The Unnamed

Joshua Ferris

Novelist Joshua Ferris made a captivating debut with 2007’s Then We Came to the End: A Novel, a funny and level meditation on the absurdities of working life. His sophomore effort, The Unnamed, continues to reveal Kafka, Yates and Heller as influences; instances of the pain and comedy to be found within the framework of urbanity are in surplus, all in terse and entertaining prose. Yet this is an altogether darker animal, a compelling look at ills of all sorts—bodily, psychological, familial and societal. Tim Farnsworth is a successful attorney in possession of all the outward marks of success that ambition and hard work are supposed to yield, but the existence he understands comes under threat when he is afflicted with a mysterious illness—an inexplicable urge to walk until exhausted. Ferris mines rich metaphorical territory here, using a premise that may initially seem outlandish to take a deadly serious look at the possible fallout of wanderlust, the complicated responsibilities that come with loving a spouse or a child, and the society that creates wayward individuals whom it then casts out. Ferris structures Farnsworth’s unraveling with an urgency and a unique stylization that make what is ultimately a very bleak story also a deep, engrossing treasure.