Can I just post the full lyrics to a Kanye song as my blog post about Joshua Ferris’s new novel To rise again at a decent hour?
What’s that you say?
Posting Kanye lyrics would be lazy and completely unrelated to the text?
The novel is about a New York City dentist who is awful at human relationships and at most things not related to dentistry. One day he discovers that his identity has been stolen and that someone has created a website, Facebook page, Twitter account and email in his name. His identity thief posts about an obscure religion and the dentist begins to question his (dis)beliefs. Unfortunately my thoughts on To rise again are pretty scattered, so you’re getting a list.
1) The Kanye song the novel most makes me think of is Jesus Walks
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don’t think
I ain’t here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus
2) On page 165 the narrator and protagonist Paul O’Rourke, a New York dentist, explains that his favourite book as a child was Doctor De Soto. Doctor De Soto is a real children’s book about a mouse dentist who out foxes a fox. There is a chance that the plot of To rise again is inspired by or loosely based on Doctor De Soto. Paul O’Rourke refers to the mouse dentist as being Hippocratically bound to provide dental care to a fox. It’s my favourite part of the book.
3) The novel is boring but compulsively readable. I finished it in twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours in which I did a lot of other activities! I was sort of bored but I really needed to know what happened.
4) Hemingway would hate it. Way too wordy. It rates one Hemingway out of a possible five.
5) Ferris is really funny. I read two types of reviews of the novel. The first type lauded the book and the humour in particular, calling it “not funny in a wry smirk way … actually funny.” The other kind called it deeply boring. I’ve already forgiven the boredom and a lot of that has to do with the humour that is so often lacking in novels, even those that call themselves comic.
6) You’ll come away from the novel with a renewed commitment to flossing your teeth everyday. I’m not sure how long it will last but for the first day at least, I promise you’ll floss.
7) To rise again doesn’t pretend that technology doesn’t exist. One of my biggest complaints about modern fiction (and cinema and television) is that storytellers often have no idea how to treat digital communication so they discount it altogether. A story set in the present-day in which characters don’t text or tweet or post on Facebook is unrealistic to contemporary readers and does a disservice to future readers. I’m always so excited when digital communication is handled artfully (for great examples check out the BBC series Sherlock or lots of YA lit including TFIOS). I wouldn’t say the approach Ferris takes is perfect but at least he makes social media a character in his story.
8) On the book jacket copy, Stephen King places it in the same ballpark as Catch-22. So there’s that.