Dangerouz Z

“Polygon Creature Z hunts Polygon Creature S” (722). There’s a pursuit hanging out at the edges of what we know so far that might be linking many or all of the narratives. The hunter/prey aspect has been brought up and discussed in another post , but these letters in particular might mean something. At the end of Anwar’s description of the program, “S reaches Y. But where is Z?” (726-728).  I think it will be important to decide precisely who S and Z are, and whether the pursuit is a unifying conspiracy-type narrative or rather a repeating motif across the stories.

The brutal, perhaps-message of Re(a)lic’s death (chopped into pieces in a supposed wreck) has been mentioned in Xanther’s and Ozgur’s story and is one of the casualties from the Orb team. Realic’s middle initial happens to be S., but that might be a coincidence. But either way, “Recluse” seems to be the hunter Z (or one of them), who knows everything S will do. Anwar’s description occurs with the homecoming of the kitten, as it’s gone missing, so it might be that Xanther’s another S and the kitten’s some kind of danger to her. OR, the kitten might be the S that has reached “Y,” and we don’t know what’s coming for it yet. Impossible to know as of yet. But one last point in this letter pair comes from Isandorno, who is afraid of the mysterious fourth crate. He identifies the first three as W, X, and Y, but is afraid to approach, touch, or listen to the fourth one, so we have one more dangerous Z there. Not sure yet what it’s hunting, but this may be the start of a link to Xanther, if this Z is something nefarious hunting down the benevolent kitten.

Last, identifying them as S and Z in a text that seems intent on exploding/exceeding systems and structures can’t be a coincidence, right? (Roland Barthes?) If so, I imagine the crate won’t be a very effective containment for the dangerous Z.

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About andrew todd

U Tennessee. Grad student in contemporary literature.

One response to “Dangerouz Z”

  1. trinalazzara says :

    I’m really glad you mentioned Barthes; I’ve never read S/Z or the novella it analyzes (Balzac’s Sarrasine) but what I’ve read about them just now brings to light some parallels in The Familiar. They may be coincidental, but they’re fascinating nonetheless.

    First, Balzac–for those who have also not read it, the source of tension in Balzac’s novella lies in the fact that the eponymous male character Sarrasine is in love with an opera star, La Zambinella. He initially believes her to be an ideal woman, but then he finds out “she” is actually a castrato, or a castrated man. Deeply distressed by his mistake and irrationally angry, Sarrasine tries to kill Zambinella, but he ends up getting stabbed before that can happen. He is destroyed by his obsession with a false ideal and his propensity for violence.

    This death reminds me very much of Isandorno in that his own inclination to kill seems to guarantee that he’ll suffer. One of my favorite lines in The Familiar is from his first section: “The carving costs veinte pesos. But what hunts you now amigo you already own” (325). In his own words, Isandorno is a gun/weapon “within himself” (323): “That gun is his name and its caliber is his caliber and its shells number the moments he gives others to live” (316-17). His just deserts for his not so savory actions put him on the “cusp of death” despite the fact that he has apparently already died multiple times (314).

    Could immortality be Isandorno’s curse? And if so, what could possibly be worse than that, waiting for him in the crate? In my opinion, whether the animal is an owl or a panther or not an animal at all, all that really matters at this point is that it is “beyond him” (619), just like the invisible, unavoidable predator of Paradise Open. Maybe it’s a personification of death itself, or simply of the fear of it; maybe the point is that he can’t ever find out.

    Going back to S/Z, I love Barthes’ concept of the five codes that drive narrative (I’m guessing that’s what you were thinking of when you mentioned it). Of course the first is hermeneutic code, associated with enigmas and “the process of revealing truth” according to Wikipedia, and its natural endpoint according to Barthes is the disclosure of truth. But yes, considering that Danielewski left House of Leaves so open-ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did something similar here. If “the dangerous Z” is a metaphor for the lack of truth associated with death, the driving force behind “necessity” for belief, how can we possibly find out what it is? But then again, if we do, can there be a satisfying answer?

    To say the least, I’m excited for the next installment.

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