'...a dazzling book about a marriage and a family...' the jacket waxes on. Dazzling maybe, but no, it's not. As I read it, this book is about an individual and nature. His nature. This is King Lear, and Ferris writes some chapters that are a worthy analogue to Lear's howl on the moors. Tim's drive forward is bigger than marriage, it's bigger than career, it's more essential than family. He walks right out of a multi-million dollar case he is in charge of for his law firm, he sacrifices body parts to frost bite. I'm reading Freud's seminal work on understanding the mind through dreams for a class right now. Our favorite Viennese Victorian doctor envisions the events of dreams as encoded messages about those deepest wishes and fears we cannot give voice to. The mind symbolizes them (says Freud) so that in their disguise they get past the censor (our conscious mind) and find a partial expression that can then be interpreted. That is what Ferris has created in The Unnamed, a Freudian symbol for the inexorable drive forward. Sometimes that drive is the life force itself. Sometimes it can take on a more destructive character but can be sublimated, kept within the lines culture approves of, as career ambition. But then there are those other times that it takes on a more elemental cast. Witness, for example, Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. What possessed him, we ask? Well, something bigger than the either his marriage or the presidency - institutions that we imagine should be strong enough to keep our natures in line.
So much of who he was was involuntary...The only control over the coursing world that he retained in his littleness was his selfless refusal to turn.Every drive forward, we would like to think, can be answered by turning around. Except at those times when it can't. This beautiful, sad, strong novel is about those times.