❰Read❯ ➬ The Topeka School Author Ben Lerner – Dailytradenews.co.uk

The Topeka School chapter 1 The Topeka School , meaning The Topeka School , genre The Topeka School , book cover The Topeka School , flies The Topeka School , The Topeka School 0dc814b5b6fdb From The Award Winning Author Of And Leaving The Atocha Station, A Tender And Expansive Family Drama Set In The American Midwest At The Turn Of The Century A Tale Of Adolescence, Transgression, And The Conditions That Have Given Rise To The Trolls And Tyrants Of The New RightAdam Gordon Is A Senior At Topeka High School, Class Of His Mother, Jane, Is A Famous Feminist Author His Father, Jonathan, Is An Expert At Getting Lost Boys To Open Up They Both Work At The Foundation, A Well Known Psychiatric Clinic That Has Attracted Staff And Patients From Around The World Adam Is A Renowned Debater And Orator, Expected To Win A National Championship Before He Heads To College He Is An Aspiring Poet He Is Although It Requires A Great Deal Of Posturing, Weight Lifting, And Creatine Supplements One Of The Cool Kids, Passing Himself Off As A Real Man, Ready To Fight Or Better Freestyle About Fighting If It Keeps His Peers From Thinking Of Him As Weak Adam Is Also One Of The Seniors Who Brings The Loner Darren Eberheart Who Is, Unbeknownst To Adam, His Father S Patient Into The Social Scene, With Disastrous EffectsDeftly Shifting Perspectives And Time Periods, Ben Lerner S The Topeka School Is The Story Of A Family S Struggles And Strengths Jane S Reckoning With The Legacy Of An Abusive Father, Jonathan S Marital Transgressions, The Challenge Of Raising A Good Son In A Culture Of Toxic Masculinity It Is Also A Riveting Prehistory Of The Present The Collapse Of Public Speech, The Trolls And Tyrants Of The New Right, And The Ongoing Crisis Of Identity Among White Men

10 thoughts on “The Topeka School

  1. says:

    A fascinating departure for Lerner, but also a homecoming, as this novel s increasingly fractured language embraces poetics in a way LEAVING THE ATOCHA STATION and 10 04 skirted There is a sedate pace here that reminds me of Saul Bellow or John Cheever, with the massive ambition of re capturing America of the 90 s as a way to explain America now Adam, the protagonist of L.T.A.S., returns, predominantly in high school, with his parents monologues and Faulkner lite vignettes from the perspective of a mentally impaired classmate accompanying him The book seems harder than it is all comes together fairly neatly, the call backs and set ups become apparent, and there are few of the non sequiturs that peppered Lerner s earlier work I think, most of all, of the movie WHITE RIBBON, by Haneke That marvelous film is set in a German town during World War I, and tells the distressing stories of the children of that village But the subtext, never stated, is the key those children will become Nazis Here, in the Kansas of the Westboro Baptist Church, in a time in the 90s where in every frame of the book rapidity overtakes reason in argument, where violence lurks everywhere, Lerner wants, transparently, to seed the roots of 2019 Toxic masculinity a term used several times in the novel and mansplaining, and fear begetting violence It is, despite it s temporal setting, a novel of right now One to look forward to, and then come back too.

  2. says:

