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    9780771005978 Downloadable audio file, $32 CAD 9780771005985 Downloadable audio file 9780771049323 Hardback, $32 CAD 9780771049330 Electronic book text, Reflowable, , EPUB
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    Distributor: Random House, Inc. Availability: On Sale Date:Oct 06, 2020 Carton Quantity:24 $21.00 CAD
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The Topeka School
By (author): Ben Lerner
9780771049347 Paperback, Trade English General Trade FICTION / Coming of Age Oct 06, 2020
$21.00 CAD
Active 5.2 x 7.98 x 0.76 in | 0.56 lb 304 pages McClelland & Stewart
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Winner of the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award

One of Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2019

From the award-winning author of 10:04 and Leaving the Atocha Station, a tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century, hailed by Maggie Nelson as Ben Lerner’s “most discerning, ambitious, innovative, and timely novel to date.” For fans of Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers.


Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of ’97. 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 a psychiatric clinic that has attracted staff and patients from around the world. Adam is a renowned debater, expected to win a national championship before he heads to college. He is one of the cool kids, 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 bring the loner Darren Eberheart—who is, unbeknownst to Adam, his father’s patient—into the social scene, to disastrous effect.

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, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.

Story Locale: American Midwest

MOST ACCESSIBLE WORK TO DATE: This novel set in the 1990s in the American Midwest and it’s an examination of toxic masculinty. Like Sheila Heti and her success with Motherhood, this novel hits on a topic that’s very much on people’s minds and that’s being covered in the media.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM: Exceptional endorsements from the likes of Maggie Nelson, Sally Rooney, Claudia Rankine, Rachel Kushner, and Ocean Vuong started the praise, and critical acclaim followed: Vanity Fair, Washington Post, The New York Times (many times), Vulture, Wall Street Journal, and many more.

STRONG CO-PUBLISHERS: FSG in the US.

BEN LERNER was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed novels Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, three books of poetry (The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path), and the monograph The Hatred of Poetry, as well as several collaborations with artists. Lerner has been a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry and has received fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations, among many other honors. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College.

Author Residence: New York City

Author Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

“I’m confident in calling [The Topeka School] a high-water mark in recent American fiction. In an age whose surplus—linguistic, economic—often seems to bespeak an underlying emptiness, is it possible for ‘a profound experience of art’ still to mean something? The answer, as The Topeka School enacts it, is Hell yes.”―Garth Risk Hallberg, The New York Times Book Review

“An extraordinarily brilliant novel that’s also accessible to anyone yearning for illumination in our disputatious era…Among the myriad miracles of The Topeka School is that it accomplishes so much, captures so much and questions so much about America in fewer than 300 pages.” ―Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Because Lerner draws so freely from his own life, he is often grouped together with other writers of autofiction, like Karl Ove Knausgaard and Sheila Heti, which does his work a slight disservice. It ignores his real lineage, the great literature of passivity, failure and refusal: Melville’s Bartleby, the novels of Robert Walser and László Krasznahorkai.”―Parul Seghal, The New York Times

The Topeka School is thoroughly grounded in its time…Lerner makes a case for the ways in which sexism, racism, and homophobia were brewing, waiting for the explosive catalyst of the internet.” —Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair

“Lerner seems interested in reiterating via the details of his own biography the now-evident political reality that these alienated men are powerful and dangerous precisely when they feel they are not…In America, Lerner reminds us, you can sound like an idiot all you want, but if you master the spread, you rule.” —Jordan Kisner, Atlantic

“[An] essayistic and engrossing novel…Few writers are so deeply engaged as Lerner in how our interior selves are shaped by memory and consequence…Increasingly powerful and heartbreaking as the story moves on. Autofiction at its smartest and most effective: self-interested, self-interrogating, but never self-involved.”―Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

The Topeka School is [Lerner’s] 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, author of The Argonauts

The Topeka School is a novel of exhilarating intellectual inquiry, penetrating social insight, and deep psychological sensitivity. At every turn, its beautifully realized characters are shaped, even in the privacy of their inner lives, by the pressures of history and culture—this is a book not only about how things really feel, but what things really mean. To the extent that we can speak of a future at present, I think the future of the novel is here.”—Sally Rooney, author of Conversations with Friends and Normal People

“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, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

“In Ben Lerner’s riveting third novel, Midwestern America in the late nineties becomes a powerful allegory of our troubled present. The Topeka School deftly explores how language not only reflects but is at the very center of our country’s most insidious crises. In prose both richly textured and many-voiced, we track the inner lives of one white family’s interconnected strengths and silences. What’s revealed is part tableau of our collective lust for belonging, part diagnosis of our ongoing national violence. This is Lerner’s most essential and provocative creation yet.” —Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric

“Ben Lerner is a masterful writer who destabilizes the very notion of what a novel can achieve by making it new at every turn. The Topeka School is not only a fiction for our times, but for the ages: insightful, humane, politically astute, and true.”―Hilton Als, author of White Girls

“Ben Lerner is a brilliant novelist, and one unafraid to make of the novel something truly new…He is one of my favourite living writers.” —Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

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