Today in class, we discussed different levels of power and authority associated with different pieces of literature. We referenced Johanna Drucker in” target=”_blank”>The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art where she discusses the difference between marked and unmarked texts. In unmarked texts, the format is simple, and the words mean exactly what they say, leaving no room for interpretation. An unmarked text is transparent. Danielewski interrupts this transparency with The Familiar—a marked text. Danielewski makes the pages visually stimulating by skewing the format and providing pictures. He draws the reader in and holds the reader accountable for interpretation of the novel as a whole.

The difference in these two pieces is the presence of power. When reading an unmarked text, the reader does not feel a sense of authority. A marked text, however, is written by the author to provoke thought, create conversations, and formulate answers to the unknown. To put this in simpler terms, let’s compare these types of text to types of sentences. When thinking about unmarked vs. marked texts, I imagine an unmarked text as an imperative sentence—a sentence that tells us exactly what to do and does not leave any room for questions. On the other hand, I imagine a marked text as an interrogative sentence—a sentence ending in a question mark that elicits a response from the reader.

Danielewski gives his readers a great deal of power in this book, leaving questions unanswered and room for interpretation. He also includes a hierarchy of power within the story. We can view these layers of authority like Xanther’s digital social media spheres on page 335—The Solosphere, The Amicasphere, the Noosphere, and the Horrosphere.

First, we can use the Solosphere (“contained, known, safe”) to represent the first level of power in the story—the characters. The characters’ stories are created by a higher power, and it is questionable whether the characters are aware of any other level of power. Secondly, the Amicasphere represents the Narcons. These computer-like programs help tell the stories, and on page 571 of the Narcon section, the Narcon says, “I know every reality Xanther has encountered whether pebble, pot holder, or tangerine seed…I know that which is beyond Xanther too.” The next layer is the Noosphere (“Definitely the least safe.”). This represents VEM. This is an acronym that is mentioned numerous times throughout the novel (see pages 569, 571, 639, 642, 647). Although we are unsure what it stands for, we get the sense that it is a higher power of creation in the novel. Finally, the last layer is the Horrosphere. The author, Danielewski, would be categorized into this most-outward layer. He is the creator of the story and has the greatest amount of power. He created this work of fiction, and he controls VEM, the Narcons, and the characters.

Where within these layers do the readers fall? I think we may even fall outside the limits of these spheres. We are free to create out own interpretations. What do you think?



2 responses to “Authority-Sphere”

  1. Jeremy says :

    Hi. Wondering if you could tell me more about this class that you are reading this book for? I know this sounds super nerdy but I love MZD’s books and think I would really enjoy any course that used them. School? Professor? Course name and number? Anything would help.

    Oh, and I think that your theory here is interesting!


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