DNF: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

cover imageAt page 191, I’m giving up on To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris and letting it go to the next person waiting for it at the library. It’s 337 pages long, so I got over half-way through before deciding it just wasn’t clicking with me. I really liked the author’s first book, Then We Came to the End, which used the unusual narrative device of first person plural voice throughout the whole book, as if everyone who worked or had worked at the ad agency was speaking collectively about how bad things were there, so I was looking forward to reading this one.

Here’s the publisher’s description of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (minus a spoiler-ish line that I deleted from the middle):

A big, brilliant, profoundly observed novel about the mysteries of modern life by National Book Award Finalist Joshua Ferris, one of the most exciting voices of his generation

Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.

Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing.

At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.

Set in New York City, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour sounded like something I thought I was really going to like – especially the “laugh-out-loud funny” and “indelibly profound” parts – but I didn’t get the profundity and Paul struck me as humorless. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for this book, or maybe I just didn’t get the humor of it. Paul comes across as a shallow person, which I realize has got to be intentional, but that made him seem an unlikely person to be delving into mysteries of religious faith and human nature. As a character, Paul seemed too much a collection of characteristics and not as much a fully realized person.

And then there’s some really flaky stuff about religious beliefs and ancestral secrets that I just couldn’t get myself to be interested in. With all the talk of dentistry, however, it did convince me that flossing is a habit I need to keep up!

Does anyone out there want to talk me into giving this book another try? Maybe I would like it better as an audiobook?

Other opinions on this book (good to excellent):
Fashioning Fiction
That’s What She Read
Verbatim

P.S. I see To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is the first on the recently released Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist, so what do I know? [Note added 7/28/14]

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14 thoughts on “DNF: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris”

    1. I’ll add a link to your review under Other Opinions! I liked the writing, too, and your review reminded me that I forgot there was another book in between this one and Then We Came to the End, so I should try The Unnamed sometime. Now that I’ve looked it up, I do remember hearing about that one, with a guy who can’t stop walking.

Would love to have you comment!