Tuesday, 20 January 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Life for Paul C. O'Rouke has somewhat plateaued. True, he owns a private dental practice in Manhattan, but he is working with his ex-girlfriend and has very few friendships outside of his interactions with molars and (rare) gym visits. Then, one day, he discovers that someone has made him a website - for all intents and purposes 'stealing his online identity'. Not only this, the but the person purporting to be Paul C. O'Rouke (DDS) is spouting what appears to be highly religious (and worryingly anti-semitic) statements  from an unknown religion - highly offensive to Paul's atheist tendencies. Paul's attempt to regain ownership over his own life morphs into an existential debate with religion at it's heart.

This book is billed as a comedy, and it is funny, but don't expect to be laughing out loud as you read. The humour is focused around the ridiculously mundane nuances of everyday life. It's a very dry comedy which prompts a chuckle or a groan of recognition rather than a big belly laugh.

It relies a lot on the reader recognising similar traits with Paul, but for the most part he is an unlikable character. Most of the empathy in the book is directed towards his increasingly exasperated staff who attempt to pull Paul away from his 'me-machiene' (the term he uses to describe his iPhone) and back towards his neglected patients. Paul is self-obsessed and constantly yo-yo's between blaming the world (specifically, the Red Sox, his ex-girlfriends, their family, and their varying religions) for his life problems, and blaming himself in a cycle of self-admiration and self-loathing.

It's clear to see why this novel was one of only two American novels to be shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker prize. It's very well crafted - if somewhat dense to read - and the character development is done expertly.

Overall, for me, this book didn't inspire the existential debate that it hopes to, but it did inspire me to think about my oral hygiene. If there's one thing reading 400 pages about dentistry will do, it will make you think about flossing!

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris was published by Penguin in 2014.

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