Tag Archives: Man Booker Prize

A trip to the dentist always sucks – especially in Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

To Rise Again at a Decent HourOctober 6, 2014

I am deathly afraid of two things: heights and THE DENTIST. While my fear of heights seems to lessen a little bit each year (though you will never see me jumping out of a plane – even at 80) every visit to the dentist amplifies my fear. From the moment I step into the office, my palms start sweating and I have a strong desire to hum just to keep myself from crying. So, when Joshua Ferris’ protagonist in To Rise Again at a Decent Hour turned out to be a miserable shit of a dentist, I felt justified in vilifying THE DENTIST, and longed for his tragic end.

Paul C. O’Rourke is a miserable, cynical, self-absorbed, private-practice DDS. Think of the character Ricky Gervais played in the movie Ghost Town and you’ll get a tip-of-the-iceberg view of what I’m talking about. I wanted him (Paul C. O’Rourke not Ricky Gervais) to get CRUSHED in the worst possible way from the first page! My feelings only intensified when I reached page 30 while simultaneously finding out I needed a filling in real life.

So, when O’Rourke has his identity stolen online early on in the book, it is completely satisfying. There is so much potential and no end to what could happen. Unfortunately, what happens is terrible. Worse than terrible for the reader. The identity thief turns out to be responsible for O’Rourke’s spiritual awakening, or perhaps his ‘anti-spiritual’ awakening. Next thing you know, Paul C. O’Rourke is spiraling out of control, obsessing over love and religion, and trying to make his way into the hearts of others through their belief-systems.

And that was when I tuned out.

Yes, I finished To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, but my heart wasn’t in it. I kept wondering what Ferris was trying to accomplish: to show how easy it is to start a cult? To show how Wikipedia can turn a pseudo-fact into a legitimate belief in a matter of weeks? Or simply to show that we all still need a spiritual life (real or fake) in the modern age? I’m sure his intention is somewhere hidden in those questions but it escaped me. And eventually, I didn’t care.

By the end of the novel, I was bored of Paul C. O’Rourke and didn’t care if he found salvation, nirvana or the psych. ward. I was very disappointed To Rise Again at a Decent Hour even made it to the Man Booker long list, let alone the short list. I will be even more disappointed if it wins the prize next week. But at least I can claim one small personal victory: my fear of the dentist is less than my fear of having to reread this book. Ever.



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Reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
I am currently making my way through the 2014 Man Booker Prize shortlist and WHOA! is it ever different than any other year’s shortlist. Last year’s choices were highly ‘literary’: decidedly tough reads (Testament of MaryThe Luminaries), often long reads (The Luminaries), and not for the faint of heart. This year’s books are (so far) surprisingly ‘lighter’ reads. Not to say they don’t cover deep and meaningful content; they just seem easier to get through. NoViolet Bulawayo’s (pen name of Elizabeth Zandile Tshele) We Need New Names traces a character’s maturation from war-torn Zimbabwe to her later life in Michigan and veers towards some very serious and disturbing events (and thankfully veers away before the metaphorical crashes). Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves recounts the story of a dysfunctional family unlike any I’ve ever met before. Both were enjoyable to read (unlike the struggle I’m currently facing with Joshua Ferris’ book To Rise Again at a Decent Hour).

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves took me completely by surprise plot-wise, so this is the note I wrote after reading:


I am so thankful I read this before anyone told me about it, or before I read any spoilers. I’m not sure I would have picked it up had I known. However, I’m glad I did. I am usually the reader that pieces the mystery together as the story progresses, but this time, I was completely caught off-guard on the Fern reveal. Did I miss something along the way? Did YOU know? (Maybe I should have looked more closely at the cover! – Seriously, take a look at the cover and tell me what the book is about, because clearly I am the least observant person on the planet)

I enjoyed the plot and the characters and the mystery/detective genre for the content. I also loved all the research that went into it. That last few chapters were way too rushed for me; they unraveled too quickly. Otherwise, I enjoyed it. You?

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A post in which the epistolarian writes a letter and inserts it into the book jacket of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. The book is then promptly returned to the school library where the epistolarian works.

If you can make to Part 2 of The Luminaries you won't regret it.

If you can make to Part 2 of The Luminaries you won’t regret it.


If you’ve found this letter in the library copy of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton then you will be pleased to know that I already know a few things about you! Ready?

1. Chances are that we’ve had class together. After all , it is a small school! I hope that if you figure out who I am that you will keep my book jacket letters a secret.

2.You read literature. For you, it is probably a more rigid term but I use the term loosely; my definition of literature has broadened so much over the last few years. Still, most agree that literature wins the Man Booker Prize, whereas light reading rarely does. So, if you are reading this, you are reading literature.

2. You don’t back away from a challenge. That will be very clear to anyone who has ever seen the hardcover of The Luminaries. At 830 pages, it weighs in at around 5 pounds. That is a serious reading commitment. If you get tired of reading you can work your triceps. Just carrying it around in that already-bursting backpack will put a permanent dent in your shoulder. And yes, that’s another observation: if you are reading this book then you must have an already-bursting backpack.

3. This should probably follow from Number 1. You are probably a book snob. Nothing wrong with that. I am too. But open your eyes to other genres. Some of the most surprising treasures lurk beyond the classics.

4. You might not make it to the bookmark (I inserted it at page 360 and the end of Part 1). Try to make it to the bookmark. If you make it to the bookmark you’ve made it through the hardest part of this journey. The rest of the book is an easy and amazing reading. On my first attempt I only made it in 100 pages. On my second attempt I made it through but the first book was painful. I couldn’t keep any of the male characters straight as they told their stories. Each one became the same man, the same voice – save for Te Rau and Gascoigne. I kept having to double-back and confirm who was speaking. I imagined it was like asking 13 different murder witnesses to explain their view of the events. But the riches that come after Part 1? Definitely worth the read. So, stick it out. Becuase if you are the reader I think you are, you will love it.



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