Joshua Ferris burst onto the literary scene in 2007 with his debut novel, “And Then We Came to the End,” a keen, witty look at our modern workforce and the relationships — good, bad and asinine — that grow out of an office setting. But in his sophomore novel, “The Unnamed,” Ferris banishes writing about the complexities of a group to focus on Tim and Jane Farnsworth, an upper-class couple who must cope with Tim’s unexplained, “unnamed” disorder, which causes him to walk and walk and walk without stopping until he collapses from exhaustion —?no matter where he might be or what he might be doing.

 

“It was much more challenging to write the second book,” says Ferris. “Whenever one of the characters [in the first book] grew long in the tooth, I could jump to another character. I didn’t quite have that luxury this time around.”

 

Ferris admits that there is something slightly comical about a lawyer who is hit with an unrelenting compulsion to walk. Yet as he sets it up in “The Unnamed,” you can see how the disorder quickly becomes a nightmare for Farnsworth’s family, his career, and life as he knows it. The affliction becomes a gateway for the author to focus on the concept of marriage. “Commitment is never easy under the best circumstances,” he says, “so the question becomes, ‘To what extent will you commit under the worst of circumstances?’”