    This book is like a skeleton clock There are a lot of different elements, some of them only added or painted for show, coming together to form one mechanical piece and while the first look suggests a complicated interplay of intricate parts, it s ultimately just wheels and springs doing their thing, and the oscillation of the balance wheel remains minimal Ben Lerner bombards his readers with topics and jumping timelines, but ultimately, the density of the writing does not cover up the fact that this story is lacking depth and elegance The main storyline focuses on Adam who is a debate champion at Topeka High School in the 90 s just like the author once was Adam s parents work as psychologists, his mother is a renowned feminist and author again, dito for Lerner, and that s not all The story is written down in 2019 by the now grown up Adam, just like Lerner wrote this book When it comes to mirror images and contrasts, it will be hard to outdo this book, because that s basically what the whole construction relies upon From this main narrative thread, Lerner ventures into the lives of Adam s parents, his grandparents to a lesser degree and the married Adam, constantly changing perspectives and giving the whole text the appearance of being a montage of interviews This impression is partly disturbed by the insertion of the life story of Darren, a kid with a developmental disorder who went to school with Adam Treated cruelly by his peers, Darren s rage drives him to commit a heinous act for which Adam feels partly responsible.Which leads us to the first major topic of the book Toxic masculinity Adam is struggling with migraines The pressures of passing himself off as a real man, of staying true to type the constant weight lifting, the verbal combat would eventually reduce him to a child again, calling out for his mother from his bed In his professional life, Adam s dad is an expert for troubled boys, while he himself has issues with marital faithfulness at the same time, his successful mother, the Brain , is confronted with sexist stereotypes, constantly stated by the Men And then there s Klaus, a holocaust survivor who, also a psychologist, is suffering from severe trauma and might be gay And then there s Fred Phelps of the infamous Westboro Church, located in Topeka And then there s Adam s friend Jason, and a father who abuses his daughter, and Donald Trump This is a lot, and this is just one of the topics.Lerner also connects questions of politics, technology, media and language if he had the language he wouldn t express himself with symptoms throughout the narrated time Often, he does this by employing the aforementioned mirror images For instance, there is a rosewood table and a rose painting, a kid with a head injury and a mother looking concussed , and there are even sequences repeated verbatim mother, mom, mommy , the curve where her shoulder met her breast , etc Plus there are lots and lots of tornadoes and thunderstorms, fittingly sweeping up everything in a destructive whirl Darren even thinks he managed to create a tornado with supernatural powers, thus wreaking havoc And if you now think enough already , I m sorry to break this to you, but there is yet another layer to this Various strands in the book are playing with Hermann Hesse s short story Ein Mensch mit Namen Ziegler Ziegler is an average guy with a firm believe in the power of science and money, until he takes a mysterious pill fast forward He ends up in an institution read the story and watch out for the pills the institution that feature in Lerner s text So much for the German short story, and I am aware that lately, it has been chic to incorporate German words into books, but kids who had no volk beyond their common privilege simply makes no sense I see what you mean, Ben Lerner, but really This is gibberish Also, I had to look up Kohlwurst , because I ve never heard of it it s apparently a real, but rather obscure thing , and God only knows why Lerner writes Schirmm tze instead of cap So in a way, this whole novel reads like a debate unsurprisingly, there are many debates depicted in the text or one of the frequently mentioned Thematic Apperception Tests America was one vast institution it had no outside This is a message that comes across, and there are some smart ideas and strong passages in this text, especially when Lerner talks about the relationships between the characters, but all in all, it s overwritten Less could have been .

  3. says:

    This is one of those books where the story is fabulous, but the execution and writing style aren t my cup of tea I appreciate what the author is doing here, but the text is packed solid to the point that there is very little dialogue, and this paired with continuous thoughts that felt like mental run on sentences, was a struggle Again, I may not be high brow enough or as much of a literary fiction connoisseur as the reader who this novel is intended for, so I would definitely recommend with caution Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy via NetGalley.

  4. says:

    The Topeka school by Ben Lerner is a modern day masterpiece, it s an engaging important read This book was not easy, and a lot of people will hate it fair warning however, Lerner blends language in an artistic and intellectual way that challenged me as a reader and a thinker This novel paints a portrait of the end of the twentieth century as seen from our disastrous present It s a timeless tale of everything that is wrong with this country today told in the past and how we seem to have gotten hereThe Topeka school follows Adam, a high school senior in 97 who is the top of his class on the debate team and expected to win a national championship in the art, his mother Jane who is a famous feminist author who constantly experiences backlash from men harassing and calling her to tell her she is ruining their lives giving women so much thought and power, His father Jonathan who is a psychiatrist known for helping lost boys open up, who battles with his own infidelity and shortcomings as a father and husband, and finally the book weaves inbetween the story of Darren Eberheart, an outcast whose act of violence hovers above the entire book A patient of Jonathan s and a friend of Adams group, or so the butt of all the jokes, a boy with a learning disability which enables him to be normal Lerner touches mainly on toxic masculinity and the ultimate effects it has had on the political climate of today There is hidden abuse from a father to a daughter, infidelity, and racial appropriationReminiscent of David Foster Wallace and infinite jest minus the tennis and 700 pages, and adding a better story line, the writing is stunning, it shows a families struggle in middle America, a struggle that still seems to be raging today I could go on for days about this book but I d never run out of things to say Again it s a difficult read and The dense layers and writing will be hard to get through but when the bigger picture is imagined you can t believe such a book has been written Lerner s magnum opus, his gift to the literary world, chalked full of praise from Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, and Ocean Vuong

