Two days after I stayed up late finishing Joshua Ferris’s ‘The Unnamed, I was surprised to see that it’s been so widely panned in reviews.
I always feel humbled and tasteless when this happens, like I’ve been loudly wrong about some commonly known fact. Where I thought the book’s desultory structure mirrored real life, the reviewers found it circular and out-petering. Where I thought the lack of scenic Oprah-scriptions was refreshing, the reviewers found it pedestrian.
But it was really good, honest! I think if it has a flaw, it’s that it’s not about anything larger than itself. The core plotline, a man being stricken by a disease that forces him to walk uncontrollably for hours on end, doesn’t appear to be a metaphor for anything larger. The book doesn’t say or reveal anything in particular. It’s a straight line drawn from the premise to a logical end point. It pretty much asks, What would happen if this happened? and then proceeds to do so.
But that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It was realistic, and moving, and funny, and a nice way to spend the last few nights in soupy Copenhagen. Or at least I thought it was until I read the reviews.