Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

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Adam's research is divided into clear phases...beautiful and touching and precise.


Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his relationship to art. What is actual when our experiences are mediated by language, technology, medication, and the arts? Is poetry an essential art form, or merely a screen for the reader's projections? Instead of following the dictates of his fellowship, Adam's "research" becomes a meditation on the possibility of the genuine in the arts and beyond: are his relationships with the people he meets in Spain as fraudulent as he fears his poems are? A witness to the 2004 Madrid train bombings and their aftermath, does he participate in historic events or merely watch them pass him by?

In prose that veers between the comic and tragic, the self-contemptuous and the inspired, Leaving the Atocha Station is a portrait of the artist as a young man in an age of Google searches, pharmaceuticals, and spectacle.

Born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979, Ben Lerner is the author of three books of poetry The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. He has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, a Fulbright Scholar in Spain, and the recipient of a 2010-2011 Howard Foundation Fellowship. In 2011 he became the first American to win the Preis der Stadt Münster für Internationale Poesie. Leaving the Atocha Station is his first novel.

About Ben Lerner

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Benjamin S. Lerner is an American poet. Born on February 4, 1979 and raised in Topeka, Kansas, he is a 1997 graduate of Topeka High School. At Brown University he earned a B.A. in Political Theory and a MFA in Poetry. In 2003 Copper Canyon Press awarded its Hayden Carruth prize to Lerner's cycle of fifty-two loose sonnets, The Lichtenberg Figures. In 2004, Library Journal named it one of the year's twelve best books of poetry. He traveled on a Fulbright Scholarship to Madrid, Spain in 2003 where he wrote his second book, Angle of Yaw. Together with Deb Klowden, Lerner presently edits No: A Journal of the Arts, a magazine of poetry, art, and criticism. In 2008 he began editing poetry for Critical Quarterly, a British academic publication.[2] Lerner is on the faculty of the writing program of the University of Pittsburgh.
Published August 23, 2011 by Coffee House Press. 186 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Leaving the Atocha Station
All: 3 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Gary Sernovitz on Mar 09 2012

Comparing characters across novels is a tricky business; it doesn’t mean a lot that Madame Bovary is not Huckleberry Finn. Yet for America, the path from “The Sun Also Rises” to “Leaving the Atocha Station” seems frighteningly downward.

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Reviewed by Jenny Turner on Jul 12 2012

Adam's research is divided into clear phases...beautiful and touching and precise.

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Below average
Reviewed by Geoff Dyer on Jul 05 2012

This, needless to say, will not be to everyone's taste. Otherwise sympathetic readers will struggle to tell apart the two beautiful women with whom Adam is involved

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Deborah Grove 14 Jul 2014

Very impressive though at times a touch little-boy-trying-very-hard. The narrator's alienation doesn't always ring true. Well worth reading nonetheless.