Parenting as a theme
In Xanther’s storyline, Danielewski explores the struggles of parenting a child with a serious medical condition. Both Astair and Anwar express that they are not sure how to care for her best and are worried that they are doing the wrong things for her. Its obvious that they care deeply for their daughter and would do anything improve her life, like move all around the country or spend $20,000 on a dog that would sense her seizures. Anwar especially worries consistently that he is disappointing Xanther as a father.
It seems as though the relationship between Anwar and Xanther is stronger than the relationship she has with her mother, which Astair acknowledges when she expresses that she had been having trouble connecting with her daughter. I think that relationship is the most interesting, because Anwar is not Xanther’s real father, which I think is Danielewskis commentary on custody and responsibility. Xanther’s biological father, Dov, seems to have given up the responsibility to be a father for Xanther, most likely due to the fact that he was committed to the military (and ended up literally giving his life to the military). She calls Dov by his first name and she calls Anwar ‘dad’ or ‘daddy’. According to Astair, Dov was one who taught her to call him by his first name. Xanther seems to have a deep tenderness and admiration for Dov, in the way that she looked up to his bravery and obsessively listened to his records, but it doesn’t seem as though she regards him as much a father figure. Xanther seems to recognize that Anwar has been the one to actually act as a father in her life, and even expresses to his coworkers that she feels very lucky to have him as a father, and also seems to adore and admire him in general. Anwar is the one who can claim ‘custody’ (not in the legal sense of the word) for Xanther because he earned it by caring and providing for her in a way that her real father didnt.
Still working on identifying custody, care, and responsibility in other character’s chapters, if anyone has any ideas please comment!