Sunday, August 14, 2016

To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

A dentist finds himself stalked, and, in fact, chosen by a five thousand year old tribe of publicity shy agnostics

Paul O’Rourke, successful dentist in Manhattan, obsessive compulsive Red Sox fan, cannot figure out why he can’t achieve permanent (or even temporary) happiness. Throughout his life, he has found himself at times “cunt gripped,” obsessed by a woman who later rejects him, also becoming enamored of their large ethnic families. These families are connected to something larger, in many cases, a religion, even though rational Paul can’t go there. But he comes on too strong, too weird, and turns people off. Could it have something to do with the fact that Paul’s father blew his brains out when Paul was a child? Soon odd things starts happening, someone is impersonating him on the World Wide Web, creating a dental website and leaving optimistic posts on Red Sox fan sites. The stalking gets more personal and Paul takes action, only to discover something unusual about himself.  He is (or is he) an Ulm.  Now he must find out what an Ulm is.

This was right up my alley: God and the Red Sox, and I enjoyed the story quite a bit, including the hilarious first person slightly autistic digressions. As in Ferris’ previous novels, supernatural elements are seamlessly combined with the mundane details of modern daily life. The novel is also a social commentary on “me-machines” (cellphones), obsessive money making, men and women, and the significance (or not) of existence. The stakes are enormous. The life and death of humanity perhaps. Why do humans make significant meaning out of meaningless tragedy, why do some, ever optimistic, leap from bed in the morning to do good? Does it make a difference?

I love that the reader slowly realizes that Paul’s ex girlfriend, a poet, who he is still sort of obsessed with, remains in his employ as the receptionist in his office. Finally, he plays the dentistry metaphor like Paganini.

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