The Dinner Party
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year: The first collection of short stories from the critically acclaimed, prize-winning author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
These eleven stories by Joshua Ferris, many of which were first published in The New Yorker, are at once thrilling, strange, and comic. The modern tribulations of marriage, ambition, and the fear of missing out as the temptations flow like wine and the minutes of life tick down are explored with the characteristic wit and insight that have made Ferris one of our most critically acclaimed novelists.
Each of these stories burrows deep into the often awkward and hilarious misunderstandings that pass between strangers and lovers alike, and that turn ordinary lives upside down. Ferris shows to what lengths we mortals go to coax human meaning from our very modest time on earth, an effort that skews ever-more desperately in the direction of redemption.
There's Arty Groys, the Florida retiree whose birthday celebration involves pizza, a prostitute, and a life-saving heart attack. There's Sarah, the Brooklynite whose shape-shifting existential dilemma is set in motion by a simple spring breeze. And there's Jack, a man so warped by past experience that he's incapable of having a normal social interaction with the man he hires to help him move out of storage.
The stories in The Dinner Party are about lives changed forever when the reckless gives way to possibility and the ordinary cedes ground to mystery. And each one confirms Ferris's reputation as one of the most dazzlingly talented, deeply humane writers at work today.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The 11 short stories in Joshua Ferris's collection are exactly what we've come to expect from this best-selling author: astute, acerbic vignettes about smart people making terrible life choices. Buoyed by Ferris's sly humor, The Dinner Party is terrifically engaging—we had to resist the temptation to read it all in one sitting.
The stories in this collection, the first from Ferris, bestselling author of Then We Came to the End, explore the fraying psychologies of their protagonists by way of dark humor and understated tragedy. In the excellent, surreal title story, the fissures in a childless couple's marriage become unbridgeable divides after their close friends fail to attend a dinner party. A bereaved Florida widower is sent a prostitute as a birthday present in "The Valetudinarian," an equally great story, while a desperate aspiring screenwriter struggles to make inroads at an industry party in "The Pilot." Despite its magnificent start, subsequent entries like "Fragments" and "The Breeze" read like lesser versions of earlier, better stories. "More Abandon" is a deleted scene from the author's debut novel that probably should have stayed on the proverbial cutting room floor. Nevertheless, even the weaker stories contain moments of sharp levity and intense insight, reminders of the heights the author can achieve when he is able to sustain his immense talent.
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