In The Media
July 23, 2014
Paul O'Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn't know how to live in it. Read more...
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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. As Paul's quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual.
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-02-17
- Reviewer: Staff
Paul O’Rourke, the main character of Ferris’s (Then We Came to the End) new book, is a dentist. And he’s a good one, informed and informative—even if the mouths that once seemed so erotic have devolved into caves of bacteria, pain, and lurking death. Ferris depicts Paul’s difficulties: in the workplace, he struggles to say good morning, has problems with the office manager (who’s also his ex-girlfriend), and likewise has problems with the devout Catholic hygienist, who can’t see why he doesn’t believe. A constant ruminator and obsessive Red Sox fan, Paul would like to believe and belong, but he can’t. And then the Ulms, who claim to be followers of Amalek (a figure from the Old Testament), hijack his Internet presence and claims him as their own. As an angry and incredulous Paul reads “his” tweets, learns about the unlikely history of the Ulms, and tries to figure out what it all means, readers may find themselves questioning whether the drama of the Ulms amounts to much. Paul is an appealing—albeit self-involved—everyman, but Ferris’s effort to take on big topics (existential doubt, grief, identity, the Internet, the lure and limits of religion, and the struggle to floss in the face of life’s meaninglessness) feels more like a set of thought experiments than an organic or character-driven story. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (May)
Who am I? Someone else, apparently
Joshua Ferris, who previously examined the culture of the contemporary workplace (Then We Came to the End) and family life (The Unnamed) turns his attention to social media in To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. At first, the novel seems to be a satiric look at the way Facebook and Twitter could be used to hijack a person’s identity. But as the main character heads toward an existential crisis, it is clear that Ferris is also exploring how technology both connects us and reinforces our isolation.
Paul O’Rourke is a dentist with a successful practice in Manhattan. His long workdays are punctuated by feelings of unrequited love for his ex-girlfriend (also his receptionist), religious disagreements with his long-term hygienist Mrs. Convoy and frequent cigarette breaks. His evenings are scheduled around Red Sox games. He has put off using the Internet for personal or professional use, so when a professional-looking website appears, purporting to represent his dental practice, O’Rourke is both puzzled and angered by this inroad into his privacy. His outrage only increases when an active Facebook page and Twitter account appear, also under his name. But when the nature of the content turns personal, he can’t resist emailing back to the virtual Paul O’Rourke.
Once Paul engages with this fictional doppelganger, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour quickly becomes a farce aimed at identity theft, the lure and limitations of religion and the importance of shared belief. Paul is a lifelong loner, from a troubled family, so his yearning to be part of a community is counter-weighted by huge emotional risks.
As in his earlier novels, Ferris is both laugh-out-loud funny and even profound, often on the same page. Paul’s self-absorption can be wearying at times, but his journey to self-awareness is designed to be both amusing and thought provoking, allowing readers to take their own existential ride.