The Paranoid Reader and the Unreliable Narrators/Author

First and foremost, I must admit that The Familiar has made me a paranoid reader.

I believe that my paranoia–mistrust about what I’m reading and who is providing me with the information–stems from the consistent, and perplexing, sort of “censorship” that goes on throughout the volume. Admittedly, some of the censorship is explained through the Narcon–we can attribute many of the interruptions and explanations throughout the volume to the this “Narcon”.

However, my paranoia did not subside after realizing that the small interruptions–bracketed off with the braille like-dots–could be attributed to Narcon. Conversely, my paranoia and discomfort grew exponentially as the Narcon explained his role. Knowing and witnessing that the Narcon, itself, could be interrupted and corrected–such as on pg. 576 when the mysterious all controlling censor describes the life of Mrs. Hannah Goolsend–made me curious, and suspicious, as to who is filtering this information to me as a reader.

The Familiar has many layers of narration. First, we are allowed into the consciousness of characters. This in and of itself might makes us suspicious–we are not seeing or hearing things ourselves but rather through the eyes and ears of a multitude of characters. The first layer provides questions of reliability itself. The Narcon provides another layer–through his corrections, censorship, and interruptions. This undoubtedly compounds our paranoia and questions of reliability–who is feeding us and filtering this information? Then just when we think we are finally introduced to the all-knowing narrator–the Narcon itself is corrected, interrupted, and made to feel “dizzy” and the paranoia and the questions of reliability expand even more.   

I’d like to add that I enjoy this state of paranoia into which Danielewski has forced me. (Even if it has made me more like Bobby or Cas than I’d like to admit.)


About elombard22

Senior English and Accounting Major at the University of Notre Dame

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