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Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas Prize
"This is one of the funniest, saddest, sweetest novels I've read since Then We Came to the End. When historians try to understand our strange, contradictory era, they would be wise to consult To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. It captures what it is to be alive in early 21st-century America like nothing else I've read."—Anthony Marra, author of New York Times bestseller A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
"Gut-bustingly funny... its wit is so sharp, its fake-biblical texts ... so clever and its reach so big ... It's an eminently worthy nominee for the Booker Prize or any other... a major achievement."—Janet Maslin, New York Times
A "wry, intelligent novel that adroitly navigates the borderland between the demands of faith and the persistence of doubt...In seizing upon both the transitory oddities of contemporary life and our enduring search for meaning, Joshua Ferris has created a winning modern parable...He's a gifted satirist with a tender heart, and if he continues to find targets as worthy as the ones he skewers here, his work should amuse and enlighten us for many years to come."—Shelf Awareness
"Enjoy the first great novel about social-media identity theft. . . . It's an atheist's pilgrimage in search not of God but of community . . . O'Rourke's search feels genuine, funny, tragic, and never dull. It'll also leave you flossing with a vengeance."—Boris Kachka, GQ
"[Ferris] shrewdly stages a kind of theological symposium in [an] uncomfortably intimate place, conducted halfway between levity and overeager sincerity... It's a pleasure watching this young writer confidently range from the registers of broad punchline comedy to genuine spiritual depth. The complementary notes of absurdity, alienation and longing read like Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller customized for the 21st Century."—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"A novel that raises questions about meaning and belonging, even if the only answer is that we will never know...This is the novel's peculiar brilliance, to uncover its existential stakes in the most mundane tasks...[a] curiously provocative novel."—David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"To Rise Again at a Decent Hour reminds us that even existential suffering can prove both charming and hilarious...Ferris has written an arresting novel, a playfully ironic riff on how a man can come to know himself...the cumulative effect of the novel tugs the heart just as surely as it sparks the mind."—Bruce Machart, Houston Chronicle
"Brilliant...Ferris has managed to blend the clever satire of his first book...with the grinding despair of his second . . . The result is a witty story. At his best, which is most of the time, Ferris spins Paul's observations and reflections into passages of flashing comedy that sound like a stand-up theologian suffering a nervous breakdown."—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"An engrossing and hilariously bleak novel . . . This splintering of the self hasn't been performed in fiction so neatly since Philip Roth's Operation Shylock."—John Freeman, Boston Globe
"A story made exhilarating by Ferris' wickedly dark humor and keen intelligence. The brilliant prose...never preens. It simply pulls the reader along in an effortlessly smooth ride. Ferris makes the tug-of-war between Paul's searching mind and his low spirits utterly fascinating...Ferris' three novels place him in grand company among our younger novelists. . . . All the same, he's a unique American original."—Dan Cryer, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Ferris's trademark blend of dark satire and ominous absurdity suits his subject, and his focus on one character allows him to perform a psychological excavation of his subject in conjunction with his examination of modern life...The result is a stimulating, bittersweet read."—Claire Fallon, The Huffington Post
"The author has proved his astonishing ability to spin gold from ordinary air . . . Ferris's third novel falls somewhere between the voice-driven power of the first [novel] and the idea-driven metaphor of the second . . . [He] remains as brave and adept as any writer out there."—Lauren Goff, The New York Times Book Review
"[An] alternately sad and hilarious new book...To Rise Again at a Decent Hour showcases the wit, intelligence and keen eye for workplace absurdity the author displayed to such great effect in his first novel . . . a welcome outlet for Ferris' enormous virtuosity as a philosopher and storyteller. Ferris raises profound questions about the role of faith, not just in belonging, but in living."—Daniel Akst, Newsday
"[Ferris has] the keen ability to traverse the high wire of satire and lyricism, to at once write a sentence that can drop a reader's jaw, then make them giggle in the next . . . a writer perfectly at ease with both the bleakly absurd and the deeply humane, using them equally in hopeful pursuit of a redemptive truth."—Gregg LaGambina, The A.V. Club
