Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

April 12th, 2008 at 2:24 pm

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The much-acclaimed Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris is a story about stories. Which should be enough to keep English Professors masturbating to its meta/post-modern/post-colonial pages for quite some time to come.

But it’s also set in the contemporary workplace of an advertising agency. So with all of its witty talk of coveting office furniture, stealing office supplies, gossip, layoffs, pranks, and meetings, it’s a story most of us can all identify with, and, most importantly, laugh along with.

Plus Then We Came To The End is written in the First Person Plural.

Whaaaaa???

First Person Plural!

“Who writes in First Person Plural?” you ask.

“I know. Like, seriously,” I answer. “Joshua Ferris does.”

The novel opens thusly:

“We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled. We loved free bagels in the morning. They happened all too infrequently.”

Then We Came To The End is written in dense prose that is as cramped as the cubicle-confined characters it portrays. Dialogue of gossip, chit-chat, small talk, and office pleasantries is often nestled into the paragraphs and denied the spacious importance of its own line that it is so often afforded in most novels:

“Okay, I never go to McDonald’s,” said Karen. “I haven’t been to a McDonald’s probably since college. I wake up this morning, I have the biggest jones for a Filet-O-Fish.” “That’s weird,” said Jim. “Isn’t it?” said Karen. “So random. It’s seven in the morning, and I have the biggest jones. So, okay, I have to wait till lunch. I make it to eleven-thirty. But it’s still only eleven-thirty! I can’t go over to McDonald’s at eleven-thirty and order a Filet-O-Fish. That’s gross.” “Is it really called Filet-O-Fish?” asked Jim.

But beyond a cunningly captured illumination of the minor thrills and sweeping defeats of our modern working existence, Then We Came To The End is also a story about stories because it is a story of dark humor told via stories (office gossip, chit-chat, small talk). And since the narrator speaks in the First Person Plural, and therefore identifies themselves as one of the characters, they consequently lack just as much authority. So the book becomes a story of stories. Which makes for something fun and delightful that those English Professors and us Good Novel Appreciators can get our rocks off to.

So read Then We Came To The End. It’s hot.

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