front matter, end matter

Starting the text, one encounters a bunch of material as “front matter.” How does this relate to the stories we will read in the text body, and the “back matter” at the end of the story? Why is the novel enframed in this way? How does the framing material introduce thematic ideas explored in the text body–for instance, the relation between time and expression, body and language, noumenal and phenomenal reality, “normative” vs. “non-normative” life?

  • Headquote: kids and time, not space. “They never know WHEN they are.” Will the book be about time as well?
  • Front matter stories segments (different times, from deep past through present to deep future):
  • NEW THIS SEASON–seems an actual promo for Pantheon’s new releases, parallel to Danielewski’s preview of the next volume in this series at the end of the book.
  • unfathomably sophisticated beings trillions of years into the future, who (like us today) cannot answer the questions of death and war
  • Tom’s Crossing: Story of a boy who died of cancer, rode horses with another boy
  • Caged Hunt: something like a Youtube video showing 3 guys at (San Antonio?) Texas on July 29, 2014; they are snorting cocaine and bragging about going to do drugs (“going bowling”)
  • a page with 5 categories: Rain, Signiconic, Violence, Planetarity, Custody
  • a picture of a rock (Twin Rivers Ochre Artifact) and then a narrative of the deep past, “243,243 years ago” in what is today Lusaka, Zambia, where Boy and Girl talk about a violence to their people by…a predatory cat?
  • Seemingly a chapter division page, “One Rainy Day in May”, which we find out from Amazon.com is actually the subtitle of Danielewski’s novel, and the page features shadow pictures of at least 4 of the scenes above.

There are no page numbers until page 34, and then page numbers are normal type, at bottom of page. Once the “novel proper” begins–after the front matter–the page numbers are slanted and underlined.

The recto and verso sides of leaves within the “story proper” have odd markings running along the fold; what are these?

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About ajelias

Professor of English, University of Tennessee (Knoxville)

3 responses to “front matter, end matter”

  1. Treena Balds says :

    Yes, I was thrown by this aspect of the text, too! Once I got to the page (##?) that says “New This Season,” I thought maybe we were looking at Pantheon’s advertisements for its other books. I’m still not sure the stuff that immediately follows isn’t ads, but even if it is, it’s not *just* ads. Because even before then, there’s a second acclaim page praising… something… the text? texts within the text? I’m not sure yet. I’m guessing the “novel proper” starts on the fourth printed page… but maybe there will be several levels of “novels proper” as we progress through. I’m only about 50 pages in so far, so I guess I’ll suspend judgement for a few more. Glad you brought this up!

    • melindaborchers says :

      We had a great discussion in class about the possibilities of the front matter and what it might mean structurally. Most agreed that these were “commercials” and thus conforming to the confines of the genre of television show. Before the episode proper begins, we are offered a selection of what’s to come, similar to commercials or advertisements offered while one actually watches a show (be it on television or on Hulu). One question that was asked was: “Are there other commercial breaks to be found once the novel starts?”
      Could the front matter actually be considered commercials or structural attempts to adhere to genre conventions?

  2. ajelias says :

    So we learn in the last section of the book (in Cas’s section, p 639) that in fact this front matter contains pictures of episodes in time projected by (or referenced by) the Orb.

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