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Ferris: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour


Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

(One of the first two American novels short-listed for the Mann Booker Prize previously awarded only to works by British Commonwealth authors).


The story of Dr. Paul C. O’Rourke, an intense, hard-working Park Avenue dentist going off the rails fascinates me. Paul is paradoxical, driven, yet adrift, unlikeable, even callous, yet dedicated to patients and the highest standards of care, obsessed with the Boston Red Sox, yet unfilled by his fanaticism. Like his office staff, readers come to believe he is absurd, his life out of control and devolving into a needless struggle. Yet in me, at least, he stirs empathy.


Lost, lonely, atheistic, he searches for the family, one defined by its religious beliefs and traditions that will fulfill an existential need to belong, to bond, and feel whole. But Paul is unwilling—unable—to believe. Empathy is born in belonging, and depends on sharing. Absurdity flourishes in trying to belong without believing. What is redemption? What will it take to rise again at any hour?

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