Patrick's Reviews > Then We Came to the End

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
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's review
Aug 29, 07

Recommended for: promising debut novelist addicts
Read in July, 2007

(1) How funny it was;
(2) The first-person-plural voice, which could have backfired but didn't for me;
(3) The guy who quotes Emerson (it was around here that I started to feel actual warmth for the characters, even when I couldn't keep them straight);
(4) The Catch-22ishness (though it wasn't slavishly Catch-22esque, which you might initially think);
(5) 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);
(6) 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.
(N.B. A clever thing about the website is that only the characters that would have myspace pages do have myspace pages.)

(1) 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;
(2) The "end" the title references, which (spoiler?) 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 -- I felt the same way about DFW's "The Suffering Chanel", and I pretty much love DFW and will grant him all kinds of leeway);
(3) I kind of lost track of some of the characters, which is part of the first-person-plural effect, although that's also a benefit of it and anyway I'm happy to blame myself for this
(4) The resolution to the central maguffin ("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!"

(1) 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 happened to spend pretty much a whole day in Austin with someone who works in an ad agency in Chicago (!), 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.
(2) 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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message 1: by Juliog (new)

Juliog "And then we came to the end" is a quote from Don De Lillo's Americana (its first line). In full, 'and then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year. cf. 'and then we came to the end of another bright and tranquil summer', it's an homage to Americana, which is set in an ad agency and starts off in a similar sort of way, before morphing into this weird road trip thing.

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