Sunday, September 30, 2007

Joshua Ferris/THEN WE CAME TO THE END

This novel is totally funny, but in a subtle kind of way. It's told in first person plural ("There were donuts? Benny's story would have to wait for those of us who wanted donuts.") Which seems weird but isn't, because it totally suits the story, which is about a bunch of people who work for an ad agency. Think about it--when you talk about work, you probably do a lot of "we did this," "we all hate her," etc. So it works.

The main idea of the novel is that this ad agency is dealing out the lay-offs like crazy, trying to save the company from going under. You get to sit in on the plans to create new ad campaigns and on the conversations between the different employees about what's going on in their lives.

I got pretty caught up in the little stories about each office worker. Why does that guy wear all those polo shirts at one time? Is the fired guy going to go postal? Does the boss have cancer and just won't admit it?

It's not easy keeping the characters straight, probably because of the strange POV. But I really didn't care about that at all. The stories they tell are quirky and engrossing, and their reactions (to people getting laid off or people bringing in bagels or whatever) are real and, therefore, endearing.

Plus, I love the ending. I came to the end and just sort of smiled and said, "Oh." It was great.

4 comments:

moonrat said...

i think the first person plural is great (if done well), and not gimmicky at all (again, as long as it's done well). Eugenides uses it THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, too. in that case, it really helps evoke a community reaction to an event without implicating or focusing on any one character. and i think it's absolutely true that most of us do tend to describe ourselves as we or us in a lot of contexts.

Cheryl said...

I'm surprised by how well it worked in this novel. I had a hard time with it at first, but after a few pages I was digging it.

moonrat said...

and now it's nominated for the NBA! looks like someone else liked it, too!

Lisa said...

You know, I'm slogging my way through this one and I'm usually a pretty generous reader -- I'm very patient and I like a lot of books most people don't. For some reason, this one just isn't grabbing me. Maybe it's a case of familiarity breeds contempt. I work for a start-up, I've spent most of my adult life in "cube city" and I completely relate to this culture. I'll keep going. I haven't not finished a book in a long time, but I'm having a tough time with this one.