Joshua Ferris’ “Then We Came to the End,” an uncompromising and swiftly funny journey into office-cubicle life in Chicago, was one of 2007’s highest literary feats, and came this close to grabbing the National Book Award. (Denis Johnson’s “Tree of Smoke” nabbed the prize.) The novel being Ferris’ first rodeo, all eyes were on him for his follow-up, and he’s produced “The Unnamed,” a very much different, more serious affair that’s as imaginative and memorable as its predecessor. The book follows a married couple as they endure the crisis—the husband, our eyes into the story, suffers from a condition that allows him to venture on aimless, prolonged sleepwalks, unannounced, stopping only when he falls to the ground. He has no memory of his journeys. After a while, the couple decides to just give in, and his wife dresses him with precautionary gear. While the premise may sound decidedly unrealistic, Ferris’ ability to bring the sensational to the home, to the marriage, in plausible and sympathetic ways, makes the piece soar. Sadness falls. Fans of his previous book are in for a surprise—Ferris isn’t screwing around anymore. (Tom Lynch)
February 1 at Borders, 2817 N. Clark, (773)935-3909, at 7pm. Free.