The ways THE FAMILIAR functions as a novel

I’ve recently given a lot of thought to the common phrase “it feels like a movie” when reviewers cover other media. For example, when discussing books, people often praise the story for seeming “cinematic”, and I began to wonder: why do we consider film to be the highest level of media? Wouldn’t it seem insulting to claim that a movie “feels like you’re reading a book”? Having said that, whether or not you enjoyed THE FAMILIAR, I personally was able to appreciate the fact that it seemed to very strongly ground itself in the idea that it was a piece of literature, specifically a novel. This is a story that seems to have been conceived as a book and a book only, never with some grandiose expectation that it could be an entertaining video game or movie. I liked that.

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2 responses to “The ways THE FAMILIAR functions as a novel”

  1. tcprince says :

    This is a fascinating concept. I think that when people say “it feels like a movie” they mean that it engages the senses in the same way a movie would (it invokes a sense of reality through the use of auditory and visual description), rather than it being a higher form of media. Still, it’s interesting to think about what it is to “feel like you’re reading a book.” To me, reading a book is the act of imagining the narrative as though you are privy to the experiences and senses of the characters. This puts The Familiar into an interesting light, because it didn’t focus on the external reality of the narrative as much as the internal reality of the characters. This was more apparent in some chapters, especially in Xanther’s and her parents’ chapters, while others (Isandòrno’s especially, in my opinion) read more like a traditional narrative. I agree that this text seems very aware of itself as a book, taking advantage of the possibilities and limitations of the form, even if it’s not a standard novel.

  2. jasongomez1 says :

    I agree with your point—specifically when you state that The Familiar “strongly grounded itself in the idea that it was a piece of literature.” I’m going to expand on that.
    Given that the novel is interspersed with notes and details from the Narcons, it would be fitting to classify Danielewsky’s work as metafiction. Essentially, metafiction is when fiction is aware of the fact that it is telling you a story and it plays around with the idea of what is artificial and what is real. The Narcons speak directly to us, the readers. It reminds us that what we are reading is simulated. It makes us contemplate fiction as opposed to reality.
    That said, The Familiar functions as a novel in an eccentric way. It has been established that The Familiar remediates TV. Remediate means that it’s interpreting a television show through the medium of book. I don’t think Danielewsky ever intended The Familiar to air on TV; rather, he is “airing it” through the medium of a novel. I find it interesting how we can get the same story through a variety of media—whether we’re watching TV, reading a book, or playing a videogame.

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