For our 24th book club we returned to regular literary fiction with the not so regular To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. They call it the Catch-22 of dentistry and we definitely did laugh a lot! Not everyone was a fan of the mystery subplot and the religious aspects, but we all did think it was a good novel. We’ll be recommending some similar novels for you. We also have some discussion questions at the end in case you’re reading it with your own book club.
The Unnamed is an earlier novel by Joshua Ferris. Published in 2010, the book follows a man who seems to have it all. He has a wife, a kid and a good job. He’s happy with his life, loves his family, enjoys his work and is in good health. But then for some reason he stands up and walks out of the kitchen and keeps walking.
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt was up against Joshua Ferris for the Man Booker Prize in 2014, but the books have more similarities than just that. Harriet Burden is an artist and after years of being ignored she decides to experiment. She pretends to be three different male artists, all showcasing her art, and sees her popularity rise. When she comes out, no one believes her. One of the men she ‘worked’ with then dies a mysterious death and it’s the reader’s job to find out where the truth lies.
Joshua Ferris is a big Don DeLilo fan and cites him as one of his influences together with Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth among others. One of the books Ferris wrote about is DeLilo’s White Noise, about Gladney, a teacher of Hitler studies in Middle America. Then a lethal black chemical cloud, unleashed by an industrial accident, floats over the world, an “airborne toxic event” that is a more urgent and visible version of the white noise engulfing the Gladneys—the radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, and TV murmurings that constitute the music of American magic and dread.
Possible Discussion Questions:
– Describe Paul’s relationship with women
– Why does Paul not believe in God?
– Would you describe the book as religious/anti-religious or something in between?
– Some reviewers call this book ‘too male’. What are your thoughts on that?