Ben Lerner

Superfluous men


Narcissus and Ego: Poets Try the Novel, interesting look at Dan Beachy-Quick‘s An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky and Ben Lerner‘s Leaving the Atocha Station.

Ruthlessly autobiographical and dialectical on the role of art, we might think we’re witnessing a new form: a shrewd arbitrage of the Confessional Poem smuggled into the Novel. But, of course, the novelists have been here before. [Lerner’s narrator] Adam Gordon calls to mind André Gide’s marvelously puckish 1894 novella Marshlands, whose unnamed narrator never misses an opportunity to announce the writing of his own novel “Marshlands” (the story of a “man who lies down”). He carefully crafts empty maxims to deploy while mocking and being mocked by literary society, models himself (at least in his selection of breakfast) after the Lake-Poets much as Daniel would Melville or Adam would Ashbery, and all the way throughout . . . accomplishes very little writing of “Marshlands.”