Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Save Ferris

From the comments, moonlight ambulette intones...

listen, this has nothing to do with your post, really, but i've been thinking that you should read Then We Came to the End because it is about people in offices and you work in an office and so do i and i think this book is really really funny and maybe you will too? also...do you still live in new york?

..And my response to that was getting too long, so here it is here:

[spoilers?]

I do still live in New York for something like two more weeks, and when I move, that book will be boxed among my other items because verily: I totally read that book and I liked it a lot.

In particular:

I LIKED:
  • How funny it was;
  • The first-person-plural voice;
  • The guy who quotes Emerson;
  • The Catch-22ishness (though it wasn't slavishly Catch-22esque, which you might initially think);
  • The very last line, which maybe could be considered gimmicky, but worked for me and which I read with what I guess I would call a satisfyingly pleasant shock (that almost never happens to me in a novel -- the last time it came close was Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity, where the last line suddenly made me remember the first line of the book (conveniently printed on the cover) and I went back to the first line to make sure I understood the implication of the last line, and I had, and wow, that got me, but then the rest of the book wasn't so consistently great, and so I'm not going to count that one);
  • The fun promotional website, which I wisely did not look at until after I read the book, not that it gives anything away, but because we all know what happens when you look at a debut novelist's fun promotional website and then read her stupid, sucky book. (A clever thing about the website is that only the characters that would have myspace pages do have myspace pages.)
HOWEVER, I LIKED LESS SO, MAYBE, ALTHOUGH THESE WEREN'T THAT BIG A DEAL, I JUST CAN'T ENJOY ANYTHING WITHOUT QUALIFICATION ANYMORE, THE FACT THAT:
  • It seems utterly implausible to me that a large percentage of a group of people in a cubefarm would (a) know and (b) embrace a Tom Waits song;
  • The "end" the title references, which I take to mean "the end of August and first few weeks of September" thing toward the close of the book, which I read with unpleasant shock (it seemed like a calculatedly throwaway line, and I'm not ready for that to be a throw away line yet; maybe you have a different opinion -- I felt the same way about DFW's "The Suffering Chanel", and I pretty much love DFW);
  • I kind of lost track of some of the characters, although I'm happy to blame myself for this
  • The resolution to the central maguffin conceit ("Design a funny cancer awareness campaign") wasn't that great, but maybe the point was it couldn't be; but I was looking for it to be like The Cheese Monkeys, where the students get a design challenge and you get a chance to figure out what you would do and then you find out what the students did and you're all like, "Chip Kidd, you madman!"
IN CONCLUSION HERE ARE TWO ANECDOTES
  • The book is set in and spends a lot of time dealing with the great city of Chicago and specifically an ad agency in Chicago, and a week or so ago I spent a whole day in Austin with someone who works in an ad agency in Chicago (!) (we were both there for a wedding), and I asked if he had read this book which I had assumed everyone in the world knew about, and if it had taken the Chicago ad agency community by storm and whatnot, and he said he had never heard of it.
  • From reading the book, you would think "this remarkable debut novelist must live in Chicago!" and when you finish the book and read the author description it says something like, "Ferris currently lives in Brooklyn" and I think that's probably the darkest joke in the whole book.

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