Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CR Review #29: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

A few weeks back, just when I was finishing up my original "half-cannonball", I put off writing a review for a book that I didn't like, in lieu of one that I enjoyed (thank you, Major Pettigrew!). I can't put it off any longer. I need to tell you about my dislike for The Unnamed.

The Unnamed is the story of a man named Tim, a busy lawyer in NYC with a big house in the suburbs and a doting wife named Jane. Tim suffers from a mysterious disease (so mysterious, it is indeed unnamed) that causes him to stop whatever he is doing and immediately start walking. It doesn't matter if he's in the middle of a trial, or asleep in his warm bed, or fighting with his wife or daughter. He just has to get up and walk until he falls down from exhaustion.

Tim and Jane try all kinds of doctors and treatments, but nothing works. After a few months, Tim usually stops walking and goes back to the remnants of his life. Jane tries to keep a backpack at the ready for him, so that whatever the elements Tim finds himself in, he'll survive (including a cell phone, so she can pick him up when he falls down tired).

After a few battles with his disease, things get worse for Tim and he simply takes off, leaving Jane and their daughter alone, thinking they are better off without him and his strange problems. And then Tim walks. And walks and walks and walks. And along the way, he loses his mind, some of his toes and fingers, and most of his previous identity.

The story of The Unnamed could have been a riveting one. But I just couldn't stand Joshua Ferris' writing style. He uses 20 words when 2 or 3 would do, not to be eloquent, but just to be clever. So annoying. A few years back, I had tried to read his debut novel, "And Then We Came to the End," about jobs in the crazy years (I had worked and been laid off from lots of those jobs, so I expected to enjoy this one), and couldn't even make it halfway through the book. His writing ruined the story for me -- his pretentiousness really was a turn off for me.

The one good thing about this book was that it was the first library book that I read on my kindle. So, yay for that.

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