Tuesday, February 9, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Joshua Ferris

so whenever a book comes into my scope of vision more than once, its like i can not function correctly until i get my hands on it.  i know that this is a sign of a true fiend, an addict with little chance of recovery.  i mean, when i get a recommendation from a friend, followed by seeing the author on the daily show; or hear a favorite author mention it and then hear of a reading given by the author, its like i was meant to have that book.  now i know i was not actually meant to have it, like it was pushed towards me by some greater power, but if i take what i have read, analyze, filter, and appreciate it (hopefully without diluting it at all), i may glean something from it that will change my world view.  or i will just have a few laughs and consider it a few hours well spent on worthwhile entertainment.  the two books i read last week by joshua ferris fall somewhere in between those two categories.  

i read his most recent book first, the unnamed, even though i wanted to start with his first book, then we came to the end.  its not like the two books are related, but im a geek like that.  i had kinda heard about his first book a while ago, at least peripherally, since it had caused a bit of a stir as possibly the first book written totally in first person plural (i.e. we, us, our).  i guess i only really heard about it once, cause i never went on a do or die mission to find it.  but last month-ish ferris came out with then we came to the end.  so talk was all over about both books.  the first sounded so grammatically interesting, but i couldnt find it right off, so i started with the other, the unnamed

i'll be quick with this one, since it took me about 5-6 hours to read.  its about a man who cannot stop moving.  sounds like me, i thought.  but his is an impossible to diagnose issue of mental or physical illness that causes him to physically be unable to stop walking.  these bouts hit him at certain intervals, sometimes dormant for years but lasting for months and months.  this novel follows the degradation of the relationships around him because of his illness.  he has a supportive family that believes he is truly ill, but he wavers in believing it himself.  for me this was a book about the inability to allow ourselves to live with stability and certitude.  this man had the so called amercian dream, and although he never consciously wished for a more carefree lifestyle, his manic obsession with putting one foot in front of the other cannot be construed as a mere unfortunate physical anomaly.  there is a deeper, needier, more desperate reason.  i'll let you analyze the outcome for yourself, but i questioned my own constant need to leave people and things behind.

then we came to the end was funnier, darker, and more original.  it was like the movie office space, but from the point of view of all of the obnoxious, irritating office staff that just seem vapid, uninteresting, or self-interested.  the book is written in plural, which made it a riot, and set it up for one of the most lovely final sentences i have read in many years.  it is basically a set of intertwining stories told about the members of an advertising ajency that is on the road to bankruptcy from the economic downturn.  at first the characters induce snickers and eye-rolls from the reader, but after a while, a definite sense of camaraderie is built, and the characters turn into your own coworkers, and dare i say it, friends.  its not really the we in the book that does it, but more a recognizing of the flaws that are in us all, no matter how we try to hide or deny them.  but after reading all the we, us, and our, the setup for the final sentence is perfect.  all of the characters have moved on to other jobs, lives, and they all leave a final little bar gathering, one by one.  and then we come to the end.  …and with that, we’d get in our cars and open the windows and drive off, tapping the horn a final time.  but for the moment, it was nice just to sit there together.  we were the only two left.  just the two of us, you and me.  perfect.  such brevity, such clarity.  kudos ferris, i will picture this moment for a long time.  thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Did Ferris mean 'just the two of us' as in the narrator and the reader?