Thank You to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an advanced copy of Joshua Ferris’ The Dinner Party and Other Stories, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT– The Dinner Party and Other Stories, is the first short story collection from award-winning novelist, Joshua Ferris.
LIKE– I can’t think of another author who writes stories that leave me feeling riddled with anxiety. I say this in the best possible sense, as Ferris leaves me feeling rattled and affected: His stories move me. I often pause to admire his creative descriptions or phrasing, and the way he writes short, sharp sentences that punch. He’s just so darn talented!
This is a fabulous collection, but I want to comment on a few of my favorite stories.
The Dinner Party – Everyone experiences friendship fall-out, but where the blame lies, is usually subjective. Amy and her husband have invited Amy’s long time friend and her husband over for dinner, but they never show. As they wait, Amy and her husband ( unnamed), make catty comments about their “friends” and bitch about them, often being quite cruel. Eventually as the night grows late and their phone calls go unanswered, their grumpiness turns to worry. Amy’s husband drives over to their friend’s house, only to discover that their friends, have thrown their own party on the same night. Rather than scuttle away, the husband decides to enter the party and be confrontational, especially when he finds other mutual friends at the party. The Dinner Party is often hilarious, but also holds a mirror up to our human tendency to gossip and complain about others, even those we consider to be friends.
The Valetudinarian – This story is hilarious and unpredictable, following a grumpy senior widower, Arty, as he experiences a birthday surprise. The characters really pop, they’re quirky, fitting with the Florida setting. Arty is a bit of a mess and desperate for attention, even if he has to get it through negative behavior. I couldn’t help but both like him and shake my head at his antics. This story was so unexpected and funny.
The Pilot – This one made my stomach knot and gave me anxiety. Leonard is a budding screenwriter and he has been invited to a Hollywood wrap party with highly influential people. This could lead to connections and his big break, but Leonard can’t seem to shake his worries. He’s paranoid that he wasn’t meant to be invited in the first place, he stresses over what to wear, he worries over the other people invited, et…he just can’t seem to relax. This level of tension is continued through the entire story and it’s infectious. The worst of it, is having lived in Los Angeles and been around industry friends, Leonard is a character that I know well.
A Fair Price – Jack needs help moving his stuff out of a self-storage unit and he hires Mike, a middle-aged man who has been recommended by Jack’s gardener. The two men couldn’t be any more different. Mike is quiet, blue-collar, and rough around the edges. Jack is white-collar and concerned about manners. Right off the bat, Jack feels that Mike hates him. To make matters worse, Mike reminds him of Jack’s abusive step-father. As the morning progresses, Jack magnifies every perceived slight and soon, his anger towards Mike grows out of control. I loved the pacing in this story, the building of a sense of danger. Jack’s internal dialogue is both funny and unhinged.
DISLIKE– Nothing. The collection is very strong, although there were a few stories that were less memorable than the ones mentioned above.
RECOMMEND– Yes! If you’re a short story fan, The Dinner Party and Other Stories is a fine collection, and if you are unfamiliar with Ferris, I’d like to direct you to any of his novels. He’s a gifted storyteller and a must-read author.