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To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

To Rise Again At A Decent Hour coverThis sad and funny masterpiece is about Paul O’Rourke, a hard-working and successful Park Avenue dentist who doesn’t know where he belongs. While working five chairs at once in his insanely busy dental practice he’s also permanently on a look out for that elusive something that could be everything. He’s tried the obvious: a commitment to healthy patients, playing the banjo, streaming movies directly to TV, the Red Sox, golf. Golf had looked promising:

For two months one summer, I thought golf could be everything. For the rest of my life, I thought, I’ll put all my energy into golf, all my spare time, all my passion, and that’s what I did. I don’t think I’ve ever been so depressed.

He knows golf is not the answer when the last ball he ever putts gives him the impression, as it circles the hole, of “my small life draining into the abyss.” (So, no to golf). The Bible was a strong candidate for something that could be everything but Paul had a problem there too:

I never made it past all the talk about the firmament. The firmament is the thing, on Day 1 or 2, that divides the waters from the waters. Here you have the firmament. Next to the firmament, the waters. Stay with the waters long enough, presumably you hit another stretch of the firmament. I can’t say for sure: at the first mention of the firmament I start bleeding tears of terminal boredom. I grow restless. I flick ahead. It appears to go like this: firmament, superlong middle part, Jesus.

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Bark by Lorrie Moore

Bark coverI’m trepidatious about writing about Bark, Lorrie Moore’s new book of short stories. If you haven’t read any Lorrie Moore then there’s the whole burden of putting across how damn good she is so people don’t miss out. If you have read her then you might have your own angle on her stories and (with her brilliant repartee ringing in your ears) you’ll find this post dull, a poor representation of Moore’s wit. I’ll aim for the newbies. If you’re already a Moore reader, please write in because there can’t be too much talk about her work.

There are eight stories in Bark. I didn’t love them all equally but I did love them all.

Moore’s characters are often bemused, self-deprecating, on the edges of the action and struggling to pass as normal in a weird world. They are always funny as hell. Moore does funny deeper, darker, smarter than anyone I’ve ever read. Continue reading

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