Jane and Jonathan are both psychotherapists and psychological researchers. Later, Amber recounts abandoning her stepfather’s dinnertime polemic without his noticing (13). During Jonathan’s time there, he witnessed some of his male classmates committing crimes against locals with impunity. Before he became a novelist and poet, and a professor and a MacArthur Fellow, Ben Lerner competed in debate. And so no, I don't know what the language would look like. This study guide contains the following sections: This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on They both work at a psychiatric clinic that has attracted staff and patients from around the world. He feels like he dissolves into prosody or rhythm or poetry or flow. Lerner: I mean, I think to a certain degree that is a metaphor for the overload of the present. Your purchase helps support NPR programming. In The Topeka School, Adam Gordon's parents' lives also revolve around speaking: They're psychologists who work in talk therapy and language research. ... Adam has these instances of transport where, whether it's speed in debate or it's freestyling, where he feels like he's no longer speaking the language, but the language is speaking him. "On the one hand, he has these therapist parents who work at this international psychiatric clinic called The Foundation, and that's an institution that runs on talk, right? However, Sima began to emotionally withdraw from Jane after Jane’s book became popular. In the novel’s first scene, Adam gives a speech to his high school girlfriend, Amber, without realizing that she’s disappeared (7). They were both born and raised in New York City. The novel’s prologue opens in a police station in Topeka, Kansas in the 1990s. The narrative then shifts focus to Jane. His mother, Jane, is a famous feminist author; his father, Jonathan, is an expert at getting “lost boys” to open up. The next day, Adam attended a debate competition at a high school in a neighboring town. Danny Hensel and Justine Kenin produced and edited this interview for broadcast. The novel’s final chapter takes place in the present day. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner. And I think one of the things that the Trump White House has learned is that one scandal is really dangerous, right — if you have one Watergate, that outrages people. If you’re ready to start a book club, here’s 40 of the best book club questions, for fiction and nonfiction alike. The Topeka School is a sort of prequel to these two novels. help you understand the book. How? The first chapter opens at Clinton Lake near Topeka, about a year earlier. THE TOPEKA SCHOOL By Ben Lerner [ This was selected as one of the Book Review’s 10 best books of 2019.See the full list. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019. He does his best to stand up for progressive moral ideals. The narrative gives background information about Jonathan’s youth. In his senior year of high school, he participated in high-level debate competitions. So I'm trying to think in part about the genealogy of the present ... where the seeds of that came from. Like, the way he tries to be cool is: He has this belief that in the future he's going to look back as some kind of person on the [East] Coast and think, "Oh, everything in Topeka was just rehearsal for this more intense life" or whatever. "The young Adam Gordon ... is kind of torn between these different regimes of talk," Lerner says in an interview. What kinds of speaking, and listening, do the two stories introduce? However, after they married, they moved to Topeka to work for an academic institution referred to only as the Foundation. everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Topeka School. I mean, therapy depends upon the possibilities of expression. ", On how Adam freestyle raps with his friends at night. Jane published her work in book form, and the book became highly popular and renowned. The story takes place in the 1990s in Topeka, Kan., where a high school senior named Adam Gordon is a star on the debate team (as was Lerner). Her closest friend and confidant was a colleague named Sima. The Topeka School. The novel’s prologue opens in a police station in Topeka, Kansas in the 1990s. ISBN-13: 9780374277789 Summary A tale of adolescence, transgression, and the conditions that have given rise to the trolls and tyrants of the New Right. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web. Teaching The Topeka School. And I wanted to remember — I mean, that was a white fantasy and it was always a fantasy — but I wanted to remember what it was like to be coming of age when that discourse was circulating. And the book wants to argue that those are real moments of possibility, where we re-encounter the miracle of language as such and the possibility of building a new language out of the limits of this one. But again, there's a funny way where those extremes of gibberish are both terrifying, and they're also kind of like an avant-garde poetry where you re-encounter the plasticity of language. When he was a teenager, he and his family temporarily lived in Taipei; Jonathan’s father was a diplomat and had been stationed there. One day, Darren’s supposed friends abandoned him miles from Topeka. Then show the movie once through without pausing. Lerner: That's true. The narrative then shifts focus back to Adam. Adam went to find Amber, and she compared the incident to a time when she snuck out of the room while her self-absorbed stepfather was talking at length. So the act of speech is central to Lerner's new, autobiographically informed book. They both work at a psychiatric clinic that has attracted staff and patients from around the world. Author Ben Lerner's new semi-autobiographical book, The Topeka School, finds a competitive-debate whiz kid navigating adolescence — and … Early in … From the award-winning author of 10:04 and Leaving the Atocha Station, a tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century: a tale of adolescence, transgression, and the conditions that have given rise to the trolls and tyrants of the New Right.. Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of '97. Discussion Questions 1. And not just amongst debaters, but remember it from the disaster and the possibilities of the present, where Adam Gordon is no longer a kid. I think we live in a moment of total regression to fascistic unreason in our political speech. I mean, there's the slowness of political speech on the one hand, and then there's the speed of nano-trading and the 24-hour news cycle on the other hand. Inside you'll find 30 Daily Lessons, 20 Fun Activities, 180 Multiple Choice Questions, 60 Short Essay Questions, 20 Essay Questions, Quizzes/Homework Assignments, Tests, … The narration then gives background information on Adam’s parents: Jane and Jonathan. The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Lerner, Ben. And the book doesn't pretend to know how we should speak going forward, but it does try to model modes of listening and engagement that are other to the dominant discourses of the day. I mean, Trump isn't total. Well, I was really interested, how in the '90s, there was this discourse circulating, at least amongst the pundit class, of the "end of history." Adam began talking at length and lost focus on Amber, so Amber stealthily swam away.