Friday, September 5, 2014

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Joshua Ferris

Little Brown and Company - 2014

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris is entertaining read, with a quirky protagonist that will make you laugh or at least have you scratching your head and asking yourself what planet does this guy come from?

Paul O’Rourke is our lonely and messed up protagonist. He’s a guy who has felt like an orphan ever since his father who suffered from manic depression took his own life when Paul was still a child. Although Paul’s a successful Park Avenue dentist now, with a five-chair practice that is opened until 10 pm some nights, and master of his craft in providing pain free services, his personal life is a mess. He’s not a great friend, and he prefers to add to his misery by watching the Boston Red Sox self destruct in solitude.  He has lots of opinions of his beloved baseball team and and their arch rivals as well.  He knows how to screw up a romantic relationship by diving in hard and fast, stalking women and by obsessing about pleasing the parents instead of focusing on building a relationship with the person he is dating.

He  smokes too much and is a pseudo atheist who seems to be obsessed with other religions at the same time. One day technology turns on Paul when someone creates a website pretending to be Paul O’Rourke DDS, then tweets begin and even a Facebook account surfaces. Who is behind this and why are they targeting Paul?  A group referred to as Ulms with a belief system is based on a “doubting God”. The group instead of targeting Paul, when all is said and done, may be the key to the sense of community Paul had been longing for all along.
This was an incredibly difficult book to review, I liked the writing, and enjoyed many of the quotes. At times I felt sorry for Paul, who creates much of his own misery, other times I was laughing about the absurdity of what I was reading. Like Paul,as a conflicted Red Sox fan (especially this year) I found his musings and even obsession with the team and players a delight. However, once the Ulms surfaced, the story seemed too weird and I lost interest. Overall, this was an okay read for me. I think readers who enjoy satires might enjoy this one a bit more than me.
3.5/5 stars
(eGalley and audio)

Quotes to help you understand our protagonist--
  • “I encouraged my patients to floss. It was hard to do some days. They should have flossed. Flossing prevents periodontal disease and can extend life up to seven years. It’s also time consuming and a general pain in the ass. That’s not the dentist talking. That’s the guy who comes home, four or five drinks in him, what a great evening, ha-has all around, and, the minute he takes up the floss, says to himself, What’s the point? In the end, the heart stops, the cells die, the neurons go dark, bacteria consumes the pancreas, flies lay their eggs, beetles chew through tendons and ligaments, the skin turns to cottage cheese, the bones dissolve, and the teeth float away with the tide. But then someone who never flossed a day in his life would come in, the picture of inconceivable self-neglect and unnecessary pain— rotted teeth, swollen gums, a live wire of infection running from enamel to nerve— and what I called hope, what I called courage, above all what I called defiance, again rose up in me, and I would go around the next day or two saying to all my patients, “You must floss, please floss, flossing makes all the difference.”   

  • “The mouth is a weird place. Not quite inside and not quite out, not skin and not organ, but something in between: dark, wet, admitting access to an interior most people would rather not contemplate--where cancer starts, where the heart is broken, where the soul might just fail to turn up.”

  • "I had never thought much of genealogy. A lot of wasted time collecting the names of the dead.  Then stringing those names, like skulls upon wire, into an entirely private and thus irrelevant narrative, lacking any historical significance. The narcissistic pastime of nostalgic bores."


  1. I agree totally - so much good, but the Ulm thing should have been edited like by 90%!

  2. I love the premise and enjoy a good satire. Will consider this...

  3. People love his work and that's pretty much how I've felt about the two books of his I've read.

  4. I'm still undecided about this one. Sometimes satires can be ok but I need to be in the mood for it.

  5. I am not sure about that one too.

  6. I loved his first book but have read lots of conflicting reviews about this one... I'll probably give it a pass.

  7. I didn't like this at all. I'll likely not be reading more of his work.

  8. It hasn't gotten very good reviews overall. I have it but now I am not rushing to pick it up.

  9. I'm intrigued but the Ulms scare me a bit!


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