The Topeka School | Granta

  • Published: 07/11/2019
  • ISBN: 9781783785360
  • 135x20mm
  • 304 pages

The Topeka School

Ben Lerner

Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of ’97. His parents are psychologists, his mom a famous author in the field. A renowned debater and orator, an aspiring poet, and – although it requires a lot of posturing and weight lifting – one of the cool kids, he’s also one of the seniors who brings the loner Darren Eberheart into the social scene, with disastrous effects.

Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods, The Topeka School is a riveting story about the challenges of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity. It is also a startling prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the tyranny of trolls and the new right, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.

Fiercely intelligent but underpinned by great sympathy, it's one of the most haunting pieces of prose I've read for a long time.

Guardian

Ben Lerner has redefined what it means for a writer to inhabit an American present by showing how a family reckons with its past. Here the personal and political are masterfully interwoven. The Topeka School is brave, furious, and finally a work of love

Ocean Vuong

The Topeka School is what happens when one of the most discerning, ambitious, innovative, and timely writers of our day writes his most discerning, ambitious, innovative and timely novel to date. It's a complete pleasure to read Lerner experimenting with other minds and times, to watch his already profound talent blooming into new subjects, landscapes, and capacities. This book is a prehistory of a deeply disturbing national moment, but it's written with the kind of intelligence, insight, and searching that makes one feel well-accompanied and, in the final hour, deeply inspired

Maggie Nelson

The Author

BEN LERNER was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979. He has received fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations, and is the author of three internationally acclaimed novels, Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04 and The Topeka School. He has published the poetry collections The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw (a finalist for the National Book Award), Mean Free Path and No Art as well as the essay The Hatred of Poetry. Lerner lives and teaches in Brooklyn.

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‘He began to feel less like he was delivering a speech and more like a speech was delivering him.’

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‘Things he dreamt began to show up in the bushes, the plastic figurine from a parachute firework, the small dull rusted circular saw blade he thought of as a throwing star, and he pocketed those things.’

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‘My role in the slaughter doesn’t disqualify the beauty I find in all / forms of sheltered flame.’