OK – It’s not for lack of reading that the reviews have been scarce, it is lack of blogging time. So, Sorry! I’m back.
I first heard of this author from the New Yorker fiction podcast. I enjoyed a short story her wrote and decided to take a shot at his first novel.
According to the author blurb Ferris is a former adman who quit to complete an MFA and write this book. If I hadn’t read the blurb, I probably could have guessed that. Why? Because this book has a ‘clever device’ and was all about slaving away in an ad office.
The clever device was the use of ‘We’ for the narrator. The idea of ‘we’ as the company, the department, the group – it made for some interesting thought – for about five minutes. I will say that I felt this was well-executed in that it wasn’t TOO annoying. I also give Ferris some extra points for not including any characters named Joshua Ferris in the book.
So what was this book about? A struggling ad agency dealing with layoffs. A group of miserable employees trying to figure out which end is up. A how-to guide to the urban storage of totem poles. Lots of chickens running around with their heads cut off. Too many people trying to kill too much time looking busy. And so, sadly, it was as much fun to read as it sounds.
I will say this book was a bit of a disappointment. Mostly because I’m tired of catchy devices and prefer just good storytelling. Because I had pretty high expectations, this just didn’t really add up.
Maybe though, some of the problem was that the book was a bit too well written. By that I mean, the whole thing is about a cubicle hell. People sitting around for hours each day, with little work to do, just grating on each other. And hell they grated on me too.
My career in advertising lasted all of 3 days before I remembered how much I hate advertising. This book only reminded me of that.
As this book was a first novel, I will give Ferris a pass and check out some of his later work.