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Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

Very moved by this book. Ashamed that I never finished his Then We Came to the End, will now go back and read it.

This is the story of a partner in a Manhattan law firm who is stricken with a mysterious "wandering" syndrome, where he must pick up and walk and keep walking. Countless mental and physical health experts are confounded by it, swamis can do nothing. It is also the story of his marriage and how it persists somehow through the days, months and years of his condition.

In the second half of the book, where he is literally on the road for years, he receives messages and emails and see his daughter marry, have children, his wife see another man, go to the South of France with him on vacation. But time by this point is moving as if off screen.

The point is He walks. Also a second voice for the man crops up in the second half, the weaker "physical" self that demands food and sleep. The stronger "spirit" half controls him though, and the man walks into extreme physical duress, loses fingers and toes to frostbite, develops a host of serious physical illnesses and keeps walk.

Very beautfiul prose throughout.

I respected you more when you were indifferent to God. You were beset by matters of urgency in your life that took precedence over the lofty speculation of divinity students and men in pews on Sundays. You didn't have the time. You didn't make it a priority. You formed your notions on the fly, in flashes of grim insight, in brief feelings of certainty that consumed you entirely and then quickly faded into the background. When you die, you thought, you die. Why linger on that unpalatable truth? And the alternative, the alternative was a sham. You hated the institutions and the corruptions and the hypocrisies and the evils. You thought it was all a racket designed by the mighty to fleece the weak and keep them in check.... You stood outside of the wind and the rain. Your insights and arguments came to you in prosperity. Death was far off. You could afford to be leisurely. A drink was better than a thought. A meal was better than a conviction. Your family and your work was more meaningful to you than the ministrations of a hundred gods. That is, until you caved.

To be lost in the writing was to be absorbed, and to be absorbed was to lose awareness of everything - the shitty view and the third-class furniture, but also, and here was the paradox, the contentment. To be lost in the writing was to be happy, but it reguired giving up any awareness of that happiness, of any awareness whatsoever, and so he was blissfully unaware...

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