May 24th, 2010 at 3:56 pm
Sophomore efforts are always interesting to read. The consumption of such is inevitably unfair as consumers compare it to the Freshman offering. It is an unavoidable and completely understandable circumstance. And so it was with my reading of Joshua Ferris’s second novel. If you have not read the first, Then We Came to the End, you should. It’s good. So good that its excellence and enjoyment was the only reason I read The Unnamed.
The inside flap of the hardcover of The Unnamed tells us all we need to know about the protagonist and plot of The Unnamed:
“He loves his wife, his family, his work, his home.
“And then one day he stands up and walks out. And keeps walking.”
‘Oh, one of those books’…my wife said to me when I read the synopsis to her. I agreed. One of those books indeed. I am a newlywed whose last novels read have been Madame Bovary and Lady Chatterly’s Lover. I expected the coincidental and not entirely welcome themes of marital crisis and infidelity to continue.
The Unnamed is not one of those books however.
It is reminiscent of Then We Came to the End with its elements of workplace and departs into the realm of domesticity and marriage as well. But it is the thirdly prevalent elements of science fiction and mystery that lend it its true character. Because The Unnamed is not ‘one of those books.’ You should read it yourself to determine exactly what kind of book it is, but I will tell you that it is well written in a plain, straightforward style that reminded me of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. It is moody and brooding and fractured and intriguing.
So Joshua Ferris is a fine writer and I eagerly await the Junior and Senior and post-Graduate publications.
But what bothers me about this book, and most books, and the publishing industry in general is the mediocre and thoughtless writing slapped on such finely crafted works by the publishers.
If you recall, “And then one day he stands up and walks out. And keeps walking.”
And as I recall, having actually read this book, such action does not take place until 2/3, 3/4s into the story. Such copy is greatly disappointing, reckless, ill-advised, and inappropriate.
Ferris is lucky enough to be such an accomplished writer that the revelation of plot points does not hinder the enjoyment of his work.