DR. PAUL C O’ROURKE, D.D.S., is a middle-aged, baseball-mad and deeply conflicted dentist, whose outlook on the world is something akin to confused, removed disdain. He runs a successful dental practice in an upscale neighbourhood of New York, but has never found the real essence of himself, in spite of various attempts with the deeply religious Catholic and Jewish families of his ex-girlfriends. He now buries himself in a world of baseball, cynicism and regret, recording Red Sox games on his VCR and bemoaning the world of technology and modern man’s over-reliance on it.
Things take a more sinister turn when a website is mysteriously set up for his practice. A personal Twitter, Facebook and email account follow, and Paul’s identity is stolen to the point where his impostor even posts in his name on Red Sox discussion boards. The appearance of several seemingly Biblical or religious references infuriates the staunchly atheist dentist, who finds himself on a journey of discovery that sees him uncovering an ancient religion, based on the obligation to doubt, and a recently-rediscovered people.
Ferris’ astute and humorously delivered observations on social situations are complemented by his fast-paced, colloquial style. O’Rourke’s vaguely depressing but spot-on observations on friendship and relationships and his sceptical view on religion are delivered with often laugh-out-loud precision and humour.
Yet while his anecdotes are well-researched and amusing, for me Ferris shoots off on too many tangents, sometimes making it a struggle to keep up with the main thread when he eventually returns to it. The dialogue is free-flowing and natural, but the author’s intentional use of repetition can sometimes feel overdone.
He also relies too heavily on unnecessarily complex vocabulary – milquetoast, proselytize, accouterments, among many others – which add little to the story. The ending, although necessarily vague, might leave readers feeling slightly flat- given that it finishes with O’Rourke rather bizarrely playing cricket on the streets of Kathmandu (don’t worry, that’s giving absolutely nothing away).
However, despite its flaws, this delightfully morbid and cynical take on the world is at once hilarious and poignant, forcing readers to question the world around them and their own prejudices and inner thoughts, with Ferris highlighting many of the contradictions that exist in the Google-era with pinpoint wit and a writing style that will have you flying through the pages of one of the first American-nominees with ease.
By Azzam Alkadhi