The Unnamed

by Joshua Ferris | 320 pages, published 2010

The main character in The Unnamed, Tim Someone, is on his third relapse of a strange compulsion: he walks. He walks until he collapses from exhaustion. He walks out of meetings, out of buildings, across towns, in the dead of winter. Despite seeing numerous doctors, having tests of every sort done, visiting psychiatrists, no one can explain what it is or why it happens. The compulsion is “the unnamed,” of course.

It’s an interesting premise, and it was carried out nicely. I liked how Ferris depicted Tim’s gradual descent into madness (sorry, spoiler) and how the compulsion takes over so completely. There was a little too much swearing for me, and I felt like several potentially interesting storylines were brought up but not adequately addressed.

Big spoiler: you never find out what the unnamed really is. I suppose that’s fair, but as Americans don’t we desperately need closure? Even (especially) in our entertainment?

Also, I’m pretty sure that one of my ancestors actually did walk compulsively. I vaguely recall hearing stories like that. Anyone want to confirm or deny?

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