This is a book about self-consciousness … 10:04 feels like a significant book because it is so thoroughly inhabited by this yearning, and so abjectly conscious of the ways in which it falls short … Formally 10:04 belongs to an emerging genre, the novel after Sebald, its 19th-century furniture of plot and character dissolved into a series of passages, held together by occasional photographs and a subjectivity that hovers close to (but is never quite identical with) the subjectivity of the writer … At worst, this kind of writing can degenerate into something like an artfully curated social media feed, but Lerner writes with a poet’s attention to language, and manages to make his preoccupation with identity more than solipsistic…10:04 connects this anxiety about identity with metaphysical questions concerning time and repetition.
Mr. Lerner is among the most interesting young American novelists … In 10:04, he’s written a striking and important novel of New York City, partly because he’s so cognizant of both past and present. He’s a walker in the city in conscious league with Walt Whitman, but also with writers up through Teju Cole, whose protagonists are wide-awake flâneurs … At one point in 10:04, the narrator is having dinner with his agent...He tells her he hopes his novel will be, on some level, ‘a long list of things that quicken the heart.’ At this he has succeeded perfectly.
A generous, provocative, ambitious Chinese box of a novel, 10:04 is a near-perfect piece of literature, affirmative of both life and art, written with the full force of Lerner’s intellectual, aesthetic, and empathetic powers, which are as considerable as they are vitalizing … The book’s ‘meta’ strategy is a tight-wire act that could easily fall, in less savvy, stringent, or searching hands, into tinny satire or obnoxious spectacle. Instead, 10:04 is a captivating, moving tour de force … Futurity is 10:04’s principal concern, be it the future of the sinking metropolis of New York, the future of art, the future of capitalism, the future of the planet, or the future embodied by unborn human children … Its rigors and pleasures remain in service of nuance, of negotiation, of continuance.