Excerpted from TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR by Joshua Ferris
great new writer/excellent read for post-exceptionalist America.
I left Brookstone and went to the Pottery Barn. When I was a kid and everything inside our house was familiar, cheap, and ruined, walking into the Pottery Barn was like entering heaven. If they really wanted people to enjoy church, I thought back then, they should make everything in church look and smell like the Pottery Barn. My dream was to surround myself one day with everything in the store, with the wicker baskets and scented candles, the brushed- silver picture frames. But that was a long time ago. I had already gone through a period of buying everything there was to buy at the Pottery Barn and decorating my apartment like a Pottery Barn outlet, and then getting rid of it all during a massive upgrade. Now everything at the Pottery Barn looked ersatz and mass- produced. To buy any of it now would be to regress in aspiration and selfhood. I didn’t want to buy anything at the Pottery Barn so much as I wanted to recapture the feeling of wanting to buy everything from the Pottery Barn.
Something similar happened at the music store. I should try to find some new music, I thought, because there was a time when new music could lift me out of a funk like nothing else. But I wasn’t past the B s when I saw the only thing I really cared to buy. It was the Beatles’ Rubber Soul , which had been released in 1965. I already owned Rubber Soul. I had owned Rubber Soul on vinyl, then on cassette, and now on CD, and of course on my iPod, iPod mini, and iPhone. If I wanted to, I could have pulled out my iPhone and played Rubber Soul from start to finish right there, on speaker, for the sake of the whole store. But that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to buy Rubber Soul for the first time all over again. I wanted to return the needle from the run- out groove to the opening chords of “Drive My Car” and make everything new again. That wasn’t going to happen. But, I thought, I could buy it for somebody else. I could buy somebody else the new experience of listening to Rubber Soul for the first time. So I took the CD up to the register and paid for it and, walking out, felt renewed and excited. But the first kid I offered it to, a rotund teenager in a wheelchair looking longingly into a GameStop window, declined on the principle that he would rather have cash. A couple of other kids didn’t have CD players. I ended up leaving Rubber Soul on a bench beside a decommissioned ashtray where someone had discarded an unhealthy gob of human hair.
I wandered, as everyone in the mall sooner or later does, into the Best Friends Pet Store. Many best friends— impossibly small beagles and corgis and German shepherds— were locked away for display in white cages where they spent their days dozing with depression, stirring only long enough to ponder the psychic hurdles of licking their paws. Could there be anything better to lift your spirits than a new puppy?