Walk hard

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  January 13, 2010

This plot turn, among others — the first sequence to describe one of Tim's walks from beginning to end, rather than in fragments, is almost comically awkward — seems uncertain and frustrating at first, but Ferris proves committed to Tim's downward spiral. Tim becomes consumed in an elemental struggle, shedding belongings and attachments until only his body and his mind remain. They engage in a brutal, lonely war against one another, and amid the feverish internal logic of the novel's final section, it's unclear what victory for either might mean for Tim, or his family. Meanwhile, nature itself becomes an ancillary character, representing both the beauty and lifeblood ignored in the everyday and the unrelenting, unpredictable force that has no sympathy for a lost soul.

In very different ways, both of Ferris's novels suggest that a life of routine offers disquieting contradictions: our workaday lives leave us feeling both comfortable and imprisoned, and the two emotions are inevitably symbiotic. The Unnamed is bold enough to ask what happens when we abandon that cage. The comforts Ferris offers at the end of this thought experiment are cold, but they're unnervingly well realized.

Christopher Gray can be reached at cgray@phx.com.

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