Narcons as gods?

I know there’s already been a lot of discussion of Narcons on here, but I’m going to add on to that in relation to some of the later events of the book, particularly in the last few sections of the book, so if you haven’t read that far yet, fair warning…
The chapter about narcons completely caught me by surprise–I had been so engrossed in the Xanther/Astair/Anwar narrative and the insertion of this sterile,cold, theoretical concept was chilling to me. It invoked in me an existential sense of awe at the mechanics of the world (or rather Danielewski’s world), almost like seeing the proverbial man behind the curtain. The fact that Astair’s thesis is wrapped up in the idea of God and proving the necessity of God, as well as Anwar’s role as a game-maker, both seemed to connect particularly well to the concept of narcons that is presented in this chapter. The narcons seem to be associated with a god-like omniscience; they “know” everything the characters know. At the same time, though, narcons have very specific limits, one of which is that narcons can’t communicate with other narcons or even any non-narcons (which obviously is confusing in that the narcon seems to be communicating with us, the non-narcon readers). These limits suggest that the narcon is not all-knowing or omnipotent. So if the narcons are not traditional gods, what are they then, simply other characters?

However, the narcons do seem to have some sense of ownership or greater responsibility than the other characters–they are constantly interrupting sections to include cryptic little phrases that begin with braille symbols. One such phrase, that appears on page 712 struck me as particularly god-like: The sentence begins: “Anwar sounding sterner than ever before (as if those words were never his own,” but is interrupted with the braille symbols signalling that the next words (“only at the end of forever owned”) are those of the narcon. This phrase seems to imply that the narcon lives on past forever in a way that Anwar or any other character can’t.

What the debate about the narcons as either characters or gods or something else entirely seem to hinge upon is how we interpret meaning in the text. Are we to understand that everything is connected in a teological way, or is the opposite true: are the various stories that seem to be connected in some unique ways only superficially related? In other words, is The Familiar a nihilistic novel or is it teleological?



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4 responses to “Narcons as gods?”

  1. juanvalencia2015 says :

    Narcons do seem to have some godlike qualities, however, I think it’s important to note that they are not entirely excluded from the text itself, and they do have various limitations to their character (only Narcon-27 seems to have an omniscience of sorts). To me, it seems more towards commenting on the deficiency of the author as a godlike figure. To cite Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author” essay, one word can hold a thousand meanings depending on who reads it. Likewise, the narcons are not in control of the narrative – they simply transmit it onto the reader (With whom they have an actual connection – they actually say hi to us!). I’d also think of Luther, and how he seems to be a godlike figure himself (he walks on water). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall there being any Narcon interjections in his narrative so far. Perhaps it is a constant struggle between narrative, character, and reader? Just a thought.

  2. kieragardiner says :

    I can definitely see how the Narcons can be read as God-like figures over the entirety of The Familiar. They pop up in nearly every character’s narration and seem like one of the few omnipresent threads that connect the different stories together throughout the novel. Though, correct me if I’m wrong, there are a few characters that the Narcons seem to leave alone (this might change, as I’m in about the last hundred pages of the novel as I’m typing this reply).

    However, having the Narcons interjected into the novel at such a crucial point in the Xanther/Anwar/Astair arc strikes me as more meta than it does godlike. Since this jarring moment proves to give the readers insight on how the story is told through different Narcons doing different jobs, it seems more like it’s providing the building blocks to storytelling, forcing us to think outside the novel. Even the font that is connected to TF-Narcon 9 suggests a meta reading simply by being named ‘MetaPlus’. I never felt more like I was reading a novel until that moment, I was completely pulled out of the narrative to actually look at what I was reading in an analytical sense rather than an emotional one.

    The Narcons are also something that seem to reside out of the narrative and exist merely to provide translations and questions rather than directly influence the narrative. I might be way off base here, but like I said, I see them more as meta figures than I do as gods. However, I can definitely buy into them as gods as well.

  3. hscrugg says :

    In one of my previous posts, I mentioned how religion seems to be brought up a lot in the book, usually at least once per section. Then, when we get the section on Narcons, and it talks about how it is the things we love about the characters and acts as the self-conscious aspect of each character almost, “It is there but cannot be seen,” I started to think on that even more. Then, I started to think on how Xanther sees the Horrorsphere. When I thought about it I started thinking that maybe the Narcons are Danielewski’s way of showing us what the world will come to if technology keeps advancing the way it does and keeps taking up our life the way it does.

    Narcons are human-like and seem to be sub-consciously controlling some of the actions of the characters. Technology seems to be starting to control our lives. I personally had an issue with my laptop a few days ago, and it had to get fixed. I was without it for a day, but because my schoolwork and life depend so greatly on it, I felt like I had lost a day of my life. I know I am being a bit over dramatic but it is true that our day to day lives depend so much on technology that it has started to almost be a part of us. Many people joke that if they forget their phone at home, they feel like a piece of them is missing. I think that the Narcons are just like that. They are Danielewski’s way of telling us hey you are becoming increasingly dependent on technology and that it is starting to become a part of you. If we could look at someone’s life via social media we could find emotions and ways of life just like the Narcons mention. So, it is not as farfetched to believe someone could eventually write a program like a Narcon.

    So, to answer the question, I do not know if the Narcons are acting as God so much as they are acting our of pre determined ways of life that ancestors left behind. They were in fact coded from something, and it could have been from the current generation and the way we let technology live our life so to speak.

  4. ksjuk says :

    hmm, interesting thoughts. I like the metanarrative notion as the plot and structure of the narrative has adopted this form however our little Narcon9 (narrative construct) has informed us that this is not a possibility (parameter 1). I question how reliable narcon9 truly is as it previously states that it is optimized to manage metanarrative gestures?? Narcon9 outlines the impossibility of any interaction with other narcons but earlier begins a statement ‘As the old narcons put it’. Contradictory much? Narcon9 for me has a third person narrative presence to it and it along with the others have a tendency to behave like intrusive narrators during their interjections. I feel as though the Narcon programmes? Are similar to that and features found surrounding the concept of Anwar’s game Paradise Open. Narratives are not necessarily reliable either as narcon9 it is simply a programme designed even it can be quoted to not having all the answers. It even glitches at times ‘…when it is forced to address subjects not anticipated.’ Question is who is forcing it to address these subjects because it even glitches in the midst of its own phatic utterance.

    Nihilistic or teleological? Why not a sense of it all after all the familiar becomes a piece of realism.

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