A Calling for Charlie Barnes
From the Booker-shortlisted author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour comes a hilarious novel about fathers, sons, thwarted dreams and confronting the reality of who we really are
‘This is a fine American novel about family, love, and a decent but flawed man trying to be better. In dark times like these, I can’t recommend this book too highly. It’s strong’ Stephen King on Twitter
Charlie Barnes is a mid-century man devoted to his newspaper and his landline. But Charlie is about to get dragged into our troubled age by his storyteller son, who has a different idea of him than he has of himself. Then there are his other children, his ex-wives, present wife, business clients, friends and acquaintances, all of whom have their competing opinions of Charlie.
He certainly seems simple enough: he’s a striver, a romantic, and a thoroughgoing capitalist. But suddenly blindsided by the Great Recession and a dose of bad news, he might have to rethink his life from top to bottom, and on short notice. What makes a man real? What makes him good? And how does the story we tell about ourselves line up with the lives that we actually live?
‘Funny, moving, and formally a work of genius, A Calling for Charlie Barnes is quite literally the book Joshua Ferris was born to write’ Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire
‘Dazzling. Mind-blowing. About as much fun as you can have without risking arrest’ Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls
‘Wonderful: fast and deep, urgent and brilliant . . . A hilarious, intimate, and scathing takedown of so many American vanities’ Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia
A hilarious skewering of the American Dream by the man who must be the funniest writer we have -- Sathnam Sanghera * Guardian, Best Books of 2021 * Splendid . . . it is hard to be genuinely funny in a novel but the final 50 or so pages, in which Charlie's family confront Jake Barnes, the fourth wall-breaking narrator of the novel, over the content of the tell-all memoir, was easily the most hilarious chapter of a novel I read all year -- Martin Chilton * Independent, 20 Best Books of 2021 * Until I read A Calling For Charlie Barnes, Joshua Ferris's virtuosic third novel, I couldn't recall the last time a book caused me to both laugh and gasp aloud. Madly funny and bristling with intelligence, this is the story of a man in later life wallowing in the detritus of the American Dream and of the children witnessing his decline -- Megan Nolan * New Statesman, Books of the Year * Simultaneously narratively courageous and utterly hilarious . . . where it leaves the reader feels special and unique * Sunday Times * In Ferris's admirably risk-taking hands, this novel becomes so much more than simply another story of failed American dreams. Ferris has made himself into the leading writer of the American workplace . . . He understands both its absurdities (and this is another very funny book) and its rewards, but most of all he understands how it shapes modern America * Observer * Ferris could write enthralling realist fiction in his sleep but it's the ideas and formal ingenuity that really set this novel apart . . . [he considers] the role of storytelling in families, the myths we create and the possibility that there is no such thing as telling it straight * i * Brilliant, funny, heartbreaking . . . Family, memory, ambition and death, all told with dervishing glee. Not just a daredevil of a novel, but something truly new -- Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less Ferris is on his finest deadpan form here, skewering contemporary America and the shallow values it embodied in the heat of the 2008 financial crash * Spectator * Inventive and witty, tender and wise. It's a portrait of life, love and death, and much else besides * Daily Mail * This is the story of one disappointed idealist told by another, of one unreliable narrator described by another, and it is animated by filial love . . . funny, moving - and surprising * Guardian * This novel is funny - Ferris has lovely comic timing and a great way with the sheer silliness of a family's mental and physical bric-a-brac - and very moving * Guardian * Dazzling . . . A more tender novel than Ferris's others, but that doesn't keep it from being murderously funny . . . [he has found] precisely the right way to meld memoir with satire, to do this with bracing originality and to keep heads spinning from this novel's first page to its last . . . he's risen to the top of his game * New York Times * Funny, moving, and formally a work of genius, A Calling for Charlie Barnes is quite literally the book Joshua Ferris was born to write. -- Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire Dazzling. Mind-blowing. About as much fun as you can have without risking arrest * Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls * A deeply funny, very moving book . . . Ferris's hijinks are serious; his play is profound. There is magic in these pages -- Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland Elegies A touching tale about the love between fathers and sons * The Times * A passionate, well-constructed, often hilarious and, at times, profound plunge into grief, both civic and intimate, as well as a culmination (so far) of the literary explorations he has been undertaking since he arrived -- Sam Lipsyte * New York Times Book Review * A Calling for Charlie Barnes is wonderful: fast and deep, urgent and brilliant . . . A hilarious, intimate, and scathing takedown of so many American vanities -- Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia He has proved that he's one of the best American authors of comic fiction working today. His humour is on full display but so are his intelligence and compassion. It's a masterpiece that shines a revealing light on both family and fiction itself * NPR * Ferris's work cuts to the heart of who we are by focusing very painfully on who one man was . . . Consider this book not just a work of grief or love or memoir, then, but a work of hope, too. * Publishers Weekly * A warmly bullish but measured and reflectful voice that brings out all the humour and wisdom of the novel * The Times, Audiobook of the Week * Intriguing and intelligent . . . the humour throughout is exquisitely judged . . . and the descent into metafiction, the novel's true crowning glory, is extremely well done without ever feeling hammy or clunky * Irish Times * A relentlessly self-reflective book * FT * Joshua Ferris has proved his astonishing ability to spin gold from ordinary air . . . As brave and adept as any writer out there * New York Times Book Review on To Rise Again at a Decent Hour * Not too many authors have written the Great American Office Novel... Then We Came to the End feels like a readymade classic of the genre. . . . A truly affecting novel about work, trust, love, and loneliness * Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times on Then We Came to the End * Dismayingly funny in the way that only really serious books can be * Guardian, on 'To Rise Again at a Decent Hour' * Brilliant, funny, stomach-turningly accurate * Observer, on 'Then We Came to the End' * Very funny, intense and exhilarating * The Times, on 'Then We Came to the End' *
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