Friday, August 20, 2010

The Unnamed

The Unnamed is Joshua Ferris's new book. I really admired his first novel, Then We Came to the End, so I had high hopes. I think Ferris's storytelling is modern and fresh. The Unnamed didn't rock my world, but it is certainly a well-constructed book and I admire the risks he takes.

In the story, an NY lawyer named Tim Farnsworth has some kind of affliction that causes him to walk. The urge to walk is the unnamed thing - no doctor or psychiatrist can diagnose it or even categorize it as a mental or a physical disorder. The not-knowing of his illness is the worst for Farnsworth, in fact, he comes close to suicide several times.

This book is being described by some as the existential contemporary dilemma of suburban America, that we wish to throw off the binds of society and family and abandon our bodies and souls to a sort of undefined naturalism. To me, instead, the story rang like a tale of addiction - Farnsworth, despite all rationality, and at the risk of everything comfortable and wonderful in his life, wife, child, career, home, friends, walks. The interactions between him and his wife becomes a story of just how far this couple will stay together in "sickness and in health".

Tonally, I like how Ferris writes:

He was tough and he was special and he had inner resources, he had many things going for him, and others had seen much worse, time was precious and things happened froa reason and there was always an upside, and it only took a good attitude to fight and win and nothing was going to stop him and tomorrow was another day.

Like other books about the existential zeitgeist of our time, those pesky bees popped up. My favorite bits were the ones with the lawyers. Ferris writes offices really well.

No comments: