Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

What was funny about breast cancer?

We didn’t have an answer, and it was making us nervous….One crap ad could make the difference between the person they kept on and the one they let go….But it wasn’t just our jobs at stake, was it? When we had trouble nailing an ad, our reputations were on the line. A good deal of our self-esteem was predicated on the belief that we were good marketers, that we understood what made the world tick–that in fact, we told the world how to tick….

What then, to make of an empty sketch pad or blank computer screen? …. Our souls were as screwy and in need of guidance as all the rest. What were we but sheep like them? We were them. We were all we–whereas for so long we had believed ourselves to be just a little bit above the others. –Then We Came to the End

I appreciated last year’s much-hyped first novel, Then We Came to the End, a great deal. Such hype could easily crush the tenuous first novel of most authors, but Ferris is tough. The book is funny, sad, wise and true. It manages the impressive feat of first person plural narration, which hardly ever bugs. Further, it drew this reader in, and reminded me fondly and painfully of my own time in advertising. I was actually a non-creative creative (see the book for explanation of this term), but I dwelled in a cubicle among the creatives after the dot-coms burst. I knew this world, and Ferris gets it dead on.

What struck me most, though, was how he pulled off a non-angry, non-small book about work. This is a compassionate book about working, but also about people. I truly miss the characters now that the covers are closed, and I still wonder–”Where’s Joe Pope?”

4 Responses to “Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris”

  1. Amy Says:

    I really liked this one too. I think it’s going to go head-to-head with the Junot Diaz in the Tournament of Books for the final.

  2. girldetective Says:

    I had thought that Tree of Smoke would beat it, but I’m not so surprised. I think it’ll easily trounce Remainder, which is zombie #1, though I’m interested to see if Savage Detectives can upset the apparent juggernaut of Oscar Wao.

  3. Amy Says:

    I went ahead and bet on Wao, even though I haven’t read it. Call it female intuition. :-)

  4. girldetective Says:

    I agree–I think Wao’s going to take it. And neither you nor I will have read your copy when it does, ha! But then, I thought Remainder would be defeated again, too, so who knows? The subjectivity of it makes it fun.