Man Booker 2014 longlisted novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by American author Joshua Ferris, curiously has three symbols encased in squares on the book jacket. The three are a tooth, a baseball and the Star of David. After a few pages into the book, it becomes clear to the reader the significance of the first two symbols in the context of the story, yet it takes quite a long time to finally figure out the symbolism of the Jewish star.
The main character and narrator of the novel is Dr. Paul O’Rourke, a dentist in Manhattan with a successful practice. A Maine native, O’Rourke’s main recreational activity is watching tapes of Boston Red Sox games. His enthusiasm for the Red Sox is such, that we truly understand why fan is the truncated version of fanatic.
When an unapproved website of his practice is posted on the Internet, Dr O’Rourke finds some disturbing content in his biography. Trying to get to the bottom of it, he immediately responds with an angry email to the web address of the site’s creator seeking an explanation. More mysterious and troubling emails are received, and it is the dentist’s obsessive quest to understand the meaning of the content and to discover the true identity of the sender that drives the book’s plot.
I found the book quite engaging, and clearly Ferris is a gifted author. Comparisons to a younger Philip Roth, especially when Ferris is describing O’Rourke’s interactions with his office manager and Jewish ex- girlfriend Connie’s family, cannot help be noted.
It’s funny how reading can subliminally affect your behavior. During the week or so of reading this book which was about a dentist and dentistry, I noticed that I found myself flossing twice a day instead of once, and brushing three times a day rather that two.