"Suffice it to say that To Rise Again at a Decent Hour isn't just one of the best novels of the year, it's one of the funniest, and most unexpectedly profound, works of fiction in a very long time."—Michael Schaub, NPR.org
"With almost Pynchon-esque complexity, Ferris melds conspiracy and questions of faith in an entertaining way...Full of life's rough edges, the book resists a neat conclusion, favoring instead a simple scene that is comic perfection... Smart,
sad, hilarious and eloquent, this shows a writer at the top of his game and surpassing the promise of his celebrated debut."—Kirkus (Starred Review)
PRAISE FOR THE UNNAMED:
"A stunner, an unnerving portrait of a man stripped of civilization's defenses. Ferris's prose is brash, extravagant, and, near the end, chillingly beautiful."—The New Yorker
"Spellbinding....The Unnamed unfolds in a hushed, shadowed dimension located somewhere between myth and a David Mamet play."—Laura Miller, Salon.com
"Arresting, ground-shifting, beautiful and tragic. This is the book a new generation of writers will answer to. No one in America writes like this."—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Little Failure
"Is despair an excellence or a defect?" asks Kierkegaard in The Sickness unto Death. "Purely dialectically, it is both." To the despairing man or woman, in other words, is granted a variety of advanced and even aristocratic perceptions and insights — but it feels like hell. Like death. Like being attacked by invisible singing goblins with syringes for fingertips. Not even golf can assuage the pain: "The last ball I putted circled the hole, and the rimming impression it made as it dropped was that of my small life draining into the abyss."
Paul O'Rourke, narrator of Joshua Ferris's To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, is a successful dentist, a failed golfer, a fractured romantic, a Red Sox fan, and a twenty-first-century technocratic human in despair. "Everything was always something, but something — and here was the rub — could never be everything." The glut of stimuli, the radical insufficiency: well, we can all relate to that. Paul's despair is manifest in his work, in the bleeding caverns and ruined bonescapes that are the very texture of his practice, and it is manifest in his allegiance to the Red Sox — which has been made more complicated and difficult by the fact that they are no longer incurable losers. Why doesn't everybody floss? Flossing prevents gum disease; it can prolong your life by up to seven years. Why did the Red Sox have to go and win the World Series, and then win it again, and again? Hope can be a terrible burden sometimes.
And then: something happens. Paul, a preening digiphobe — he disdains gadgets and "me-machines" and is regularly reproached by his head hygienist, Betsy Convoy, for having "no online presence" — discovers that someone has set up not only a Facebook page for "Paul C. O'Rourke" but a rather attractive website for his dental practice. The layout is nice, the information is good, everyone in the office is happy with it, even though no one knows who's responsible. Paul is horrified: "Who would do such a thing? It's disturbing. We should all be very disturbed." He sends a series of increasingly heated emails to "Seir Design," the name that appears at the bottom of the website. "You're ruining my life," he complains, to which the response comes: What do you really know of your life? This tips Paul over the edge. "I will not be contained," he types frantically, "by my news feeds and online purchases, by your complicated algorithms for simplifying a man. Watch me break out of the hole you put me in. I am a man, not an animal in a cafe." Then he curses his autocorrect function and types again: "I meant 'cage.' "
The Animal in the Cafe... That might have made a pretty good alternative title, actually, for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. It captures the existential, anthropological flavor of the book, which is essentially a study in old-school late-capitalist alienation. Joshua Ferris's first novel was the triumphant Then We Came to the End, an office novel narrated by a group mind: "We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise." That book's most vital character was Tom Mota, a libertarian and incontinent masturbator brandishing a volume of Emerson's complete poems and essays. ("The problem with reading this guy is the same problem you have reading Walt Whitman. You read him at all? Those two fucks wouldn't have lasted two minutes in this place.") After Then We Came to the End came The Unnamed — a murkier and more interior novel, less happily received. In a perfect world or a world governed by well-intentioned literary critics, Ferris's third book would have nimbly synthesized the crowd-pleasing comedy of his first and the darker philosophical preoccupations of his second. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour doesn't really pull this off: parts of it feel incoherent, the close observational material never quite joining with the larger theme.
