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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is Paul O'Rourke Jewish?: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

I don't mean this in the literal sense but I believe that the narrator of Joshua Ferris's novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Dr. Paul C. O'Rourke, DDS, is Jewish: not that over the course of the novel he will have a big "reveal" and discover that he was separated at birth from his Jewish parents and raised as an Irish-Catholic, etc., but, rather, that he is a Jewish character - his entire attitude, literary heritage, intonations, set of status details, suggests a Jewish character in the Roth tradition in which Ferris is so obviously steeped - that I think Ferris went out of his way to call this character Irish-American Catholic (lapsed, avowed atheist), but it isn't quite working, the tide of the novel makes O'Rourke seem ever more Jewish: his affair, now ended, with office assistant Connie Plotz (and what about that name? a homonym there?) and his idealization of her parents and family life, just for starters, but now, as the plot such as it is slowly develops (80+ pp in), we see that the dissatisfied patient who is stalking O'Rourke by creating a fake website for his dental practice is the guy who said he was heading off to Israel and is now filling the fake website w/ OT blather about the Jewish tribes and their on-going battles with some other Mideastern tribes - stuff that no one reads or remembers, as O'Rourke correctly says - other than fanatics who has actually read 2nd Kings? First? - it's as if Ferris is creating a narrator protagonist and his double (does this explain his middle name, Conrad?) - and they're really the narrator he, Ferris, has scripted for this novel and the Jewish character whom he could have, maybe should have, written about but whom he has exiled to the margins of the plot - though maybe he will be a usurper, who knows?

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