This essay argues, via Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze, that in distinction to a neoliberal notion of time that overlooks the present moment and past experience, Ben Lerner’s 10:04 posits the existence, in both its form and content, of a kind of freedom not imminent to or beyond the endless presentism and debt-mortgaged non-future of neoliberal time but one that is immanent to and within it. The novel does so by stressing the way in which the actual, lived present, if properly attended to, gives rise to a virtual future containing multiple potentialities that have yet to be realized. What emerges is a deep sense of contemporaneity or affective time that heralds the potential of a nascent collective. 10:04 performs this notion in its very metafictional form(lessness) that calls attention to the fragility of both narrative and time that, particularly during moments of disruption, allow the subject to experience affectively an actual present carrying a virtual past into a future teeming with potentialities that a neoliberal temporality, in which the future is tamed by a drop down menu of preselected options, must deny. Thus, 10:04 reveals that we can experience a freedom to come within even the presentism of neoliberal temporality so that freedom after neoliberalism, as the novel’s Benjaminian influenced refrain suggests, will be “the same but a little different.”
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Clare, Ralph. (2018). "Freedom and Formlessness: Ben Lerner’s 10:04 and the Affective Historical Present". Open Library of Humanities, 4(2), 19-1 - 19-30. https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.336