|Donald Judd box sculpture in Marfa, Texas|
Lerner's writing had me constantly reaching for my post-it notes. Sometimes I was taken with the images and feelings his descriptions evoked. In his account of Alex raising the idea of the pregnancy during an outing to the Met, I could visualize the moment while getting a glimpse into the way their relationship worked. "Maybe she broached the subject at the museum and not over coffee or the like because in the galleries as on our walks our gazes are parallel, directed in front of us at canvas and not at each other, a condition of our most intimate exchanges; we would work out our views as we conconstructed the literal view before us...Which meant we'd eat a lunch in silence or idle talk, only for me to learn on the subsequent walk home that her mother had been diagnosed in a late stage.You might have us walking on Atlantic, tears streaming down her face, my arm around her shoulders, but our gazes straight ahead."
Other times our narrator's way of looking at the world made me stop and think. He relays, for instance, comments by a parent about why she is sending to her kids to private school. "A lot of the kids were just out of control....Obviously, it's not the kids' fault. A lot them are coming from homes...well, they're drinking soda and eating junk food all the time. Of course, they can't concentrate...They can't be expected to learn or respect other kids who are trying to learn." The narrator refers to this justification as "a new bio-political vocabulary for expressing racial and class anxiety; instead of claiming brown and black people were biologically inferior, you claimed they were--for reasons you sympathized with, reasons that weren't really their fault--compromised by the food and drink they ingested; all those artificial dyes had darkened them on the inside." Definitely some food for thought.
|A photo of Christa McAuliffe from "10:04"|
The title of the book itself is a play on time. It's a reference to a pivotal moment in "Back to the Future." At 10:04 p.m., Marty McFly (played by the wonderful Michael J. Fox) crashed back to the future from his visit to the 1950s in the time-traveling Deloreon. It's an important idea to the narrator, but I just can't quite figure out why.
I know I haven't done the book justice in this somewhat disjointed description. But my meandering captures the way Lerner's writing made my mind dart off in a dozen different directions. Clearly I need to re-read "10:04" to better understand some of the concepts the narrator raises. It's an assignment I welcome. And I eagerly look forward to reading Lerner's "Leaving the Antioch Station," his earlier work that introduces us to the narrator. But first I'm tackling some of the books recently nominated for this year's National Book Award. So many great books, so little time.