Danielewski’s World

Danielewski seems to do an excellent job constructing his own self-contained world in The Familiar, a world outside of our own, a world which belongs only to The Familiar. Admittedly, the characters we, as readers, encounter are made “familiar” and relatable through both their experiences (money issues, health concerns, death and fear of death) and our admittance into their crowded, often confusing, inner thoughts or streams of consciousness. However, despite the relatability of these characters–it seems that Danielewski has crafted his very own world disconnected from the one in which his readers live.

One way in which Danielewski is capable of creating this world is through the lines of connectivity which flow through the storylines–through the chapters. One obvious way this is done is through the ever present–ever down pouring–rain. I am still perplexed why Danielewski would choose rain as his most obvious and omnipresent connecting factor throughout the Volume. Also I would love to discuss why this rain has to be so violent ? What is the relevance of a down pour versus a light shower? I would love to know what the rest of you think about this choice.

Another “line of connectivity” drawn by Danielewski, which I have just started to pick up on (400 pages in), is the sound which significantly troubles, almost haunts, Anwar, Luther, and Isandoro. The sound cannot be located by any of them. All three of them hear this sound, despite the assumed substantial distance which separates them from one another. The mysteriousness of the sound proves, almost disproportionately, frustrating and irksome. This seemingly impossible omnipresent sound seems to paint a picture of self-contained world in a similar way that the rain does.

A third “line of connectivity” is the literal line of geometric shapes which runs through the inside of the book, extremely close to the binding. I don’t have too much to say about this line other than it is a form of connectivity through page set up and outside of the plot or dialogue itself and in that way I find it intriguing.

I am sure that others have found their own lines of connectivity in the text and I would love to discuss them !

In addition to his lines of connectivity, Danielewski also makes us aware that we have entered into another world when–ironically enough–he seems to “break the fourth wall”. What better way to make readers aware of that walls exist–that this world is self-contained–than by breaking down those very walls? There are moments when Danielewski undoubtedly elbows the reader, gives them a nudge, and holds a mirror up to this world.

One such moment is when Xanther asks Dr. Potts the following question:

“Do you ever think, like, there’s a conversation going on, you know, like somewhere out there, somehow parallel to the one you’re having with yourself, like in your head, or even with someone else” (193).

We laugh at this moment. We are definitely aware that these conversations do exist–we have already read 193 pages of them. However, with this laughter and with this breaking of the fourth wall, we are made ultra-aware we are laughing at a different self-sustaining world–that if a wall has broken, it was indeed there to begin with.

The most INTERESTING example of the fourth wall breaking comes when Xanther and Anwar are discussing the etymology of Paradise and the meaning behind Paradise Open. Paradise is conceptualized in the discussion as a “surrounding wall”, “enclosed garden”, or “protected place”. Yet the title of Anwar’s project hints that he opens up the enclosed area or removes some of the protection to allow others inside — hence Paradise OPEN.

We laugh at this moment as we realize Anwar and Danielewski seem to be doing the same thing. Anwar’s title could work perfectly for Danielewskis work. Danielewski has created a self-contained, outside world–yet he opens the doors and lets us see what is inside.



About elombard22

Senior English and Accounting Major at the University of Notre Dame

2 responses to “Danielewski’s World”

  1. jimhutchins says :

    I assumed, as I was reading, that Danielewski was using the rain in its classical metaphorical sense: trouble, tsoris, strife, war.

    An example of this from music would be “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIPan-rEQJA), a 1970 Vietnam War era song:

    Long as I remember rain’s been comin’ down
    Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground
    Good men through the ages tryin’ to find the sun
    And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain

    I went down Virginia seekin’ shelter from the storm
    Caught up in the fable, I watched the tower grow
    Five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains
    And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain

    Heard the singers playin’, how we cheered for more
    The crowd had rushed together tryin’ to keep warm
    Still the rain kept pourin’, fallin’ on my ears
    And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain

  2. jimhutchins says :

    Also in support of this idea of the rain metaphor, there is an epigram on p. 455, at the beginning of the “Litter” chapter:

    Who did you meet, my darling young one?

    Which is, of course, a reference to this Dylan song from the same (Vietnam War) era:

    The lyrics are here. I would love to reproduce them, but you really have to read the entire song-poem to feel its effect.


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