Homo Trumpiens: Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School – Sewanee Review – article

Homo Trumpiens: Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School

Christian Lorentzen | Sewanee Review

2019-10-22

“””The novels of Ben Lerner are worth scrutinizing with Wallace’s predictions in mind. He is less an anti-rebel or anti-anti-rebel than a writer who has arrived at a truce between irony and sincerity by decoupling self-consciousness from cynicism. It’s no accident that [End Page 780] postwar American fiction and television don’t loom as the determining influences on his novels, as they did for Wallace and his cohort in a way that seemed inescapable at the time. Lerner’s lodestars are the poetry of Walt Whitman and John Ashbery, visual art, and the classic European novel. The governing concept of The Topeka School is the “”””man-child,”””” and you could call the three books Lerner’s Man-Child Trilogy. In an essay on Karl Ove Knausgaard, Lerner applied Baudelaire’s definition of the man-child to the Norwegian: “”””a man possessing at every moment the genius of childhood, in other words a genius for whom no edge…”””

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