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Leaving the Atocha Station

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,960 Ratings  ·  740 Reviews
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 fo ...more
Paperback, 181 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by Coffee House Press
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Steve Rosenstein My issue with the book is the disparity between style and content. It's very well written, and there's that rarest of things, a specific, individual…moreMy issue with the book is the disparity between style and content. It's very well written, and there's that rarest of things, a specific, individual voice. But I found what that voice is devoted to - dull, narcissistic ruminations about incidental experiences largely devoid of detail and conflict - utterly unengaging. It was one of those experiences where I finished, and wondered just what so many people are finding so exemplary. If anyone else responds to this thread, I'd be very interested to hear what they found so notable about the book.(less)
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Fiction Involving the Internet
3rd out of 65 books — 87 voters
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Contemporary Expat Novels
2nd out of 26 books — 35 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jonathan Ashleigh
Feb 06, 2016 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it it was amazing
I read Leaving the Atocha Stations in a couple of days and am still running the story through my head. It has language strange to the novel setting but welcome and is a book I wish I had written for its sentiments about Americans. It reminded me greatly of The Sorrows of Young Mike, which also contains AIM conversations and is also about an American abroad. Each of the books are unique but they often bring up similar issues and themes. Ben Lerner has outdone himself with his first novel and if y ...more
Paul Bryant
Aug 02, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
One of those memoirs which with a light dusting of name changing and event rearranging gets to be called a novel. Whether it is one or not is no longer a question which anyone asks. The autobiographical novel is a grand tradition* - this one stars a more than somewhat bi-polar American student (prone to lying outrageously for no reason and having wild spending sprees with his parents’ dough) who is the most cheese-paringly psychologically self-regarding a narrator since Henry Late Period James. ...more
Jan 07, 2012 Greg rated it liked it

It's been like ten years since I saw or read Trainspotting, but I remember being annoyed with the movie when I first saw it. The book had ended with a nihilistic pessimism that the movie kind of spun into a 'selling-out' of sorts (if cleaning up, screwing over your friends and trying to escape the zombie existence of a junkie can be called selling out). The young, angry and idealized version of myself kind of hated the ending to the movie.

As I made my way through this book, the voice of Ewan Mc
Ivan Goldman
Jul 06, 2012 Ivan Goldman rated it it was ok
What's curious about this book is the attention and adulation it's received. It's memoir dressed up as a novel that is the author's lengthy reflection on a character that shares many traits with the author. He hails from the same town, attended the same school, etc. This character/author incessantly lies to acquaintances for no apparent reason and then is nauseated. In fact, page after page the guy is literally, not figuratively nauseous or vomiting.

Many critics seemed to think this book was an
Mar 09, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
Fiction that feels unlike fiction is my favorite sort of fiction. This one explores intellectual and emotional terrain related to sensitive experience of what's real and contrived, propelled by a sustained sense of non-fictional narrative reality accentuated by author/narrator autobiographical overlap. Seemed at its best when essayistically offering insight (not "indulging in interiority") about poetic creation/sensibilities, about reading poetry (Ashbery), and describing attacks on self (panic) ...more
Sep 21, 2013 Juan rated it it was amazing
This book has two good things going for it: the narrator is smart (which is not usual), and his voice pulls off the "Humbert Humbert effect" of making you like him despite his being both a poser and a hypocrite.

Adam, the narrator and a stand-in for Lerner, a poet himself, has interesting things to say about poetry as the art of potentiality, as a way to embody the virtual, the "subjunctive": what could be but is not and will not. This paradox ("embodying the virtual") leads him to conclude that
Mar 12, 2012 Amanda rated it it was ok
I bought this book with high hopes -- from the description I thought it might have some of the qualities of Arthur Phillips's PRAGUE, but with a Madrid setting (resonant for me since I'm currently writing about that city, albeit in a very different era). I was, I hate to say, disappointed.

