Adam—at once ideological and post-ideological, vaguely engaged and profoundly spectatorial, charming and loathsome—is a convincing representative of twenty-first century American Homo literatus. He is a creature of privilege and lassitude, living through a time of inflamed political certainty, yet certain only of his own uncertainty and thus always more easily defined by negation than by affirmation, clearly dedicated to poetry but unable to define or defined it (excet to intone that poetry isn’t about anything), and impicitly nostalgic for earlier, mythical eras of greater strength and surety. He has long suspected, for instance, that he is incapable of having “a profound experience of art and I had trouble believing that anyone had, at least anyone I knew.” Insofar as he is interested in the arts, he tells us, he is “interested in the disconnect between my experience of actual artworks and the claims made on their behalf; the closest I’d come to having a profound experience of art was probably the experience of this distance, a profound experience of the absence of profundity.”
—James Wood, “Reality Testing,” (New Yorker Magazine, October 31, 2011) a review of Ben Lerner’s new novel, Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House). The book’s narrator is Adam Gordon, a poet.