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Leaving the Atocha Station
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Leaving the Atocha Station

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  3,496 ratings  ·  505 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. 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 meet...more
Published September 13th 2011 by Dreamscape Media (first published August 23rd 2011)
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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...more
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
Ivan Goldman
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
Jeff Jackson
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Nov 20, 2011 Aaron rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
This is not a book to pick up if you are in a mood for a quick read, a suspenseful, plot driven novel - if you aren't in a mood to enjoy Ben Lerner's lovely prose and to sit back and think about what he is writing, then wait to start Leaving the Atocha Station until you are, so you don't miss out on a very good book.
Personally, I tend to be more of a plot driven reader so I do know what I'm talking about here. I started reading this and found my mind was zooming way to fast and there were too m...more
Ben Jaques
Oh to be 22 and living in Madrid, this bood captures that the live of a self-obsessed young poet on a fellowship in Spain just before and after the bombing in Madrid. The does a really nice job conveying the sense of half understanding a language and showing the protagonists developing fluency in Spanish. Early in the book, conversations are recounted as just smatterings of words or proposed ideas, but by the end the Spanish is almost totally clear. For most of the novel, I couldn't help but hat...more
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...more
"I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than that I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds."

For awhile somehow every book I picked up was about the Holocaust. Then it was 9/11. Now it's poetry.

The narrator, a poet (or is he?), is not speaking about poetry in the above quote; he is talking about his understanding of the Spanish language. An American in Spain on a poetry fellowship, his ruminations on...more
hugely enjoyable. A young American poet on a scholarship in Madrid feels a fraud and about to be found out. Every morning he gets stoned and goes to the Prado and stands before Van der Weyden's Descent From the Cross, hoping for, but never quite achieving, artistic inspiration. One morning he gets there and someone is in his place, weeping. He feels doubly unworthy. The novel then follows his wanderings as he smokes and drinks and gets invited to parties and communicates with his eyebrows and hi...more
John Pappas
This book is strangely compelling. While the narrator is a contemptuous, drug-addled, self-effacing and self-pitying poet in Spain on a fellowship, who is deathly afraid of being revealed as a charlatan (and also admitting he is somewhat of a charlatan in both his personal and professional endeavors), he is not entirely unsympathetic as a character, though on virtually every page he fouls something up, stumbling through Madrid trying to figure out the relationship of art to life and the capacity...more
Sofia Samatar
Adam Gordon, the protagonist of Ben Lerner's well-received Leaving the Atocha Station, is a fake. He's a young American poet on a fellowship in Madrid, where he's supposed to be writing poems about the Spanish Civil War; instead he writes translations of Lorca interspersed with lines from his own deleted emails. He's involved with two women, Isabel and Teresa, and pretends at various times, as it suits his purpose and mood, that he is or isn't in love with both of them. He tells his new friends...more
The technique is interesting. Place a narrator in a setting where he/she doesn't understand the language, allow the narrator to come to his/her own conclusions, usually to meet their own ends, throw in drug use which seems to only exacerbate anxiety (further smearing the lens) and you have a protagonist that is both self-serving and wholly unreliable.
There are very resonant moments in this text, mostly to do with the protagonists anxiety, loneliness, and ability to self aggrandize (what seems t...more
In Vertrek van Station Atocha, de debuutroman van de jonge Amerikaanse dichter Ben Lerner, verhuist de jonge Amerikaanse dichter Adam Gordon naar Madrid. Hij heeft een prestigieuze beurs ontvangen voor zijn plan om een lang, met onderzoek onderbouwd gedicht over de Spaanse burgeroorlog te schrijven. Maar Gordon is een bedrieger, die zijn tijd vooral besteedt aan het roken van joints, het rondhangen in Parque del Retiro en het Prado, het slikken van antidepressiva en het lezen van de gedichten va...more
I don't remember how i came across this book, i just remember it was in an tab for a while, and i went to the library to pick it up. It was a great decision.

Adam is a strange, confused man - someone obsessed with image, reading into his every action and the subtlest facial cues - somehow turning the way someone smiles into a catastrophe that destroys their relationship. Related, he also has a compulsive obsession with image. He is constantly afraid that he is going to be revealed as '...more
Jose Luis
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
I very much enjoyed this book. First, how often to I get to read a book by a Topekan with a Topekan main character? Rarely, if ever. But of course, the protagonist being a Topekan isn't the central point of this novel, although maybe really it is the more I think about it. One precautionary note I'll make to start, I could see people who struggle with books that don't have a straightforward obvious plot might not enjoy this novel, but I found the protagonist's internal dialogue processing his ex...more
There is a type of novel—one that is unfortunately ubiquitous in this consumer-ego-entitlement-rife first world of ours—that spews forth from clever minds, minds who, through excessive splurges of leisure, have managed to delectate experience to exhaustion, and as a consequence have been pushed back upon the contours of life as if plopped down permanently on a plush, comfy sofa from which all the annoying, unsolvable questions suddenly light up like street lamps under which people blithely pass,...more
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Narrative style 5 62 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
More about Ben Lerner...
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“I was a violent, bipolar, compulsive liar. I was a real American.” 5 likes
“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.” 5 likes
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