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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Second Novels Can be Hard--Review of Joshua Ferris The Unnamed

I don't know. Why is it you hit it with one novel and then lose it in the next? That might be harsh in describing Joshua Ferris second novel The Unnamed but I don't think so. It is a very big compliment to his first novel And Then We Came to the The End. Which I read several times. He really nailed the absurdity of the workaday world and more than that he nailed middle class working life with all its strangely disconnected moments that in the end of a career mean nothing. And after that it was just good writing. So I read The Unnamed even after reading a review that panned the book. I liked his first novel that much.

So. It is just different. Might have been a different writer. The Unnamed should have been his first novel and Then We Came To the End his second. The Unnamed is written by a writer telegraphing every sentence and then just laying it there like literature to order. It is not badly written of course, Ferris is much too good a writer to write badly, it is just not that level that made his first novel sing. And then we come to the plot. I am not a big man on plot,  but in the The Unnamed I really wanted something to plunk out of the darkness by the end so I could say, yeah, I get it.

A lawyer who starts walking and can't stop and a love affair. That does not do this book justice but it just never catches fire the way a plot or lack thereof has to at some point. And Then We Came To the End did not have a plot. Much less of a plot than this novel, but it kept you reading like a murder mystery. The real question is what happens to novelist from one book to another? The answer is it is part of being a novelist. I have boxes of novels that did not work. Sometimes books just misfire and by the end it is only through publication that we see the book just didn't work. It happens. I look forward to Ferris's next novel.
Rocket Man should be out in January

Books by William Hazelgrove