Narcons: Subitizing Death?

Upon re-reading the part about the hummingbird’s death on page 794, I paid much more attention to the interjections of the Narcons. What they imply about the nature of mediation, death, and the self is really compelling in connection with the “signiconic,” and what I have to say is largely to do with Danielewski’s definition of signiconic that Professor Raley sent out, so here it is:

Signiconic = sign + icon. Rather than engage those textual faculties of the mind remediating the pictorial or those visual faculties remediating language, the signiconic simultaneously engages both in order to lessen the significance of both, and therefore achieve a third perception no longer dependent on sign and image for remediating a world in which the mind plays no part.

This is a very basic human problem: our perceptions of the world are inherently remediated through our minds and therefore biased. Thus it makes sense that we’d search out an unbiased mode of perception, something beyond  image subitizing language (346) or the reverse (the Narcons’ jobs, signing the iconic (572)). Danielewski partially answers this dilemma with his own writing style, but he makes it pretty clear that it’s impossible to escape remediation in the real world (I think he does, at least; correct me if I’m wrong).

Returning to the dying hummingbird–when its eyes change, Xanther wonders what it sees:

the error of windows?, of reflection? :N3: refracting the one self into another self beyond what every reflection still fails to consider… :N3:, Xanther knowing this in the way she also knows how mirrors invert her into a her that’s not really her :N9: which is so wrong as a reflection of Xanther, right? :N9:, can animals know so?, especially a tiny hummingbird?, probably not, right?, like really, it’d just see its own reflection as another competitor?, :N27: as an understanding of its own end :N27: (794)

Considering that Narcon^9 said earlier that every person has a Narcon, could Narcon^3 be implying that living things merge with their Narcons in death (beyond) as they escape the remediation brought about by being confined to a single “self”? If so, Narcon^27‘s addition would certainly have grand philosophical implications.

The fact that Narcon^9 thinks that Xanther being unable to accurately see herself is “wrong” makes me even more inclined to think so, since Narcon^9 also says in the Narcon chapter that “sometimes I swear she can see–without mediation, without processing, without artifice, definitely without me–other people’s Narcons!” (574). Narcon^9 can’t even see itself at all, but in its opinion Xanther can (or should be able to) see herself incredibly clearly. That plus her ability to find and revive the cat probably puts Xanther in a different category altogether. Xanther aside, though, just imagine: what if a humble dying hummingbird could refract into another self and see its reflection as an understanding of its own end? Well, wow.

All that having been said, I have some questions about the “signiconic.” How can we say that image and language are the two most important perceptual faculties? Of what does a truly accurate “third perception” consist? Does language + image = film? And is that why the VEM Corporation is doing all its insane “Imaging & Cultural Resonance Tracking” that the Orbs are somehow picking up?

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About trinalazzara

I'm an undergraduate studying English and Psychology at UCSB who is addicted to writing and constantly trying to get better at it. Gray characters and taboos are favorites of mine. I own too many sweaters.

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