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.
“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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