Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris

You may have heard of this because everyone got really excited about it and wrote about it on their book blogs a while ago, but I didn’t read it until now because that’s when it got in at the library.  It’s about an ad agency at the end of that dot-com bubble thing that happened when I was young and foolish and paying no attention to anything except, you know, learning geometry proofs and swearing to one and all that I would never give myself to anyone but Carl Anderson (my first love).  Isn’t he sexy? (Even though the picture’s very tiny?)  …Don’t feel bad if you think he’s not, because hardly anyone but me and Indie Sister think that he is, but oh how we loved him.

Anyway, this book was cool and interesting and funny.  And it rings true, the way people think in an office.  Worrying about racism and sexism and being jerks, and the way some people just have these crazy-ass ideas that you have to step around if you can, and how everyone thinks they know stuff about everyone else.  I liked it that he went for more than the funny, because he was doing well with being funny and it would have been easy to stick with that black humor thing all the way through – which he did, in a way, but then also there were.  You know.  Levels.

However, it was still a little gimmicky.  I mean, as gimmicks go, this works well, this first-person plural thing.  I totally get what he was after, making a statement about offices, hive-mind, corporate America, na na na na na na, and it’s cool and I dig it.  And I know you can’t separate the narrative style from the book without gutting it completely, but I just sort of wondered how effective and interesting his writing would be without it.  Again, definitely a very cool idea, but he’s skirting the edge of being Don DeLillo Lite, and I just wonder whether he’s only avoided it by being Gimmick Guy.  I’ll be interested to see what he writes next.

…I’m sure he’ll write another book that will be just as cool and have no gimmick and prove me completely wrong.  That would be nice.  I may be being unfairly harsh to Mr. Ferris because I read an interview with him it turns out he likes all these authors I assiduously avoid but still end up reading bits of: Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Chekhov, Kafka.  Those dudes.  Nabokov is the only author that Mr. Ferris likes that I like too, and that means nothing because all kinds of people like Nabokov.  I bet he likes Philip Roth and Anthony Burgess and Kurt Vonnegut too.  Oo, and like Cormac McCarthy and Tim O’Brien and John Kennedy O’Toole.

Added later: Dude, this is freaky.  I went looking for interviews with Joshua Ferris, and seriously, the man likes ALL of those writers.  There were two he didn’t mention, Anthony Burgess and John Kennedy O’Toole, but I bet he just forgot about them.  I’m about to write him a letter and ask him if he likes Anthony Burgess and John Kennedy O’Toole.  I bet he does.  I bet he does like them.