On the flight back from New Orleans today (which turned into a mini-ordeal, thanks to the East Coast weather mess), I finished reading Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris. It’s a galley proof we picked up at Book Expo a few weeks ago – a debut novel that’s not due to be published (by Little Brown) until March next year.*
It’s a wonderful, wonderful novel. Ferris has taken the most boring, predictable subject matter for a young novelist (hey, let’s write about working in an office!) and has turned it into something genuinely new. It’s funny, compelling, disturbing, moving, and has the neat trick of constantly refreshing itself just when it’s about to become predictable. The book’s USP (yes, it’s about advertising) is that it’s written in the first person plural. This really ought to scream “gimmick!” but it doesn’t, not once. Perhaps this will spawn endless debates about “who” the narrator/s is/are, but I was happy not knowing.
Here’s an extract from very near the end of the book.
The funny thing about work itself, it was so bearable. The dreariest task was perfectly bearable. It presented challenges to overcome, the distraction provided by a sense of urgency, and the satisfaction of a task’s completion – on any given day, those things made work utterly, even harmoniously bearable. What we bitched about, what we couldn’t let lie, what drove us to distraction and consumed us with blind fury, was this person or that who rankled and bugged and offended angels in heaven, who wore their clothes all wrong and foisted upon us their insufferable features, who deserved from a just god nothing but sorrow and scorn because they were insipid, unpoetic, mercilessly enduring, and lost to the grand gesture. And maybe so, yes, maybe so. But as we stood there, we had a hard time recalling the specific details, because everyone seemed so agreeable.
Somewhat bizarrely, there’s a promotional trailer for the novel on youtube already, and you can subject yourself to it here. This seems to me a deeply dubious way of marketing a novel, especially a novel that need never be turned into a film. Oh well, don’t let it put you off the book.
*If you want to borrow my copy, email me and I’ll send it to you, as long as you promise to send it back before long.