Joshua Ferris “The Pilot”
Summer Fiction: 20 Under 40
June14/21 “The New Yorker”
Joshua Ferris’ first novel, was published in 2007 (And Then We Came to the End), and his second (The Unnamed) earlier this year.
Unlike most people, I’ve read his second but not his first (although I hope to mend that gap before long as he’ll appear at this year’s International Festival of Authors so I’m madly reading backlists with that in mind).
For a good chunk of The Unnamed, I was simply fine with it, not finding it a chore to read by any means but a bit unsure; by the time I came to the end, I was wholly and completely impressed.
It wasn’t even a very likeable story — it’s intended to be unsettling and the characters therein are struggling, not with minor changes in their lives but with the kind of change that fundamentally challenges basic identity and core values — but I felt a solid trust with the author: I resolved to read wherever he wrote to take me.
And, it’s a good thing I had that attitude, because I’m not sure I’d have made it to the end of “The Pilot” otherwise. Lawrence is a struggling screen writer. Aren’t they all? You’ve already imagined some of the monotony housed in this story already, spinning off from this simple fact: the endless cycle of self-doubt, judgement and deprecation.
Yes, in some ways Lawrence feels like a character you’ve met before: the down-on-his-luck creative personality who can’t pay his bills with his passion and can’t summon up the passion required to change the way by which he pays his bills. Except Lawrence isn’t really all that down-on-his-luck; he has a job, a roommate, a mother who calls him daily, and connections in the industry. But Lawrence is down-on-his-luck in other ways and, even more importantly, he feels luck-less.
“The Pilot” is all in Lawrence’s head: literally (he is supposed to present the pilot but it’s incomplete) and structurally (everything the reader gets from this story is direct from Lawrence’s brain). It’s not that it’s entirely stream-of-consciousness — there are conversations with remarkably realistic dialogue, in which other characters participate fully — but it’s All Lawrence, All the Time.
Before the end of the second page, it feels a little like you’re drowning in his doubts and sorrows.
Except the small pockets of ironic observation and wicked cleverness give you enough air to keep reading.
And, upon finishing, I was, once more, buoyed by Joshua Ferris‘ talent, solidly impressed, ready to go wherever he takes me next.
Here`s a link to a brief Q&A, which also contains a link to the short story( at the time of posting).
Have you read this one? What do you think of his writing?