  5. says:

    When so many plot points converge with the reality of the author s life, it is hard to differentiate where fiction and confession converge and separate Like protagonist Adam, Ben Lerner grows up in Topeka Kansas with his parents who are both psychologists his mother a published author with a fine reputation in women s issues , graduates in 1997, currently lives in Brooklyn, and is a professor of literature as well as a poet But there is a cracking good story here, told from the viewpoints of Adam and his parents, spanning several time periods, culminating with a heartbreaking event, and ending in the current day, in which Lerner makes his feelings about the current administration and its immigration policies abundantly clear Kudos.

  6. says:

    The main protagonist of Lerner s first book was a young poet named Adam Gordon Here, in The Topeka School, the centre of the story is also Adam Gordon only this time we straddle the period of Leaving the Atocha Station with views from the late twentieth century and from now 2019 The Topeka School is, partly, a family history examining the early years of the Gordon family Jane, a psychologist and then famous feminist author, Jonathan, also a psychologist with a knack for treating wayward boys, and Adam their son, a brilliant debater But it also includes now and shows us Adam as a grown up, family man.As with Lerner s first two novels, there is a large autobiographical, auto fiction element to this third novel Lerner himself grew up in Topeka, the child of psychologist parents, and with a keen interest in debating.The story here unfolds in non chronological, multi narrator fashion as each of Jane, Jonathan and Adam take turns to give their perspective Each of them looks back to formative events in their family history, centred around Adam, but also covering the time before Adam was born Between these cycles of narrative, we read of Darren, a mentally disturbed teenager who, as we learn on the very first page, has committed an act of violence that we will learn the relevance of as we progress through the book.In essence, this is a family story as told by family members looking back At the same time it is an exploration of some of the forces that have led us to Donald Trump being president of the United States At times, the cleverness of the structure threatens to overwhelm the story There is a lot about reflections reflecting I guess you would expect that in a novel about a family where both parents are psychologists , there are multiple references to confusion between first and third person, multiple references to speech disintegrating when under pressure, multiple phrases that recur and echo through the book It is often funny, but it is sometimes funny only because the alternative is to cry I ll leave you to discover the Phelps for yourselves they provide some laugh out loud moments but also represent so much that is wrong in society.Only a very short time before I read this, I read Lucy Ellmann s Ducks, Newburyport And in many ways, I think these two books make an interesting pairing Both are concerned with the state of the nation USA and, even though they take very different approaches to telling their story, both provide an interesting structure that takes you into the minds and thoughts of their protagonists Ducks, Newburyport literally inhabits the thoughts of one person for over 1000 pages in incomplete sentences that often last for over 100 pages, whereas The Topeka School is a bit conventional in its grammar and takes us into the minds of three four people in of a narrative form than Ducks stream of consciousness.curtisbrown.co.uk says Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods, The Topeka School is the story of a family, its struggles and its strengths Jane s reckoning with the legacy of an abusive father, Jonathan s marital transgressions, the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity It is also a riveting prehistory of the present the collapse of public speech, the trolls and tyrants of the new right, the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.I think that s a fair summary.

  7. says:

