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Then We Came to the End

March 13, 2011

The popularity of the office as a setting for human drama and Swiftian absurdity in contemporary TV and film says something about this particular juncture in time we find ourselves living through. The book version of The Office and Office Space, Then We Came to the End is a remarkable first novel by rookie author Joshua Ferris. Ferris has an keen ear for dialog and paints scenarios that are simultaneously more gonzo and yet capture the real essence of the office life more faithfully than its celluloid predecessors. In this he excels. Where he comes up short, in my opinion, is in his decision to switch gears midway through the book to a firsthand depiction of an ad exec’s inner turmoil over a serious personal issue. While he nails the tenor of low level employee life with aplomb, it seemed like he lacks the knowledge and chops to depict the inner life of a professional middle-aged woman in crisis.  The pages suddenly ceased to turn and I found myself skimming ahead. Fortunately this passage only drags down a few chapters or so, and then we return to the pungent, poignant black humor tinged with sadness that he does so well. Also noteworthy is his use of the first person plural (we) for telling most of the story, which could seem gimmicky in the wrong hands. Ferris uses it deftly and effectively, almost hypnotically as a kind of mantra. In this era of “collective wisdom” and “social connectivity”, it resonates.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011 9:39 am

    I really liked this novel as well, perhaps more than you. However, I read it a couple of years ago, but I thought you might enjoy reading my review:

    Incidentally, his latest novel “The Unnamed” has been getting good press as well. I think I’ll eventually get to it-but I’ve got a lot on my list as usual.

    • pjwson permalink*
      March 13, 2011 9:27 pm

      I actually recall reading your review, albeit a while ago. Will check it out again.

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