The Topeka School

Ben Lerner

Published: 7 November 2019
Hardback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781783785360

Other Editions

Trade Paperback

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Published: 3 October 2019
Trade Paperback, Demy PB
135x216mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781783785728

Ebook Available

About the author

Image of Ben Lerner

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. More about the author


‘[Lerner] combines the autofictional...and the metafictional with exceptional dexterity’



‘[Lerner] is a real novelist... a fine, exacting novel’

The Topeka School is a novel of exhilarating intellectual inquiry, penetrating social insight an deep psychological sensitivity... To the extent that we can speak of a future at present, I think the future of the novel is hereSally Rooney

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 inspiredMaggie Nelson

The Topeka School weaves a masterful narrative...It's rare to find a book that is simultaneously searing in its social critique and so lush in its prose that it verges on poetry’

The Topeka School, is an education in the sympathetic imagination, a deep and bracing intellectual challenge, a powerful political statement...Lerner plays winningly in the fertile ground between fiction and memoir...Wider-reaching, subtler and kinder than his earlier works, this is a novel to cherish... hilarious’

A great novel, one summoned by the desperate times in which it was written. Lerner has [...] created a work of extraordinary intelligence and subtly, of lasting importance

A thrilling, thrilling book... I found it very powerfulMaria Delgado

Ambitious and original... like no other American family saga I've ever read'’

Ambitious... In this frequently virtuosic novel, we glimpse the seam between the human-constructed world and the abyss beyond’

Elegant, readable and delightfully clever

One of the best writers working today... athletic and funny and thrillingly intelligent...a tender, extended portrait of two good parents, a rarity in literature... the nonlinear structure produces narrative lacunae that powerfully enhance our understanding of character and event. The different voices are done simply and subtly...everything feels breezy and effortless despite Lerner's unbridled intellect. What can't he do?... [Lerner is] fearsomely articulate... I expect to be recommending [this} for the rest of my life

Pleasingly intricate... this is a serious book for serious times

The best opening ten pages I've read all year, a seductive combination of foretold violence and anecdotal misadventure... This is a book that absolutely knows about the follies of has many scenes in it which reveal that’ Tom Sutcliffe

‘A tremendously impressive novel’ Kevin Jackson

‘A decade-hopping family saga... Lerner's vigorously witty coming-of-age narrative serves as an insider critique of masculinity and privilege’

‘A funny, penetrating book about language, politics and masculinity...Lerner never shies away from emotional or intellectual complications. If anything, he feeds on them’

‘A potent, painful picking-apart of trauma...Lerner brilliantly pleats and plays with time... one of the most essential [novels] published this year’

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘Ben Lerner is arguably the hottest novelist writing in America today, in complete control of his ideas and his prose, and ambitious with both’

‘Ben Lerner's static crackle of intelligence is the first thing you notice about him and his work’

‘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 yetClaudia Rankine, author of

‘Lerner's erudite third novel switches perspectives with effortless agility...zeitgeisty and involving

‘The latest work from this speccy, hipster-beloved American follows a high-school debater who introduces a weird loner into the social scene with disastrous consequences’

‘The novel lurches towards the final launching of the cue ball like a tornado swerving over open country’

‘The perniciousness of masculinist ideology the centre of Ben Lerner's forthcoming third novel, The Topeka School

‘The Topeka School is [Lerner's] most successful effort at navigating between communal experience...and individual feeling without denaturing either... dazzling

‘This riveting novel takes a sharp look at toxic masculinity and its effect on young men’

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