Friday, February 27, 2009

On "Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris *****

How this book didn't win the National Book Award (it was nominated), I'm not really sure. Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke must be mind-blowingly amazing, because Ferris's book is the kind of novel that made me, at points, want to say, Why even bother writing anymore books? Ferris's novel is that wonderful. It is the story of people working in an office, amid layoffs, that is pitch perfect. (Lucky for me, in the two times I've caught up in layoffs, the whole office was being let go. Here, rather, people are pushed away one at a time, like people being pulled out to be sent to the death chamber at random.) The book captures the gossip, the odd sense of family that is not family (and that, over time, after you leave, becomes less and less family), of commitment to the company and simultaneous resentment of the job. It does it with humor that will rival any television show on the subject, but with angst and feeling that puts it at the top of its novel form. And then, and then you get to the end. Most novels drag on too long or stumble around looking for somewhere to stop. Not Ferris. The ending here reads like the end of a brilliant short story and send shivers down one spine it's that good. I haven't been this excited about a novel in a long time, and the last one I can think of was actually a reread (granted, of a book I hadn't read in twenty years, so that it was almost like new--The Sun Also Rises--yes, Ferris's book is that good.

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