Joshua Ferris Makes A Trip To the Dentist Fun Again!

I am very excited about finishing book #42 of the year because it made me cry and laugh out loud and feel things and think about it almost constantly when I wasn’t able to read it. I know I tend to exaggerate, but this one was really, really great. It was To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by He has a cool website.

It’s about so much more than “what it’s about” (pretend that makes sense), but on the surface it’s a book about a dentist in Manhattan who is contradictory and so endearing. He struggles relentlessly, mostly for self-acceptance, self-understanding, and the meaning of his life.

The main character is named Paul O’Rourke. He’s constantly in his own head, he’s stubborn, he doesn’t understand people and least of all understands himself, but somehow I felt in love with him in 337 pages. He started his own dentistry practice and struggles to find meaning in his life outside of his work and an obsessive compulsive fixation on the Red Sox.

Ferris is a great writer. He introduces small details about O’Rourke gradually, so the character doesn’t make complete sense until you’re able to gather all the (often dark-humor-tragic) details about him. He takes those around him for granted, and readily acknowledges that but makes no move to remedy it.

Sorry, I’m jumping all over. Clearly too excited about this book, but I hope my enthusiasm reaches you and you read it because it was great. So Paul O’Rourke is a dentist in Manhattan who adamantly refuses to get a website for his business. He prefers keeping a low-profile, but I also secretly I think he liked feeling different.

One day, a website for his dental practice shows up online, followed by a plethora of social media presence, all in his name. In his quest to uncover this Internet impostor, who is sharing anti-Semite and Atheistic sentiments under the dentist’s name, O’Rourke begins a kind of weird religious journey.

The premise is much better than I was just able to describe, it’s a complicated story that I can’t do justice. But the reader gets everything from Dr. O’Rourke’s perspective, and he is one of the funniest narrators I have ever encountered. I’ve already mentioned endearing, but also just generally relentless and oblivious.

The reasons he is the way that he is make the book so compelling and beautifully emotional, but it’s balanced so well with the humor. It’s very cliche to say, but this book has everything.

Some of my absolute favorite parts were O’Rourke’s quick summaries of this religion that he’s learning more about as he learns about himself. There are some great (possibly crass and borderline-offensive to some) New Testament passage summaries that had me laughing by myself in public like a crazy person, and what more can you ask of a book?

Quick summary: Everyone should read this book as soon as possible. ◊

Then, lo and behold, who should appear before him, ‘moving upon a cloud of blood,’ which was a little hard to visualize, but, you know, whatever, semantics–it’s God Himself, the First and the Last.”

– page 160

“A music of everyday magic ceased forever, at once.”

– page 239

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