To Rise Again at a Decent Hour: A Novel

Joshua Fer­ris
  • Review
By – December 22, 2014

The exis­ten­tial cri­sis for Paul O’Rourke, Joshua Ferris’s forty-some­thing nar­ra­tor, begins when he dis­cov­ers that hack­ers have cre­at­ed a web­site for his suc­cess­ful Man­hat­tan den­tal prac­tice. Unable to locate who is behind this web crime, Paul — an athe­ist and techno­phobe — soon learns that he has been unwit­ting­ly added to var­i­ous social media net­works and that his coun­ter­feit online per­son­ae zeal­ous­ly pro­mote the val­ues of an ancient reli­gious sect. Add this to Paul’s already high lev­el of dis­place­ment and alien­ation — he’s a Red Sox fan liv­ing in New York — and we find Paul entrenched in a com­ic soul-search­ing for his true iden­ti­ty — spir­i­tu­al, dig­i­tal, and familial.

This ambi­tious and enchant­i­ng nov­el, short­list­ed for the Man Book­er Prize in 2014, also fol­lows the nar­ra­tor in his emo­tion­al attach­ment to ex-girl­friend Con­nie, who hap­pens to be his recep­tion­ist. Fer­ris cap­tures the world of den­tistry with charm and sub­tle wit, with breath­tak­ing­ly acer­bic and rich pas­sages about prac­tic­ing med­i­cine and deal­ing with office pol­i­tics. Inven­tive­ly told and alter­nat­ing between inves­ti­ga­tions of web crimes, dis­cus­sions of ancient reli­gion, shin­ing moments of ten­der intro­spec­tion, and cyn­i­cal break­downs of con­tem­po­rary life, Ferris’s writ­ing soars here. He achieves what most nov­el­ists aspire to achieve: ful­ly cap­tur­ing the feel­ing of every­day life with sen­si­tiv­i­ty, philo­soph­i­cal depth, and humor.

Paul him­self is a won­der­ful­ly odd char­ac­ter, scru­ti­niz­ing the world around him with as much inten­si­ty as a Tal­mu­dic schol­ar. Among his most mem­o­rable tar­gets are: the sat­is­fy­ing feel­ing of shop­ping malls, flir­ta­tious emoti­cons, the use of hand lotion, base­ball fan­dom, and the nature of authen­tic expe­ri­ence. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour even takes on a vocab­u­lary of its own, with smart phones as me-machines” and the fic­tion­al tabloid cou­ple Harp­er and Bryn” (whom Paul fol­lows by read­ing the mag­a­zines in his office wait­ing room) stand­ing in for Paul’s search for belong­ing. In one hilar­i­ous scene, Paul looks to Harp­er and Brynn as role mod­els as he attempts to rec­on­cile with Con­nie. Rem­i­nis­cent of Chabon and Auster, Fer­ris excels in this part-detec­tive nov­el, part-zeit­geist cap­ture, and utter­ly mem­o­rable story.

Relat­ed content:

Phil Sandick is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son. He has taught cours­es in lit­er­a­ture, com­po­si­tion, and cre­ative writ­ing since 2006. Phil is cur­rent­ly study­ing rhetoric and com­po­si­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na-Chapel Hill.

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