded by a charitable foundation to undertake research in Madrid on the impact on the arts of the Spanish Civil War, he is actual following his own dream, which seems principally to revolve around attempts to be a poet. I found the first few pages vaguely amusing but by the time I reached Page 20 I was desperately hoping for a tangential shift whereby the Madrid Chapter of the Hell's Angels meted out the damn' good chain-whipping that Gordon so richly deserved.

This book will move with near-record speed from the shelf on the bookstore to my pile for consignment to the local charity shop. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Aug 6, 2014 |
Oddly charming in his puerile self-absorption (he is nothing if not solipsistic) the poet / protagonist Adam Gordon bumbles around Madrid (and very briefly Granada & Barcelona) on a one year literary "research" fellowship. That his first name is Adam is not coincidental, as he experiences his surroundings as if he were the prematurely weary (& always anxiously on the verge of a panic attack) first-man. That the novel brings to mind the Euro film, L'auberge espagnole is not surprising considering both feature a gauche & almost consistently inebriated leading man, spending a year abroad in Spain. In fact, the level of substance use in the novel recalls that earlier American novel set in Spain, Hemingway's iconic The Sun Also Rises. Mind altering substances have been updated here to include not only copious quantities of alcohol & nicotine, but also hashish, pot & anti-anxiety, anti-depressive prescription medications (little white & little yellow pills). Instead of the Spanish Civil War (eternally in the background) Leaving Atocha Station takes place in the early days of the American invasion of Iraq & encompasses the terrorist bombing at Atocha Station in March, 2004. Although the Spaniards he interacts with seem to be able to correctly gauge Adam's talent, credibility & fluency in a second language, he himself is plagued with self-doubt & insecurity, which push him to concoct elaborate lies about his parents, his project (the phases of which mark both the passage of time & the development of the narrative), his affections & his intentions. He is alternately staying in Spain indefinitely or returning to the United States to pursue a more sober life of respectability & responsibility. At times, Adam is almost buffoonish in his ability to misstep, to not-have-a-clue. His disarray is hilariously shown in peak performance during a "lost" day in Barcelona, a day in which, on a quest for a simple cup of coffee, he gets truly & incredibly lost after leaving the hotel where he is staying with his friend, colleague & would be lover Teresa. Along the way, there is much musing on art, literature (particularly poetry, although Adam reads Tolstoy & Ashbery concurrently) history, friendship & love, all knotted together as if by a hydra-like umbilical cord. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
This is a book about being young. The narrator, who is not endearing, displays all the self-absorption, lack of concern and misapprehension that one remembers from ones own youth. Layered over this is a glimpsed appreciation of art, a yearning for greater immersion in the world and a constant worry about authenticity. The book has some originality and is a reasonably absorbing read. ( )
  freelancer_frank | Jan 20, 2014 |
It's been a while since I read a book with such an unlikable main character, and liked it. Perhaps Lerner has reached out and brought forth all the condensed unlikelable-ness inside himself, or perhaps he has forged this character out of the bits and pieces of all the people he knows; no matter what his method, it is a complete piece of work, this man.

There is not much to the plot, except to say that it is, as others have said, meta-meta-meta of something, which I probably would be able to pretend to not be able to describe in minute and precise detail with beautiful language, but actually do a pretty good job of it only in its whole beauty in my head after my morning coffee and shit and joint, and only if I WERE a poet, you get me? You get it, you get it. (If you don't, that's probably because i am not a poet wo is pretending not to be a poet who is pretending to be a poet who is.......)

In Lerner's book, I saw many of the annoying German and English grad students who would wear only black skinny jeans (before skinny jeans were cool! bah!) and stand around smoking in the NJ cold throwing dirty looks at other people, thinking only of Kant or Hegel, which always made me want to 1) annoy them by bringing up Kant or Hegel, whichever one they didn't like, 2) shake them, and 3) ask why, if they were going to only care about philosophy, they were doing a degree in literature.

I am not sure what to make of the Spaniards in the book; I trust Lerner was well informed form his own experiences.

Lerner certainly brings up some interesting points throughout the book; to be a stranger in a language, to be a stranger in a crowd, to be someone pretending to be someone and then to pretend you pretended because you wanted to be free, and to be an American in a post-terror-attack in Madrid... Though I still wonder why his main character had to be so unlikable. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ben Lernerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In Madrid on a fellowship, a young American poet examines his ambivalence about authenticity.

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