Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

joshua_ferris.jpgI’m reading Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris right now – thanks to my sister Siobhan and also to Elegant Variation, who put the book on my radar almost immediately. If you work in an office now, if you have ever worked in an office, you will wince and cringe and laugh out loud reading this book. Within the first two pages I wasn’t just chuckling, at the observations – I was guffawing, and had to put the book down to get myself together. It reminds me quite a bit of Catch-22(excerpt here), with its realistic and yet vaguely manic way of talking about something that is totally absurd. I have not finished it yet – so please do not spoil it … but so far, it’s one of my favorite new books I’ve read in the last year. And it’s a first novel, which I am usually prejudiced against. Any book that makes me laugh so loud on the subway that the person next to me starts to shift uncomfortably because they are seated next to a lunatic is a book that has won my heart. The most amazing thing about the book is that it is a plural narrator. “We”. At first I wondered, nervously, “Will he be able to sustain this? Will I miss a more conventional story?” Well, I’m 200 pages in and yes. He is able to sustain it. And no. I do not miss a more conventional narrator. Because if you’ve worked in an office, you know how it is all about the group … people say “We think” and “We feel” with total freedom, and when you really examine it – or stop to think about it – it is totally insane! Gossip runs the world. Without it, offices would not function. Without the group “we”, office politics would fall apart. So I’m really impressed with the “we” narrator, and now I barely think about it – I have totally accepted it. It’s not a gimmick, or a trick. It really expresses what office life is like. But there’s so much else that (so far) is wonderful about this book. I’ve mentioned the humor. The observations are so right on that I suddenly find myself thinking, ‘Why on earth did I not see that before?” But the book does not sacrifice heart, the abyss that is at the center of so many people’s lives. It’s not condescending either – as in: hahaha, let’s laugh at the poor drones who have to work in cubicles, haha. Oh God, no. Joshua Ferris KNOWS this world, and he has observed how it operates – and he just “gets” it. Office life. It’s making me laugh so hard I cry. Some excerpts later, perhaps, but for now – I just have to go on record that this is a fantastic book.

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3 Responses to Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

  1. miker says:

    Ah, life on the cube farm! Fortunately I’m exempt from many of the worst drone-like aspects – but definitely NOT all of them. Sounds like fun – I’ll try to check it out…

  2. I read this (and reviewed it) too, and I felt the same way! I thought the portrayal of office life was dead on, and had me laughing, too–and then when it got into the boss’s personal life, it was touching. And somehow he made the “we” thing work!

  3. red says:

    Joseph Heller’s Something Happened is another great office-life novel – which Then We Came To The End references quite a bit.

    Finished it yesterday. Great book.

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