Is anyone else feeling slightly frustrated with Danielewski at this point? I have finished 400 pages of a book, and half the time, I haven’t a clue where it is going.  I find myself clinging to the Xanther stories (and Anwar and Astair’s by association) as a sort of scaffolding to support my interest.   I find my interesting peaking when one of those sections comes up.

The scope is throwing me off.  I am growing to understand Luther’s storyline, but only because it has been given several significant sections.  I am very confused as to the relevance of several others (“Yeah man. Something died.” “palace above the day” “Veinte pesos” to name a few).  So far, the only thing I know they have in common is their timestamp putting them into the timeline.

I am curious and excited to see how (if?) all of these will tie together, or if we really are just seeing snapshots of One Rainy Day in May.  Despite this, I would appreciate a sense of where this is going.  As each chapter shifts, I sometimes have a hard time regaining focus or finding relevance.  Am I the only one experiencing this? How have other readers been keeping track of the storylines?


7 responses to “Frustration”

  1. amanduholsen says :

    One thing that really helped me with my frustration and understanding this book is narrative voice. Focus on each section at a time as a different story not tied to a whole and you might enjoy each story better. The book is actually meant to be enjoyed as a whole novel where all of the stories tie together eventually (I hope), and where each characters story can be read apart from the whole.

    Hopefully focusing on each individual characters sections and their own narrative voice, instead of trying to play connect the dots will help you enjoy the novel more. It has helped me.

  2. icarlyrose says :

    Reblogged this on Discussion board for Mark Z. Danielewski's THE FAMILIAR, Volume 1 and commented:

    Xanther, Anwar, and Astair’s storyline is the one I am most interested in as well. I wonder if the same would be true if the novel opened with one of the other story lines though. There are several storylines going on, so I think the opening storyline is the one that we are most interested in. Also, it might not be a coincidence that Xanther’s chapters are written in a style that resembles computer coding. Is Danielewski using a coding format to program us, as readers, to pay attention to certain things more than others?
    I feel like I’m trying to solve a puzzle. My mind wanders from section to section, but I think that is Danielewski’s intention. To keep track of the storylines, I made a chart for myself that lists the characters in each chapter. It helps me visualize which characters belong to the separate storyline. I am waiting to see if there will be any overlapping.

  3. jmastorino says :

    From personal experience, the novel is a bit frustrating in terms of clarity until after page 562, when the reader is introduced to the novel’s ‘Narrative Construct’ or Narcon. Everything started to come together for me after that. I’m also saving the jingjing sections for the very end because those can almost be read stand-alone and are a bit time consuming to absorb. Push through!

  4. jmastorino says :

    Hi Katie. From personal experience, the novel is pretty frustrating until after page 562, when the reader is introduced to the novel’s ‘Narrative Construct’ or Narcon. Everything came together for me after that. I’m also saving the jingjing chapters for the very end because they can almost be read stand-alone are a bit time consuming to absorb. Push through!

  5. jmastorino says :

    Sorry, double post!

  6. dlevy33 says :

    I like to try to compare the Familiar to Eliot’s The Wasteland. This comparison hugely helped me because I have studied and, after a huge amount of work, came to understand the intricacy that Eliot was using. I would think of this book as a sort of gesture towards the methodology used in the Wasteland. It is the combination of the technological, mystical, and emotional in the same way that Eliot combines the ultimate past present and future. (Think along the lines of the Fisher King, Greek/Roman Myth, and modern day description of London)

    I think of the entire book as a cacophony (as one of my classmates pointed out) that is intending on flat lining existence with the over presence of meaning. What I mean, is that the book seems to be gesturing towards a future that is no longer the future, but eternally the present and modern. Danielewski is bringing together all of time, which we can somewhat accomplish with the availability of technology, and perhaps gesturing towards something beyond modernity. I always thought it was funny that we considered ourselves modern, especially when I wondered what we would call our society in 100 years. Specifically considering technology, the fact that humans may be able to bestow human consciousness (as seen in the narcons) on technology breaks the foundations of time. Meaning, if we are able to officially play God, are we ever in the past?

    Danielewski combines the past (mysticism/religion) with the present (technology/narcons) by making the technology the narrator of the characters we read about. The technology does not exist in time, which is why there are no page numbers during the narcon chapter. However, and I mentioned this in another post, the technology, while it is modern, is almost in the same position as human beings, given that it does not have the complete omnipresence that God would have. (According to religion) For example, the narcons claim that there is no meta narcon. Who, then, is censoring their text? Do the narcons question why they cannot talk to other narcons? Let alone other humans? It seems that this clash between the future and the more primitive, as also seen in the narcon narration of the cave boy and girl, is representative of the uncanny limitations that the narcons actually have. Can we really play God? Stephen Hawking (I posted this in a different post, is afraid of this concept.

    i think that a lot of frustration may lie in the intricate details that definitely confuse and baffle the reader. I try and think of these things as signs that bring together the cacophony of information that will eventually overwhelm existence itself and lead it to an end. This is maybe why Danielewski offers us a variety of languages, facts, font types, legends, and themes about mysticism and technology that all seem to somehow define our world as we know it. The end of existence may come due to the fact that we will never be able to reach beyond the bounds of human consciousness, and the constant questioning over the nature of God will lead us to an endless inquiry. Maybe we have reached true modernity, have you ever considered that our society may be unable to invent things greater than more advanced medicine or thinner computers? What if we cannot travel to different planets, what if we cannot cure cancer or accomplish a variety of things that we rely on the future to solve for us? I think that the Familiar could be seen as a huge play on this concept, and ultimately lead us to question the nature of true modernity and time as Eliot did. As for Eliot, I like to remember that he thought of himself as modern, yet we think of ourselves as much more technologically advanced and modern ( time wise ) than he could have ever possibly been. Kind of a funny thought

    I hope this kind of helped as i also experienced a definite period of frustration!!

  7. keeleym4 says :

    As I started to read the book, especially the first 200 pages, I found it very hard to keep track of what and WHO I was reading about. Like you, I’m more involved in Xanther (and family) stories. It’s easier to follow along to and I know what is going on. When it would shift viewpoints, I would always find myself asking “now who am I reading about and what is going on with them?”. The layouts of each story is different from the rest (the font key at the end of the book is helpful to keep track of). It seems as if each story picks up at a random moment and that is what has made it hard to follow. I find Jingjing’s story the hardest to keep track of because of how it is written. I always have to read some of the lines twice to even halfway understand what I am reading. However, now that I am getting more into the novel, I have found that it is easier to follow along.

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