Perhaps I was missing a layer of irony, but I almost immediately lost patience with and sympathy for the narrator, Adam Gordon – a pampered pseudo-poet who is wasting a prestigious fellowship smoking dope and
Jose Luis
Mar 10, 2013 Jose Luis rated it it was ok
No puedo entender tantos elogios a esta novela, y menos el éxito que ha tenido en USA. Me decidió a comprarla el arranque de la historia y esa figura del narrador en el museo del Prado, etc. Parecía que como lectura en inglés podía ser interesante y asequible, y bueno, al menos sí es asequible. El hechizo no tarda nada en esfumarse, y uno se encuentra siguiendo los pasos de uno de los personajes más estúpidos de la literatura reciente. Desorientado, no entiende absolutamente nada de lo que ocurr ...more
May 07, 2015 orsodimondo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
11 MARZO 2004
Adam Gordon è un giovane poeta americano che ha da poco pubblicato una raccolta di poesie e ha vinto una borsa di studio per passare un anno in Spagna, a Madrid.
La stessa cosa è successa a Benjamin Lerner, che è l’autore di questo bel romanzo, molto divertente (molto acclamato in patria, un po’ meno da noi mi pare): anche Lerner passò un anno, o giù di lì, a Madrid, nello stesso periodo in cui Adam Gordon è nella capitale spagnola.
È certo che si siano incontrati, frequentati, e con
That this book is impressively boring is probably the most positive thing I have to say about it. I found it vapid and remarkably without point. It is the story of an uninteresting, probably intended to be considered tortured, young American poet who pretended his way into a fellowship in Spain by stating his intention to write a poem about a subject about which he knows nothing. He has no intention of writing said poem. That this is the character is not, of course, the true problem with the boo ...more
Jul 25, 2012 Sam rated it really liked it
Sort of a head-splitting book. Immediately engaging, for sure - crisp sentence rhythms, lots of vicious humor - but the narrator's intense engagement with his own detachment ends up setting the whole narrative in an odd middle distance. Should I care about the struggles of a heavily medicated poet trying to have a deep experience of art when he doesn't seem that engaged with depth in the first place? I guess I could say the book's outrageous sense of self-obsession is saved by its brutal honesty ...more
Aug 24, 2013 Roxane rated it it was ok
No. No. No. Beautiful writing at the sentence level. Often funny. Too much meditation about the nature and meaning of art. I just hate those kinds of books. I like stories.
May 08, 2015 Cosimo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nascendo tra gli specchi

Lerner in questo libro sembra interessarsi all'ambiguità del reale: un giovane poeta, morbosamente indeciso e bugiardo, si trasferisce a Madrid con una borsa di studio e partecipa a feste e eventi artistici; impostore che finge di fare ricerche, a disagio con il proprio talento, frequenta due donne che amano il suo essere straniero e la sua identità sdoppiata ed è coinvolto da spettatore nel drammatico attentato alla stazione di Atocha dell'11 marzo. Adam Gordon è un uomo
Jeff Jackson
Jul 06, 2012 Jeff Jackson rated it really liked it
Well wrought meditations on aesthetics and the creative process wrapped inside a character driven narrative. Questions the existence of a "profound experience of art" while trying to both engage with and offer one. Recommended to fans of Geoff Dyer.
El alquimista del tedio .
Mirando la solapa del libro, parece que esta novela ha gustado bastante a los americanos. Ahí aparece nada menos que Jonathan Franzen, diciendo que la novela de Ben Lerner es hilarante e inteligente. El caso es que yo no soy americano, tampoco soy Franzen y la novela me ha gustado lo justo, por los pelos.

La portada del libro es bonita, alegre, gozosa, esa portada que al verla te lleva sin remisión a un día de junio en Madrid, cuando atiza el calor y uno fantasea con paliar la sed en cualquier ce
Dec 25, 2012 Keith rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, ebooks, 2012
I came to Leaving the Atocha Station via a recommendation on The Millions blog from Paul Murray, author of two recent favorites, Skippy Dies and An Evening of Long Goodbyes. Since his books were so great it only stands to reason that his recommendation must be tinged with equal brilliance, right?

Since Murray started this for me, here's his recommendation:

My two favourite novels this year, though, were debuts. Leaving the Atocha Station is the story of a gifted but disillusioned young poet on a f
Jennifer Andrews
Jan 06, 2013 Jennifer Andrews rated it did not like it
I read this because of Maureen Corrigan's recommendation on NPR. I finished it only because it was relatively short and because I had to get it on inter-library loan.

The protagonist is such a cowardly, self-absorbed, ridiculous person that I found very little of this book to be enjoyable. I really don't know why it came so highly recommended. Very, very disappointed with this book.

The last sentence was so terrible that I actually laughed out loud when I read it. It seemed as if the author didn'
Mar 17, 2013 Melanie rated it liked it
A little disappointing. I think I am getting tired of young super smart, over-educated young men who can't "feel"... The novel has nice moments though and the writing is fluid and elegant.
Jun 27, 2015 Ellie rated it it was amazing
The narrator of Leaving the Atocha Station is Adam Gordon, a young American poet living in Madrid on a fellowship. He is supposed to be composing a “data driven” poem about responses to history but is instead spending his time doing drugs, drinking, falling in love (sort of) with two women, and trying to ascertain if it possible to be authentic, to be even real, or is everyone/everything as “fraudulent” (a word he uses often) as he fears. He is a chronic liar (he tells a woman that his mother, a ...more
May 11, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing
The best, most engrossing recent novel I've read in a while. Highly recommended.