And there is a larger theme — belonging. Paul is a metaphysical exile, the son of a suicide. Through successive girlfriends he has sought to join first a loving Catholic family, then a loving Jewish family. As the presence that designed his pseudo-website gradually reveals itself, it offers to him the possibility that he may be, genealogically, an "Ulm": one of a lost tribe of ancient doubters. Imagine that, modern man in search of a soul. Imagine discovering that you are no longer the orphan of the universe, but rather the spearhead of an illustrious ancestral- metaphysical lineage!
T. S. Eliot thought Hamlet a failure, deficient in respect of "the adequacy of the external to the emotion." Ferris isn't Shakespeare, and I'm not T. S. Eliot, but the diagnosis holds for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. In the despairing dentist with the online identity problem and the Bronze Age genealogy, this novel almost finds its "objective correlative," its outward expression of the inner mystery — but the elements do not, finally, knit. Which is a shame, because the inner mystery — that is, the mystery of existence — is worth addressing. You might say that it is the only thing worth addressing. And Ferris has made a sprawling, brawling, linguistically illuminated attempt to do so. My opinion? He'll get it right next time.
James Parker is the author of Turned On: A Biography of Henry Rollins (Cooper Square Press), and a correspondent for The Atlantic.
Reviewer: James Parker
Posted May 24, 2014
This is a good book about the banalities of a career, our beliefs, and what makes us who we are and what we do. The main character, Paul O'Rourke, is your common man but a willful thinker. A dentist. More of an agnositc than atheist--although he claims he's an atheist. "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" is a quintessential look at modern America in the 21st century and how we perceive our lives. There's some tension but Ferris does a good job of not using it as the backbone of the story. I found the book closer to range and style to "Then We Came to the End."
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Posted September 25, 2014
One of the worst books I have ever read. The author starts with an interesting premise - what if someone impersonated you on-line. But then he makes up a mythical religion which was tedious. His comments on Judaism and Catholicism (of which there were many) were superficial and sometimes inaccurate. The rest of the book is his musings on mundane topics. Who needs to read 3 pages about people who use hand lotion at work? Don't waste your precious time or money.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 29, 2014
This book deserves to be a nominee for any award that you can think of. It is not only unique and thought-provoking but well-written as well. I am not going to summarize the plot for you. That just takes away from the experience of reading this book. I really cannot think of any other books that compare to this one. This book is one of my all-time favorites and is a must read for anyone who likes to question the meaning of life. I can't wait to read whatever Joshua Ferris comes up with next.
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Posted September 10, 2014
One of the funniest books I've read in a while. Although as the book went on the story became a little tangled in its own underwear.
But all in all, a great discussion about life, romance and religion.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 17, 2014
Posted April 17, 2015
Snappy and introspective with a certain amount of slightly puzzling theology plus baseball. The anxieties and internal dialogue of the main character as well as his hilarious exchanges with the women in his office are exceptionally well-written. The sense that he has of not belonging and never being in step with everyone else is funny and heartbreaking all at once. I found some elements of the Ulms and religion a bit confusing in terms of how it's used as an underlying theme, (plus baseball!) and that slowed me down a bit trying to piece it together. It gets at the heart of the distance created by modern day technology that's supposed to allow us to be closer together, and how isolating a reliance on it can become.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 8, 2015
This book is decently written, but I got sick of the narrator quickly and wanted the book to be over quickly. I personally didn't find the main protagonist to be likable and his self-loathing and misanthropy made the book hard to invest in. Also, it's told in a first person past tense narrative as if he is recounting these events much later, but he provides way too much detail for this type of narrative to be believable which threw me out of the story. At one point he is recounting a story that another person is telling and he writes it as an entire scene with dialogue exchanges and everything, even though the person telling the story wouldn't have told it with that level of detail and there is no way the narrator would remember that much of the story even if she did. There is good character development and the overall arc of the story is imaginative, but the issues made me just want to speed read through and be done with it already. 2.5 stars.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 17, 2014
Posted October 4, 2014
This was an excellent book, I loved it completely up until the 7th-8th chapter and then the humor kind of vanished and i personally feel as if i was reading pages and pages of irrelevant information that didn't make the story any more interesting. The endin also seemed a bit anti-climatic. When i was finished i literally told myself "I Read all of this just for that ending!" but these are jut my thoughts.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 22, 2014
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Posted May 14, 2014
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Posted March 20, 2015
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Posted June 22, 2014
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Posted October 28, 2014
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