Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

It's going to be difficult to review this book knowing that it's already been reviewed, the other review is probably better, all that self deprecating nonsense. Whatever, I signed up to read and review books, not get psychoanalyzed for my inadequacies, so let's get this party started, shall we?

We shall.

At the most basic, The Unnamed is about a man named Tim Farnsworth. He has some sort of disease that forces him to walk, and he keeps walking until he passes out asleep in the strangest of places. Despite countless doctor visits, clinical trials, and holistic healers, nobody has found a cure for Tim's wanderlust. There is no name for the disease, and no record of anybody else sharing the affliction.

Ferris' first novel, Then We Came to the End, focused on the employees of an advertising agency, their lives in the office and out of the office, interactions, secret crushes, diseases. It was like an incredibly morbid episode of "The Office." I didn't feel as though The Unnamed was quite as relatable, at first. The more I read, though, the more engrossed I got, and the more I realized that though it was difficult to relate to Tim's disease, it was easy to relate to Tim.

Tim has marital troubles. He has difficulties connecting with his teenage daughter. He is unappreciated at work. Those descriptions could apply to thousands of men. The walking makes him different. The walking gets him in trouble at work and leads to demotion. The walking makes his marriage difficult but also connects him with his wife. It makes him bond with his daughter.

At first, Tim just wants, has wanted, one doctor to explain his disease. It seems so unreal that he would like just one person to validate it and prove that he is not crazy. Later, he searches for a soul. The disease is a promordial urge to wander, to eat, to survive, and he wants to defeat the disease, defeat the body, find a higher plain.

The Unnamed is a beautifully written book. I knew as I was reading that it couldn't end well, there was no happy ending for Tim. But I wish it was happier.

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