In graduate school I tested out different terms to describe the kind of fiction I was trying to write, besides "experimental fiction". One was "associative fiction." This meant stories that derived their power not primarily from narrative urgency but from intuitive leaps, correspondences or simply readerly trust in/curiosity about the movements of the authorial mind. Associative poetry, I'd say, is just another way o
Feb 11, 2016 Bandit rated it did not like it
I think the best thing about this book was its brevity. It sounded interesting enough, but turned out to be a thoroughly unexciting narrative about a thoroughly unexcited person. Specifically, an American poet in Spain on a prestigious fellowship, who spends his time rolling spliffs, taking tranquilizers, wasting money, trying to impress women and lying. At some point he also happens to be near the Atocha station at the time of the 2004 tragedy. This isn't even interesting as an armchair trip to ...more
Alan Chen
Mar 31, 2016 Alan Chen rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of smart, well-written, postmodern book that you read and become uber envious because you wish you were the one that wrote it. The story itself is quite simple: Adam Gordon is in his early 20s, recently graduated from an Ivy League soon and ostensibly on a fellowship in Spain to write poetry but really because he's uncertain what is the next step for him. He is self conscious as only someone in the their early 20s can be. Constantly concerned about how he is being perceived and ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The Fraudulent
Recommended to Aaron by: Evan Hansen
There are obvious winners in a meritocratic system - there are the chosen ones blessed with enough genetic and generational advantages to be comfortably pre-positioned over all competitors. There are real competitors who manage to figure out the Great American Alchemy of converting sweat to gold. And then there are those rudderless bastards who have no real sense of what happened, who faked compliance with parental and then social definitions of success without ever fully investing and were rewa ...more
Nov 28, 2012 christa rated it really liked it
Adam Gordon is a poet who seems to hate poetry. He’s gotten himself a pretty sweet fellowship, a year-long stay in Spain with a project, that, when explained, rings sort of false. He’s got a flexible relationship with truth and suffers no shame for wiping spit under his eyes and pretending his mother has died to gain sympathy. There is no crisis of conscience when he takes a tragic story his friend tells and makes it his own meaningful tale. He’s also got a steady diet of white pills and spliffs ...more
Marcello S
Oct 04, 2015 Marcello S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Azzardo: al momento Ben Lerner è il mio scrittore under 40 preferito.

Scrive auto-fiction. O, come ha scritto qualche critico, post-fiction.
Cioè pagine in cui parla molto di se stesso e di fatti reali mixandoli con una certa dose di letteratura.

(Qui c'è un articolo interessante che parla di Lerner, Knausgaard e della morte del romanzo postmoderno.)

E' un romanzo di motivi ricorrenti: spinelli, bugie e pillole;
baci che non portano ad altro, coppie che non hanno niente da dirsi; le poesie di Lorc
Marc Nash
Jun 30, 2015 Marc Nash rated it it was amazing
Despite being a pretty unlikeable protagonist, he is redeemed as a worthwhile character study in dissonance and with meditations on art and particularly its relationship to both politics and reality/authenticity.

The protag is an American would-be poet abroad in Madrid on a fellowship to do some serious research, but he is just there for the experience. His research is non-existent, his poetry pretty fake as he lifts from existing work, while he is self-medicating. There is also a level of remove
Jordi Via
No quiero ser cruel y votar con una estrella, en parte porque gracias a esta novela he descubierto a Ashbery.
Pero he de admitir que me ha aburrido, que no he disfrutado, y que encontrar un plagio evidente de Almódovar casi al principio de la novela, hizo que no la leyera con mucho ánimo.
Quizá a la "beautiful people" le guste, yo no formo parte ni quisiera.
Ben Lerner paints a grimly accurate picture of a very particular sort of young American fuckwit, one that, unfortunately, reminds me of myself at my worst in college... back when I would show up to parties with a dog-eared copy of Death in Venice in my back pocket. Adam, the definitely-not-a-hero, succumbs to all the same bullshit. Too many books, not enough real life to put those books in context, too much liquor, too many drugs, too much armchair philosophy, even if it did occasionally work, t ...more
O he perdido el tacto, o no estoy teniendo demasiada suerte con las novedades editoriales.
En este caso concreto, me quedo con las últimas treinta páginas del libro.
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Narrative style 4 74 Jul 30, 2014 05:27PM  
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Benjamin S. Lerner is an American poet, novelist, and critic. He was awarded the Hayden Carruth prize for his cycle of fifty-two sonnets, The Lichtenberg Figures. In 2004, Library Journal named it one of the year's twelve best books of poetry. The Lichtenberg Figures appeared in a German translation in 2010, for which it received the "Preis der Stadt Münster für internationale Poesie" in 2011, mak ...more
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“I tried hard to imagine my poems or any poems as machines that could make things happen, changing the government, or the economy or even their language, the body or its sensorium, but I could not imagine this, could not even imagine imagining it. And yet when I imagined the total victory of those other things over poetry, when I imagined, with a sinking feeling, a world without even the terrible excuses for poems that kept faith with the virtual possibilities of the medium, without the sort of absurd ritual I'd participated in that evening then I intuited an inestimable loss, a loss not of artworks but of art, and therefore infinite, the total triumph of the actual, and I realized that, in such a world, I would swallow a bottle of white pills.” 11 likes
“I was a violent, bipolar, compulsive liar. I was a real American.” 7 likes
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