The Thread Between the Stories

I know that the Orb has been addressed a number of times already, and I went back and examined some of the threads that were already made not only concerning the patterns of orbs throughout the text but what the meaning of the central Orbs in this story might be. Coming to the close of the book I felt like a separate post concerning the ending section of the book would be beneficial, and I felt that some of the information was just significant and different enough that it warranted a separate post rather than just a comment.

Looking back for a moment, the most striking thing to me about the sections concerning the Orbs was the fact that whatever is happening with the Orbs in Texas is happening at the same time as the rest of the narrative. Some of the introductory descriptions we get during the first Orb section include: “Eons slip by. The canyon rises. Her mesa falls then rises then falls again until eventually it flattens into a storm-polished plain. The temple, though, remains unchanged” (pg. 137). This kind of description originally led me to believe that I was reading about a civilization far in the past or the future, considering I wasn’t initially used to the formatting of the novel or paying attention to the dog eared pages.

Upon re-reading such a section, I realized that the Orb was giving the viewer, assumedly Cas, the ability to see into both the past and the future. I also noticed the time stamp on the dog ear indicating that this narrative was going on at the same time as everything else. This observation really put the events that were occurring in those sections a bit more in perspective, as well as increased my speculation that the technology that the Orb has is both very advanced and very experimental.

The section involving the revelation of the Narcon (pg. 563-578), short for “narrative construct” (pg. 565), put even more in perspective for me in terms of the main point of view from which all these stories are branching and how all of these stories might actually start to thread together and form a coherent and complex picture. One of the threads already mentioned running through all the stories is the presence of the striking wail which shows up at least once in all of the running narratives in this novel. Another thread involves the direct awareness of the other narratives by each other by the end of the novel.

This recognition occurs on the last page of the final Orb section, when on page 655 The Sorcerer states that he was a good friend of Xanther’s father, and knows both of him and his daughter, whose name he blatantly states. This is, as far as I can recall, the first instance of someone in a separate place and story within the narrative stating that they are aware of another story that’s occurring simultaneously along these many jumbled narratives. Unfortunately not much more of this direct connection is made since it isn’t brought up again in any following sections for the rest of the novel.

A number of questions arise in the face of this revelation. Are the Orbs connected to the Narcons in some way? Why were they developed and why are Bobby, Cas, and the others in their narrative the only ones aware of them or able to use them? Will this lead to a greater convergence of the narratives in the later volumes, a very distinctive thread that connects the narratives from a direct point rather than just someone in each of the narratives hearing a random noise? This evidence really only makes it clear that there is a definitive tie between the Ibrahim’s narrative and Bobby and Cas narrative—I can honestly say I am very much looking forward to see where the connection is taken and possibly expanded in later novels.

Side Note: One other possible instance of the narratives merging occurs on pages 434-435 when it appears Hopi’s name occurs in one of Xanther’s social networking chats, although I don’t consider this direct evidence considering I’ve read some other threads that discuss the possibility that this isn’t Xanther and Hopi’s narratives actually merging.

*Edit* — In class today it was brought to my attention that the one who says he knows Xanther and Anwar is actually The Sorcerer, and not Bobby. We theorized that perhaps Mefisto is actually the unnamed Sorcerer, and that this could be a very interesting and solid link between these two stories. If the Sorcerer really is Mefisto, how does that impact the plot of these two separate story lines? Why do you think Danielewski chose to merge them specifically? The more I think about it the more complex and intriguing it gets.

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One response to “The Thread Between the Stories”

  1. dgatewoood says :

    I think your observations about the orb merit a response. Specifically, your keen attention to detail regarding the relationship between the orb and time is really important, I think. I am fascinated by the way Danielewski seems to be operating in respect to time, and I think it is one of the key constructs of the novel moving forward. You observed the simultaneity of the orb section with other sections, but yet a connection to the past and future. As we move through the novel, it becomes clear that time is not a constant, that we are not simply working in a straightforward chronology, and that the time stamps are a bit of a red-herring in that regard.

    Let’s look at some of the clues Danielewski offers us:
    • the epigram for the whole novel: “Kids, man. They never know when they are.”
    • The preface in which we have a seemingly alien entity discussing the seeming end of his people’s time and the beginning of another people’s (our?) time
    • The strange scene of early man in the cave that seems to be observed by someone of a different time
    • Xanther’s absence seizures in which she loses time (i.e. loses her relationship with standard time)
    • This mysterious interjection by a Narcon in Luther’s section: “had Luther noticed how he had failed to notice how Hopi had so easily passed him by, Luther might have proceeded more cautiously”—this reinforces the idea of two times occurring in the novel, that of our main stories, and that of some observer that seems to be operating from a future perspective
    • The fact that Jingjing’s narrative occurs across the international date line, thus essentially suggesting two times occurring at the same time (or, put another way, the same time happening on two different days)
    • The Xanther-Anwar-Cat chapters in which the Anwar seems to lose time, or the narrative seems to repeat the same moment from a different perspective, and yet the time stamp suggests time is moving forward
    • Anwar’s computer program dilemma that he talks about with Xanther about the prey/predator relationship and the way the computer must assimilate the way a creature would negotiate space and time in the abstract

    These are just a few examples. We get no real answers by the end of the novel about how time is operating, but clearly the orb is the key, as you have noted, and I think MD is preparing us that future volumes will operate in varying time modes, and that will be central to how we experience the novels.

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