Few writers are capable of not repeating themes, motifs and scenarios in their novels. Joshua Ferris is one of them. His new novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (2014) is just as fresh and surprising as his other two, Then We Came to the End (2007) and The Unnamed (2010). The protagonist and narrator, Paul O’Rourke, and his feeling of inauthenticity pervade every word of the narrative. His successful dentist practice never helps him to be happy and find love and understanding in people around. Perhaps the book gets stuck on descriptions of the Ulms, Amalekites and Jews, taken from the non-existing “Cantaveticles” but it surely transmits the spirit of the 21st century: the virtual world, and how the virtual can become very real and authentic, even more real than the real real. It launches a clear critique of how the “me-machines” and the virtual space take over the human and the little humane we’ve got left.
Paul himself is a patchwork of different characters, the most obvious of which – that of the protagonist in High Fidelity, Rob Fleming. Losers have become fashionable in contemporary novels. Perhaps they make us feel a bit more successful and happy with the little we’ve got. Well, if it’s a lesson in how content I should be with my life, it surely works. Oh, and by the way, the dramatic device of stealing somebody’s identity on the internet – another thing that worked on my psychic and made me check my name on the web several times! Well done, Ferris!
Apart from that, I enjoyed the novel for its examination of religion and of the opposite of religion which proves to be only …”more religion” and nothing else. Identity is important, and happiness is somehow connected to it. Only one question, how come I’m happy with my identity even wthough it doesn’t make much sense?
Finally, trauma cannot fail to appear in post-(post-)modernist novels like the one here at hand. A rationalist reading of the novel would take on suicide as device that explains everything else.
Well, I should give the novel 5 stars cause it made me think, it made me as obsessed with stolen identity as Paul. I’ll give it 4 and a half stars * * * * 1/2* instead.