To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Ferris)

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour 
Joshua Ferris, 2014
Little, Brown & Co.
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780316033992

A big, brilliant, profoundly observed novel about the mysteries of modern life by National Book Award Finalist Joshua Ferris, one of the most exciting voices of his generation...

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Florida and Illinois, USA
Education—B.A., University of Iowa; M.F.A., University of
   California, Irvine
Awards— PEN/Hemingway Award
Currently—lives in New York, New York

Joshua Ferris is an American author best known for his debut 2007 novel Then We Came to the End. Ferris graduated from the University of Iowa in English and Philosophy in 1996. He then moved to Chicago and worked in advertising for several years before obtaining an MFA in writing from UC Irvine.

His debut novel Then We Came to the End is a comedy about the American workplace. It takes place in a fictitious Chicago ad agency experiencing a downturn at the end of the '90s Internet boom. The novel was greeted by positive reviews from the New York Times Book Review, New Yorker, Esquire, and Slate. It received the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

An August, 2008, issue of The New Yorker published his short story "The Dinner Party," which earned him a nomination for a Shirley Jackson Award. Other short fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Best New American Voices 2007 and New Stories from the South 2007. Ferris's nonfiction has appeared in the anthologies State by State and Heavy Rotation. The New Yorker included him in its 2010 "20 Under 40" list.

His next novel The Unnamed was published in 2010. Fiametta Rocco, Editor of Books and Arts at The Economist, called it "the best new novel I have read in the past ten years." His third novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour came out in 2014.

Joshua Ferris lives in New York (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 5/8/2014.)

Book Reviews
Ferris depicts Paul’s difficulties: in the workplace, he struggles to say good morning, has problems with the office manager.... [He's] an appealing—albeit self-involved—everyman, but Ferris’s effort to take on big topics...feels more like a set of thought experiments than an organic or character-driven story.
Publishers Weekly

As in his earlier novels, Ferris is both laugh-out-loud funny and even profound, often on the same page. [Paul O'Rourke's] journey to self-awareness is designed to be both amusing and thought provoking, allowing readers to take their own existential ride.

(Starred review.) Utterly compelling....Ferris brilliantly channels the suburban angst of Yates and Cheever for the new millenium.

(Starred review.) A bizarre case of identity theft forces a dentist to question his beliefs in this funny, thought-provoking return to form by Ferris.... Smart, sad, hilarious and eloquent, this shows a writer at the top of his game and surpassing the promise of his celebrated debut.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. In the book's opening paragraph, Paul O'Rouke tells us that...

The mouth is a weird place: "not quite inside and not quite outside...but something in between...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.

What kind of thematic concerns does this paragraph hint at for the book as a whole. Consider a later statement Paul makes that he is always "on the outside looking in."

2. How do the conditions of his patients' mouths affect, or perhaps simply correspond to, Paul's general view of humanity?

3. How would you describe Paul, his attitudes toward people and life, his relationship with women—in fact, his overall engagement in life? Betsy Convoy, his dental hygienist, accuses Paul of having a low opinion of humanity. Is that a fair assessment?

4. How has Paul's father's suicide affected his life as an adult?

5. What does baseball represent to Paul? Why is he such an avid Red Sox fan, and at the same time, why does he despair after the Sox finally win the World Series? SPOILER ALERT: Consider, too, the final pages of the book when Paul buys the Chicago Cubs cap...and agrees to play cricket with the Nepali kids in the street.

6. How would you describe Paul's relationships with women, primarily Samantha Santacroce and Connie Plotz. What does he want from them and from their families?

7. Paul tells us, "Everything is always something, but something—and here is the rub—could never be everything. What does he mean?

8. Why doesn't Paul believe in God? He tells us that he would have liked to: "Now there was something that could have been everything better than anything else." Why does he doubt?

9. What are the blog posts and Tweets in Paul's name about? How do they affect Paul? At first he is angry but becomes less and less so as the messages progress—why the change? Why do the posts offend Connie's Uncle Stuart? Are they antisemitic?

10. Who are the Ulms...and the Amalekites...and the Edomites? What is their relationship to the Hebrews in the Bible? The Ulms believe God has commanded them to doubt his existence. How is it possible to doubt the existence of God, who has revealed his existence to you?

11. What were Paul's reasons for not wanting to have children with Connie? SPOILER ALERT: He changes his mind toward the end of the book—why? What revelation does the pregnant patient elicit in Paul? Contrast his reaction to the expectant mother with his reaction to the marketing executive who just earlier had delayed treatment of his three cavities.

12. In what way is the billionaire hedge fund manager Pete Mercer a foil for Paul O'Rourke? How are they similar—and how are they different? SPOILER ALERT: Why does Mercer shoot himself after learning about Mirav Mendelsohn and Arthur Grant? How does Paul react o Mirav's story?

13. What is your reaction to the story of Arthur Grant and his desire to convert to Judaism? Consider how Paul O'Rouke's story parallels (to some degree) Grant's. What about Mirav—why after so many years has she returned to the fold?

14. Is this book religious...or anti-religious? Does Paul end up believing in God or not?

15. How has Paul changed by the end of the book? What do you predict for him?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2022