The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
The Unnamed is the second novel from the PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Joshua Ferris. The story surrounds a successful New York City lawyer who is struck by a mysterious "illness" where he simply can't control his urge to walk at all times. The man is eventually forced to seek medical help, but his condition still cannot be explained.
Reviewer: Heller McAlpin
"With masterly control, Ferris tracks the dashed hope of remissions and recurrences, the toll on Tim's marriage and career, and the devastation of his body and mind. His novel is filled with beautiful, haunting images...Some passages evoke Jon Krakauer's similarly intense tale of compulsive adventure, "Into the Wild.""
Reviewer: Charles McNair
"Ferris’s first novel, Then We Came To The End, earned the young New Yorker plenty of accolades. Nothing in that work prepared us, though, for his new novel’s quantum leap in voice, gravity, storytelling and emotion....Forget “promise.” Joshua Ferris has arrived running, not walking. The Unnamed will make his name."
Reviewer: Tod Goldberg
""The Unnamed" is an accomplished and daring work by a writer just now realizing what he is capable of creating...."The Unnamed" lays bare the fabric of families, the lengths people will go for the ones they love and the lack of value we place on the simple ability to pause, to stop and to reconsider all the steps we've made."
Reviewer: Ellen Wernecke
"There is no “we” in The Unnamed, his superbly depressing follow-up about a marital crisis with no exit, but the descent is more personal, frightening, and ultimately meaningful."
Reviewer: Gabriella Stern
"What, precisely, is Mr. Ferris getting at with his invention of Tim's walk-till-you-drop illness?...Like the doctors Tim consults, readers may well reach a variety of diagnoses, even if answers in this memorable work remain elusive."
Reviewer: Sarah Kerr
"Ferris possesses an overriding writer's gift: a basic and consistent ability to entertain while spurring engagement. Even when his ideas don't land squarely, the narrative energy he imparts and the concern with basic life questions feel, to use the terms of karma that lurk mysteriously in the background here, like good action in the world."
Reviewer: Yvonne Zipp
"“The Unnamed” is ambitious, intelligent, and even more complex than Ferris’s debut novel, “Then We Came to the End.” It’s also unremittingly dark and unpleasant. If you read for pleasure, walk swiftly in the other direction. Hard-core literati only need apply."
Reviewer: Tim Martin
"The Unnamed can be tough to read because of the skill Ferris brings to his evocation of suffering, particularly in its final pitiless chapters, but it is clearly an important and individual work, a stage in the development of a significant talent. Whatever comes next should be very interesting indeed."
Reviewer: Christopher Tayler
"Apart from the tonal conflict between its various strands, the novel suffers from overwriting and from small but distracting grammatical eccentricities....In spite of these drawbacks, Ferris manages to breathe a spark of life into Tim and Jane, whose relationship eventually becomes quite moving."
Reviewer: Jay McInerney
"Perhaps we should be grateful that this isn’t another narrative of addiction, with all the tawdry scenes of gutter plumbing, sexual misconduct and the destruction of property. Although come to think of it, squalor and degradation can be, well, vivid....I can admire Ferris’s earnest attempt to reinvent himself, but I can’t wait for him to return to the kind of thing at which he excels."
Reviewer: Tim Adams
"The result is a kind of existential journey that is not wholly removed from Cormac McCarthy's The Road, though Ferris has none of McCarthy's apocalypticism, just a mundane and original understanding that whatever we might tell ourselves to the contrary, our biology will sooner or later remove us from the things we hold most dear."
Reviewer: Candace Fertile
"...too often this novel suffers from purposeless verbal pirouettes. Ferris's descriptions tend to the overwrought or incomprehensible...Ferris delves into the fundamentals of what it means to be a human being in this world with all the attendant complications of career, love, parenthood and, ultimately, selfhood. The novel is a flawed experiment, but a worthwhile one."
Reviewer: Glen Weldon
"The reader's attention isn't directed, events aren't assigned differing psychological weight, so the emotional through-line becomes obscure; a succession of moments and abstract images simply mount up. That's why, by the time we arrive at Ferris' beautifully written but ultimately unearned ending, the experience of reading The Unnamed has already begun to lift off of us, like a vivid but obtuse dream."
Reviewer: Ron Charles
""The Unnamed" is almost as schizophrenic as its central character. The first third, which has such irresistible drive and coherency, gives way to a scattered, largely impressionistic narrative that darts and skips through scenes spread across many years. Alternately moving and redundant and unrelentingly sad, the story frustrates our expectations..."
Reviewer: Janet Maslin
"“The Unnamed” is a literal Ferris wheel for the reader, since it brings Tim through ups and downs so cyclical they make the book seem to be going nowhere....It’s too easy to shrug off what happens in “The Unnamed” without imagining that it could happen to you."
Reviewer: Catherine Taylor
"The point Ferris seems to be trying to make in the novel – which unfortunately becomes as meandering as its protagonist’s relentless hikes and quasi-philosophical rantings – is not only the pathos and terror wrought by a psychotic condition, but an overriding fear of happiness and stability."
Reviewer: Juliet Lapidos
"A baggy novel, The Unnamed is frustrating to read. Characters drop in, clamor for attention, then vanish. Specific themes fade into more existential explorations. Subplots bend into narrative cul-de-sacs."
Reviewer: William Sutcliffe
"The problem with The Unnamed is simply that – a little like his narrator – Ferris appears to have exercised his impressive energies and skills on a task of abiding pointlessness....Ferris is a brilliant writer of dark humour. Here he seems to have boiled off the humour and served up a bitter and unappetising sediment."