Monday, November 21, 2011

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

A man compulsively walks himself to death.

I enjoyed Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris's first novel, for, even though the second person plural narration was an outright gimmick, I felt that the gimmick eventually split wide to reveal true emotions, as well as truly comic insights into modern office life. The Unnamed, his second novel, has a gimmick as well. A man can’t stop walking. Instaplot. Set those legs in motion and let’s see what happens.

In general, I felt the book was beautiful and touching but went on a little too long. The scenes got repetitive. It’s about Tim Farnsworth, who seems to have a wonderful life, with Jane, his perfect wife and Becka, his unfortunately chubby daughter. The only strange note is his workaholic nature – it sounds like he spends fourteen to sixteen hours a day at the office. Until he can’t, despite all his will. He is stricken with a malady – without warning, he starts walking for miles and miles until his body is exhausted. This is a problem in the dead of winter when he’s not wearing a coat. The engine of the plot are those legs - those legs take away everything from Tim Farnsworth that makes Tim Farnsworth.

He walks all over America, losing his toes, his fingers and eventually his mind. It’s really a story about a husband and wife’s devotion. I’m not sure if this novel could be described as realism. What is the Unnamed? The rejection of identity. Thank goodness, he’s a little like Batman with ready access to an ATM.

There are two subplots sort of half heartedly inserted, unsuccessfully – Jane’s drunkeneness and some murder mystery with a cleaver and a Fugitive like "real killer". I didn’t need them and was completely gripped by the legs walking and the sleeping in the dumpsters and the landscapes.

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