Our Evening with Joshua Ferris

We were thrilled when one of our supporters offered to host a cocktail party to benefit Behind the Book on February 9. When Man Booker Prize nominee Joshua Ferris agreed to appear at the private reading, we knew the party would be a hit.

As Josh read from the opening pages of his much-lauded third novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, his main character – the curmudgeonly dentist, Paul O’Rourke – took on a life of his own, and became the instant life of the party. Fortunate for Paul, perhaps less so for his amiable author.

The cocktail party was one of a series of fundraising readings held each year by Behind the Book’s friends and supporters. The intimate setting in the apartment of Judy Maysles, the host for the evening, was the perfect antidote to the frigid February weather outside. From page one, our guests were transported from a warm Upper West Side apartment to a possibly over-capitalized dentist’s office, where Paul searched for meaning in flossing, baseball and take-out food.

Josh’s writing was so tight and plausible, his reading so earnest, it was difficult to remember we were listening to fiction. Regardless, Josh and his disillusioned dentist had us in stitches.

The conversation that followed was just as lively. The group chatted with Josh about his writing process (who knew an entire invented religion would take less research time than baseball references?) and about what inspired the setting of his book (detectives can be all-plot-no-substance, but dentists… “Those dentists, no-one wants their advice, but they really know their stuff”)


Afterwards, anyone who made a donation was given a copy of Joshua’s book to be signed by the author. We’re so grateful to Ms. Maysles and our guests for a great evening, and for their contributions, which support our literacy work in NYC public schools. Behind the Book now has a waiting list of 20 schools hoping to offer our enriching literacy programs, and reading events such as these help us to deliver them to the schools that need us most.

Each House Party Reading is as unique as the author and the group that hosts it. So if you have a reading group, school group, social group or even a special event in mind (we may have the perfect author for your halloween meet-up!) and you’re looking for a fun, easy fundraising opportunity, let us know if there’s an author you’d like to meet.

Whether it’s a picture book in the park or a novel in your home or your favorite cafe, we’ve worked with authors right across the literary spectrum. Consider hosting a house party for Behind the Book and we’ll help facilitate a private reading.

And finally, a special thanks to Josh for being so generous with his time and energy – it was a great reading – and we know at least 30 people who are now invested in the life and trials of Paul O’Rourke!