Best Of

Best Fictional Work About New York


In 10:04, Ben Lerner bends genre and bends our perception of New York — or rather, you might read the novel and think, “Yes! That’s exactly what I meant, but couldn’t find the words.” After all, how many times have we been rendered speechless by the views of downtown Manhattan at night, of Central Park’s enormousness, even of Bushwick’s warehouses? 10:04, despite its characters being mostly white, does not overlook or flatten diversity (looking at you, The Goldfinch). In fact, Lerner tackles it head-on in a great scene at the Park Slope Food Coop, in which a woman circumvents race by blaming the rowdiness of brown and black kids on soda (“all those artificial dyes had darkened them on the inside”). 10:04 is more or less plotless and definitely meta, which could be misconstrued for navel-gazing if not for Lerner’s poetic, often funny, observations — and New York is chock-full of poetic and funny moments to observe. Lerner is not afraid to be grandiose. When the narrator sits in Brooklyn Bridge Park staring at the “sapphire and ruby” of traffic on the FDR, he feels his “personality dissolving into a personhood” and “fiction rearrange itself” — not unlike how fiction rearranges itself around nonfiction in 10:04, and not unlike how we all feel taken out of ourselves when confronted with the New York skyline.

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