Leaving the Atocha Station

Leaving the Atocha Station - Ben Lerner Moody, style-driven novel about a student living on a fellowship in Spain, writing poetry, doing drugs and negotiating relationships with women. It's told in the first person by Adam, the student, and covers his adventures and his thoughts about literature, politics and life. The 2004 Madrid bombings occur during his stay; he's a witness, though the events don't seem to shake him up very much. I enjoyed the book as the self-consciously literary prose poem it is but it's short on plot and is more a series of reflections and moods and less a narrative, although the character does narrate a certain period in his life. Lerner does a nice job capturing the experience of being an American living abroad, the sense of alienation, the sense of detachment and foreign-ness that comes with living on the periphery of a place and a group of people. Adam tries to ingratiate himself into the local literary scene, something that only happens by chance as he attaches himself to a group of strangers at a bar who turn out to be artists, writers and gallery people. Through it all he never loses his sense of separateness and it's this that's communicated so beautifully to the reader.