Well, after an absence that was longer than I wished, I’m writing this post with a fish bone stuck partway down my throat (I’m no longer trusting the ocean perch from Costco.) NOT comfortable. Which reminds me of the narrator of the Joshua Ferris novel I’m reading: “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour,” which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2014.
This narrator, a Manhattan dentist, is uncomfortable with the condition known as life. He’s smart enough to be, unfortunately for his sake, hyperconscious of his discomfort, slingshotting from hobby to girlfriend, wondering if eventually something will scratch his eternal itch and be the thing/person/activity that makes him feel that living is worthwhile.
Life in his office on the Upper East Side is a dramatic piece of theatre: his dialogue with his religious, ascetic dental hygienist; his obsessive observations of his office manager and ex-love. Ferris is adept at showing us characters by way of dialogue and interior thinking.
As much as I can read books with unlikeable narrators–thinking of Martin Amis’s “John Self” in “Money” here–for some reason I’ve stopped reading “To Rise Again..” Our dentist in Ferris’s book isn’t depressed. Rather, he simply doesn’t get the point of living because he hasn’t figured out how the–if you will–“emo” part works. The world he inhabits is pretty bleak, though Ferris’s telling makes it hilarious in parts. Amis’s John Self is limitless in his search for pleasure, in a very 1980s way (drugs before rehab became a thing; unbridled lechery). Mr. Dentist simply can’t find it anywhere.
Ferris’s style and dialogue are great (and I do like how Mr. Dentist refers to his smartphone as a “me-machine”).
I’ll put it aside for now and maybe, when I’m feeling ornery and less content (“Throw away the sunlamp!” “Stop going to the gym, dammit!”), I’ll give it another try and see where it goes. Because I can’t see Mr. Dentist taking me anywhere I want to go right now.
Oh, and the fish bone? Either it’s still there or I’ve abraded the bejesus out of my throat with home remedies. Could be worse.