At the beginning of Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

I think I now understand why I’m having problems as I begin this book. It’s first person plural. Here I’ve been waiting to meet the narrator – for the “I” to step out from behind the “we” – and now, reading the NYT review, I realize this isn’t going to happen, that it’s written in first person plural.

That helps a lot. It also helps to find out something is going to happen on page 70 that give it some structure, because right now, after one chapter (plus a prologue of sorts) I feel like it’s spiral in structure. I remember someone in Linguistics claiming languages have geometric structures, that Hebrew is parallel lines (two phrases that say the same thing), Japanese is an inward spiral, going around and around a point without ever touching it, but getting closer to it, and that’s how this strikes me. The third or fourth time I ran across Tom – he was fired but keeps coming back in anecdotes – I realized the narrative wasn’t linear. And while it’s something I have to get used to, I kind of like that, because in an office, people do keep coming back in anecdotes.

And on websites – I just ran into somone who died five years ago on another website last night. But he deserves a post of his own. When I’m ready. Because it’s sad.

I started reading this book because when I was reading Ferris’s “The Valetudinarian” I saw some comments on this, his debut novel. One person in particular described it as youthful and funny, and I thought, I could use some of that. And it is, of course. I am finding out that I like workplace novels. A lot of people might consider an office – any office, even an advertising office – to be boring, but I spent so much of my early career in them, it’s nice to find a familiar setting, a sort of Dilbert effect. First was Jessica Westhead’s “We Are All About Wendy Now” (Jessica’s website is where I revisited ghosts from the past – but again, he deserves his own post) which I found in the Indiana Review last summer. And now this little gem. I so appreciate writers that can recreate the atmosphere of an office while making it funny – to feel like we are laughing at it, rather than they are laughing at me.

One response to “At the beginning of Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

  1. Pingback: BASS 2010 – Final Thoughts, and what’s next: 2011 PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories « A Just Recompense

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