The book for March is Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. We have posted information about the author and a reading guide. It might be helpful to take a look at the reading guide AFTER you read the book but before you attend the meeting. The guides always seem to provide good insight, and help to facilitate better discussion. The Meetup will be held at Hong Kong Garden in Lancaster, PA. Hope to see you in March!
About the Author
Joshua Ferris (born 1974) is an American author best known for his debut 2007 novel Then We Came to the End. The book is a comedy about the American workplace, told in the first-person plural. It takes place in a fictitious Chicago ad agency that is experiencing a downturn at the end of the '90s Internet boom. Joshua Ferris graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in English and Philosophy in 1996. He then moved to Chicago and worked in advertising for several years before obtaining an MFA in writing from UC Irvine. His first published story, "Mrs. Blue", appeared in the Iowa Review in 1999. Then We Came to the End has been greeted by positive reviews from The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Esquire, and Slate, has been published in twenty-five languages, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and received the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award.
In this wildly funny debut from former ad man Ferris, a group of copywriters and designers at a Chicago ad agency face layoffs at the end of the '90s boom. Indignation rises over the rightful owner of a particularly coveted chair ("We felt deceived"). Gonzo e-mailer Tom Mota quotes Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the midst of his tirades, desperately trying to retain a shred of integrity at a job that requires a ruthless attention to what will make people buy things. Jealousy toward the aloof and "inscrutable" middle manager Joe Pope spins out of control. Copywriter Chris Yop secretly returns to the office after he's laid off to prove his worth. Rumors that supervisor Lynn Mason has breast cancer inspire blood lust, remorse, compassion. Ferris has the downward-spiraling office down cold, and his use of the narrative "we" brilliantly conveys the collective fear, pettiness, idiocy and also humanity of high-level office drones as anxiety rises to a fever pitch. Only once does Ferris shift from the first person plural (for an extended fugue on Lynn's realization that she may be ill), and the perspective feels natural throughout. Praised as "the Catch-22 of the business world" and "The Office meets Kafka." At once delightfully freakish and entirely credible, Ferris's cast makes a real impression. (416 pages)
1. Although Then We Came to the End is told predominantly in the first person plural, there is a brief departure to describe Lynn Mason’s last night before she undergoes surgery. Why do you think the author chose this point in the novel for the shift in perspective?
2. What was the most humorous moment in the novel for you? Does the author’s incarnation of the office remind you in any way of your own work environment?
3. Then We Came to the End features a large and diverse cast of characters. Which character is your favorite? Which do you find least likable? Does any character closely resemble a person with whom you work?
4. On page 57 the author writes: “Yet for all the depression no one ever quit.” Did you find other seemingly contradictory passages in the novel? If so, why do you think the work environment lends itself to such contradictions?
5. The novel contains insights into many aspects of office life, but can you think of any office situations not included that you wanted to see the author address?
6. Near the beginning of the novel Marcia Dwyer accidentally sends an e-mail intended for Genevieve Latko-Devine to the entire office. Have you or anyone you know ever experienced a similarly embarrassing situation in the office? If so, how was it handled?
7. The author presents the office as an environment without secrets, writing of Old Brizz: “He knew it because he was one of us, and we knew everything” (page 4). Do you agree with this statement? If so, why does this dynamic exist in offices?
8. Then We Came to the End is a novel that depicts many lighthearted moments and many dire situations as well. Did you find that one, either the whimsical or the grave, outweighed the other?
9. In a conversation between Lynn Mason and her boyfriend, Martin, Lynn thinks that “technology would never advance past primal fear. It would never trump human instinct” (page 213). Aside from Lynn’s observation, how does the novel view technology as it relates to social interaction at the office?
10. Ultimately, what do you think is the overall tone of the novel? Do you think this is the tone the author intended?