    Ever since watching The Wizard of Oz as a child, I ve wanted to be a storm chaser Not just a storm chaser, per se, but a tornado chaser, like those guys and Helen Hunt in Twister , another movie that made storm chasing look oh so cool I faced a few setbacks along the way, like living in a state that gets only the very occasional and never very powerful tornado, and regardless of how hard I pushed my parents to relocate the family to Kansas or somewhere else inside Tornado Alley , I was stuck to live a tornado free life in Arizona and, later, Florida This wasn t the only setback In 1998, enad as I was with tornadoes, I insisted on visiting Universal Studios to ride their new Twister attraction We waited for three hours in the June heat I remember the beads of sweat rolling down my back to this day and finally arrived inside to watch what, exactly Some special effects that made it kind of, sort of look like you re mere meters away from a wispy column of steam meant to resemble a tornado Googling it now, I m happy to report that in 2017 Twister was closed, replaced by some Jimmy Fallon nonsense that has the advantage of replacing the worst ride ever.All of which brings us to the third paragraph, the one in which I finally mention The Topeka School , the cover of which caused that old fascination of mine to flare up once again A book about the life I COULD have had if we had lived in Tornado Alley and I d grown up chasing tornadoes Except it s not I m sorry to say that The Topeka School is about as much of a letdown as that Twister ride at Universal Studios There aren t even any tornadoes featured Only a passing reference to one Don t judge a book by its cover indeed But I get it the tornado featured on the cover of Ben Lerner s book is meant to serve as a metaphor for the storm that our characters can see gathering over America from the front porch in their 1997 setting Riiiight Clever clever It doesn t work Lerner is trying to write a big, beautiful book on Trumpism, toxic masculinity, free speech, MeToo, etc etc etc All the things that make up modern American life He swings wildly, shoots for the stars, throws a hail mary pass choose whichever sports metaphor you like best and misses He tries to take on too much here, and what we re left with is an overwritten, overwrought, overbaked novel that feels autobiographical but is too plodding and predictable to be real I wanted this to be good, I really did, and there are moments where you recognize in the writing that this could have been something special, the Great Modern American Novel, perhaps, but it never comes close The writing is too dense, what little story there is too hard to follow, the characters blending together, all leaving me feeling I haven t been paying enough attention I appreciate the fact that Lerner here is attempting a Michael Haneke, who in his film The White Ribbon shows us the Nazis as children, a how did they things get that way kind of novel, but despite a genuinely intriguing setting and an excellent cover it just doesn t work These times require a better novel Preferably one with real, not just metaphorical, tornadoes.

  8. says:

    You can say that Ben Lerner s subtlety is what makes this book so uniquely enjoyable yet always slightly out of reach Or you can say it s the same subtlety that makes the book less than satisfying I personally really enjoyed it It is like he is showing you all the dots and it is up to you to connect them into something that resembles a portrait of the world we suddenly find in front of us.

  9. says:

    Being from Topeka, just slightly older than Ben Lerner, and going to Topeka West instead of Topeka High, this book feels like history and mythology blended together I only know Ben and his family by reputation and shared acquaintances How much of this narrative is his thinly veiled family How much is fabricated I don t know and it doesn t much matter This book, for me, weirdly distills the same world I inhabited in the 1990s, yet saw from a completely different perspective I knew no one at the Foundation Never debated or participated in forensics But this is a tale I ve heard spun all my life, stories of the debate and forensics badasses who went to Topeka High People I knew of and felt inferior to as a competitive high school kid To read this story of this place as a nationally published novel is surreal I thank Ben Lerner for his skill at capturing the world of a thoughtful, brilliant kid growing up in Topeka Highly recommended.

  10. says:

    Set in Topeka, Kansas this story follows the lives of the Gordon family Jonathan and Jane Gordon are psychologists on staff at the world renowned The Foundation, a psychiatric clinic that attracts a varied and talented staff as well as patients The Gordons include son Adam who is a popular senior at Topeka High School, class of 1997, a national debater and orator, and a good son Jonathan is well known for his work with lost boys while Jane, in addition to her work at The Foundation, is a feminist author Told in the third person, readers are taken on a journey through alternating time periods and frames of reference from each family member One speaker gives us his perspective of his life in Topeka Darren Eberheart, a troubled man child who is always on the fringes, not quite fitting in with the other kids he s grown up around Adam tries to include Darren in the group of high school seniors as graduation approaches But, unknown to Adam, Darren is a patient of Dr J at The Foundation Adam s father.Lerner s narrative gives us a front row view to the Gordon family s marriage and their journey to raise a smart, thoughtful son during the blossoming internet and social media wave They are challenged by the breakdown of common decency, respect for the right to speak, and a culture of noxious male chest thumping.After reading THE TOPEKA SCHOOL I was left reflecting how the shadows of a parent s life can touch a child and imprint the child with the consequences of choices made by the parent But, so, I was confused about the presentation of the book For me, it was difficult to follow and confusing with the book s continuous stream of speaker changing thought Many times I had to reread passages than once or take notes on the characters in order to fully grasp where the author was going.I understand that there are many of my Goodreads community that find THE TOPEKA SCHOOL to be 4 5 stars Unfortunately, for me, it is 3 stars.Many thanks to FSG for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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