I read 10:04, by Ben Lerner, as I waited in the U District for the 70 bus today. I read it during the ride to Downtown. (I skimmed through the writers’ conference in Marfa, Texas, worried that I wasn’t going to finish the novel before it expires tomorrow.) I finished it during lunch.
I enjoyed this novel a lot. (That online quiz that recommended it to me was correct.) But I still didn’t get what it was about. I knew that the title refers to the time the town square clock stopped in Back to the Future, but I didn’t get the connection to the novel’s story. So, I began reading reviews of the novel for insight.
Like the movie Back to the Future, the novel 10:04 is about changing realities. In the movie, events are changed by time travel. In the novel, events are changed by fiction.
The protagonist of 10:04 is an author based somewhat on Ben Lerner, the author of 10:04. The protagonist had published a critically acclaimed novel and many people are waiting for his second book. The protagonist writes a short story based somewhat on his own life, and sells it to The New Yorker. Based on the success of his novel and the short story, the protagonist receives an advance from a publisher to write his second novel. The protagonist informs us, the readers of 10:04, that the second novel is the novel we’re reading. 10:04 is Ben Lerner’s second novel.
There’s a lot going on in 10:40 – artificial insemination, art installations, major storms, mentoring, food, poetry, book publishing, and a ton of cultural references – and it’s a beautifully written.