Title: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Author: Joshua Ferris
No. of Pages: 352
Genre: Literary Fiction
Origins: Hachette Book Group
Release Date: 13 May 2014
Bottom Line: A difficult book about relationships and belief systems that rewards as well as confuses
“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.”
Thoughts: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour shines a spotlight on the absurdity of our modern society, its total reliance on technology, and the rabid fan base of sports teams. The tongue-in-cheek observations are even sillier when presented in Paul’s devastatingly blunt honesty. His use of the term “me machine”, his disdain for it, and his frequent use of it is just one example of the lengths Mr. Ferris goes to point out the absurd hypocrisy of certain elements of society.
However, for all its humor, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is profoundly thought-provoking and surprisingly poignant. For, Paul O’Rourke is a man at odds with himself and in that way symbolizes much of the audience desperately seeking answers to questions of which one is not consciously aware. Paul’s obsession with religion, in spite of or because of his atheism, creates numerous uncomfortable discussions in which he attempts to determine if belonging to a group with deep roots is more important than the belief systems of those groups. More so, his rather pessimistic outlook on life directly contributes to his inability to be “just like everyone else”, but his childhood trauma stymies him from looking at the world in anything but a negative light. His desperation to accept and be accepted in return creates an air of sadness that permeates the entire story.
There is no doubt that Mr. Ferris can write exceedingly well. There is also no doubt that Mr. Ferris makes a reader work for every bit of nuance and understanding. For example, his dialogue is snappy and well-paced; however, he often presents his dialogue one-sided, forcing readers to fill in the gaps left by Paul’s missing half of the conversation. Similarly, readers must wade through Paul’s internalized rants and ramblings to discern the true origin of those rants and exactly what he is trying to resolve through such ramblings. As for the mystery of Paul’s identity theft and the thief behind it, it requires a leap of faith from readers to accept everything Mr. Ferris presents in that regards.
By its very subject matter, Mr. Ferris intends To Rise Again at a Decent Hour to challenge a reader’s belief system and personal viewpoint of the world at large. Readers may find themselves rather disgusted with the vein of certain religious discussions and turned off by Paul’s mental self-flagellation as well as his utter disdain for those who he says are important to him. Still, Mr. Ferris’ unique spin on the presentation of dialogue as well as the wrestling of one’s conscience in addition to his fantastic writing make this a novel worth attempting. To those readers willing and able to persevere through this convoluted and highly theological book, one will find a beautiful story about acceptance and love.