So I came to the end, and it sucked

So I finished Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End. I was right it sucked from beginning to end. In fact the sucking got even worse at the end because it became sucking that thought it was clever which is the worst kind of sucking there is.

Sucks.

I’m still puzzled by why this book made so many best of lists. All those raves mention hilarious or acidly funny, that humor was lost on me. Maybe those people should go read the roughly six thousand times funnier and better An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, because it is clear they don’t know funny. Maybe people who have never worked in a cube farm would find the bullshit, typical office shenanigans funny, but anyone who has done time there will find the book utterly boring.

“So what?” I asked myself that question just about every other page. Maybe it’s because I actually work in the “biz” that as a reader I found the whole thing so dull and flat. If I wanted to read about ad pitches, presentations, changed creative direction, and office politics, I could just read my fucking e-mail. Christ. The more I write about it, the more annoyed I get.

I also had a tough time with the first person plural point of view. It was a bold choice for Ferris to make and I applaud his bravery, but for me it just didn’t work. I read fiction because it allows me to get close to a character, a situation, by seeing and feeling what they are feeling and seeing. When you’re telling a story through a group of people you just get watered down emotion and cliche, because that’s how groups think.

Now that I think about it, using the first person plural could be seen as a total cop out. By using the we voice, Ferris didn’t have to imbue his characters with any real depth or emotion. Since it’s told from the a group point of view, every character becomes a stereotype of themselves, a flat, one-dimensional caricature of their most memorable yet annoying habits and tics. Again, because that’s how groups remember and view people. Boo. Who wants to read that bullshit? Not me.

Then We Came to the End will not be making my year-end best of list. Oh yes there will be a best of list, but not until the actual end of the year because I am hoping to squeeze in a few more books before 2008 descends upon us.

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12 Comments

  1. Peabo 21.Dec.07 at 3:00 pm

    Ahh, first person plural. I haven’t read Then We Came to the End (and won’t…thank you!) but do recall that Joyce Carol Oates’ story ‘Heat’ does first person plural in the manner in which it was intended–brilliant and totally necessary.

    Reply
  2. bakiwop 21.Dec.07 at 3:45 pm

    i tried An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England on your encouragement but didn’t like it very much. I found the main character unlikable, think I missed something in the book?

    Reply
  3. david 21.Dec.07 at 5:19 pm

    I was surprised at how well the Ferris book was received, too, and amazed at how few year-end lists Brock Clarke’s novel made.

    Reply
  4. david 21.Dec.07 at 5:24 pm

    Speaking of recommendations… I picked up The Gum Thief after you raved about the first several pages, Jodi. Usually, I agree with you, but that book was painful to finish (I would have left it half-unread if it hadn;t been a “52 Books, 52 Weks” book for me). Easily the biggest literary disappointment of the year for me.

    Reply
  5. Jodi 21.Dec.07 at 6:12 pm

    David, you must have missed the part where I too was left disappointed by The Gum Thief.

    And Bakiwop I think you did miss something in the book. Did you finish it or did you give up? What didn’t you like about Sam Pulsifer?

    Reply
  6. bakiwop 21.Dec.07 at 6:26 pm

    it has been a few months since i read the book so i can’t get into specifics anymore – it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me. honestly, the problem may have been me – i think i was expecting more of a hollywood ending type deal where all the loose ends tie up neatly. i am a fan of terry pratchett and that type of writing so perhaps it simply wasn’t my cup of tea?

    one issue i seem to remember (and what i brought up in my previous comment) was the lack of redeeming qualities in sam. he never tried at much of anything but seemed so sad at how his life turned out and if he had just made an effort maybe things would have been better.

    hmmm, maybe with all of my free time now i should read the book again so i can see how absolutely positively wrong i was about it the first time around or come up with some decent reasons for not enjoying it.

    Reply
  7. Jodi 21.Dec.07 at 6:29 pm

    Throughout the book Sam describes himself as a bumbler and he kind of proves that through his actions, how he bumbles through his life. He takes a grand and strident action at the very end of the book which is, to me, what makes it so moving (I’m being intentionally vague as to not give away the ending).

    Didn’t you find the sarcasm on memoir and bookclubs and the publishing industry absolutely hilarious?

    Reply
  8. bakiwop 21.Dec.07 at 7:28 pm

    maybe that’s it. i don’t read memoirs, have not been in a book club and do not know anything about the publishing industry, so all that juicy sarcasm was wasted on me because of my ignorance.

    Reply
  9. Jodi 21.Dec.07 at 7:52 pm

    I call bullshit! You don’t have to be an active member in any of these things to have a general knowledge of them and how they act.

    It’s okay if you didn’t like the book. I think the US Constitution protects your right to be completely wrong.

    Reply
  10. bakiwop 21.Dec.07 at 8:40 pm

    thank goodness for the constitution and god bless america!

    Reply
  11. Amanda 22.Dec.07 at 10:10 am

    I stand by my loved of Joshua Ferris–I have indeed worked in a cube farm although not in advertising and still loved it. I’m sorry you didn’t, but, as you said, “I think the US Constitution protects your right to be completely wrong.”

    Reply
  12. Jodi 22.Dec.07 at 9:28 pm

    You should stand by your love of Joshua Ferris! That’s why I like you (and Polly too) so much, you don’t back down. There is much more in life I love to do besides argue about books, especially with intelligent people.

    However, I do have to point out that I think in the case the constitution is totally protecting you.

    Reply

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