“What does this mean?” – Is the question the answer?

After our class’s last discussion of the novel, a classmate and I had a discussion of our own about Danielewski’s intent for writing this amazingly confusing novel that’s seems purposely chocked-full of innuendo and infinite loops.  Is Danielewski really that eccentric?  Has he actually left a shattered vase for us to tediously reassemble piece-by-piece, that if we worked hard enough and had enough patience, could actually put back together?  Are there actually patterns with deeper meanings throughout this novel and future series (at least, as many as we think there are)?  Or, is Danielewski cruelly taking advantage of his most compulsive readers; leading them to a hay stack to search for a needle that isn’t there; and charging them for the thrill of an endless hunt?  If you’ve ever seen the joy some people get from watching their dog hopelessly search for a ball that they never actually released at the end of their throw, this act of deception might seem more plausible.  If you’re thirst for clarification and completion wasn’t quenched by the first volume in this series, would you buy the second?  What about the twenty-seventh?  Would you feel cheated if there were no solid conclusions that could be drawn from the series no matter how many volumes you read.  Or, is that the point?  The redacted text sure felt reminiscent of Mad-Libs to me; just waiting to be filled in.  Maybe we are NarCons; everyone of us a different NarCon, putting the pieces together in our own way, but each still coming up with an equally valid theory.  I know that sounds a lot like what an English class or book club is supposed to be, but usually you can locate clear supporting evidence for claims and be at least partially certain of some things in the story.  In “The Familiar”, I’m not one-hundred percent certain of what dimension I’m in, much less who or what the narrators are, or if there are actually even any characters in the novel at all(our class made reference to The Matrix trilogy).  This post isn’t meant to try and diminish Danielewski’s work, or to try and deprive his fans of the thrill of the search, but to question the novel’s meaning in a way that’s not just about the story inside, but about the medium itself.  Is this just a sophisticated version of a Mad-Libs, a cruel prank, or will Danielewski eventually let us in the know?

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One response to ““What does this mean?” – Is the question the answer?”

  1. ki7sune says :

    I have asked most of the questions in your post to myself, my classmates, and on the blog at least once or twice. I am very curious as to what the ultimate purpose of this book is – let alone the entire series. I honestly cannot imagine the kind of payoff that I would find adequate after reading twenty seven of these books. Hell, I still want all the hours I spent watching “Lost” back because I felt so robbed by the end of the series.

    Like you said, I don’t want to seem like I am saying that MZD’s work isn’t valuable in its own right, but I feel like I have been chasing a carrot on a stick, and I can imagine, when I finally get the carrot, a little bald kid will tell me “there is no carrot.”

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