Archive | February 2015

The Familiar & Through the Arc

The Familiar is marked by a number of connections between stories: the number nine, the strange sound, rain, and a cat. At the same time, Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita is centered around birds. Focusing on animals, the cat in The Familiar is much like birds in Through the Arc; they are very important to the overall theme of the particular book.

Both The Familiar and Through the Arc of the Rainforest begin explaining the lives and personalities of extremely different characters. Sometimes these characters are closer to each other, such as Xanther and her family or Kazumasa and his ball, Hiroshi, and Lourdes. However, sometimes the characters are across oceans from one another. Either way, in both books the characters end up being tied together in some way or another. In The Familiar, the cat that Xanther found was the runaway cat that belonged to jingjing’s aunt (if I am remembering correctly). In Through the Arc, Baptista’s pigeons eventually ended up bringing Kazumasa and J.B. Tweep together. Animals in both books bring together characters who would have otherwise never come in contact with one another.

In addition, though the main plots of each book do not have much to do with the cat or the birds, they are most definitely seen in the climaxes of both. The climax of Xanther’s story is when she is running through the rain in a panic, finally stopping when she comes across a cat falling into a gutter. She saves the cat and brings it home, and her uneasiness about life seems to disappear. The climax of Through the Arc occurs when a plague kills a large number of people– this plague stems from lice found on the feathers of birds. To stop the plague, planes flew around spraying the pesticide DDT, killing all of the birds in the areas that were treated.

Without the presence of these animals, the books would have completely different endings and meanings. How do you think The Familiar would have been different had Xanther not saved the cat that had originally belonged to jingjing’s aunt?  How would Through the Arc of the Rainforest be different if, say, Baptista had fallen in love with an animal aside from birds?


Xanther’s Thoughts

I feel that the extra “narratives” to be the thoughts/emotions of Xanther. She has learned how to express her inner voice. For her to be so young, a great deal of her thoughts are understandable. I think that she is dealing with a deep, deep inner hurt that she can not let go. Could the raindrops represent people, thoughts, or inner feelings?

For example, two of the “raindrops”: “first flipping the horizon over as if to reverse gravity, but that only makes the rain fall back into the clouds.” “If Xanther froze it all, suspended the whole storm with a wish, a wave of that impossibility with a long finger, which she tries to do now, if just in her head.”

Now, could we count the raindrops as tears? In these statements, since she has lost her father, could that be a reason for the thoughts and emotion. Not one of the “raindrops” represent happiness, they are all just… Sad.

Agree/disagree? Input?

The Familiar, Godly?



In the interlude of The Familiar it mentions: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

In many posts that I have  read discusses the existence of mentioning people such as Luther being a symbol of Jesus.  Jesus walked on water; as so Luther. Jesus was hung on a cross with wounds; Luther was wounded. Coincidence?

“Now holding up his hands.  Like praying. Praying to Luther.” (p.605)

I find it strange to have this included in this book about God.  I think that the book is talking about a “higher power” of some sort in a type of fabrication, rather, it is not about God in particular.  As we discussed in class, the characters are possibly “powered” by the Narcons, the Narcons “powered” by VEM, VEM “powered” by Danielewski, and “surprisingly” we are powered by Danielewski’s extravagant work of art.

So, isn’t it funny that the interlude suggests to “invent him”? Could VEM be the invention? The power?


As I read this book, I am noticing the time stamps on some of the pages. They are not in sequential order, nor are the dates the same. The time stamp shows military time, date, and the location (5/10/14 and 5/11/14). Seems that the location does coincide with the location of that particular story, rather, at this time, it is hard to tell what exactly it means. We can assume that the author is trying to tell us the location immediately but I feel we are to view each story and blend them together with time and space.

Has anyone any ideas to this assumption?

Major Frustration

January 20

I am starting to not enjoy this book at all but I am only at the halfway point.  I like books that I can read deep into but this is a complete and total mystery.  I am really enjoying all the Xanther editions and pushing myself to keep reading further and hopefully finding her again.  This whole ordeal of piecing together stories and also keeping them apart from each other is very difficult.  I am hoping on every page that I am brought to, I can fully understand but it is not coming to me.  To jingjing and the Armenians… “feel like am reading movie” get it?

January 29

To my surprise I am taking back my statement on January 20th.  Now that I have completed this “journey” and have meditated with my class, I am understanding the author, the characters, and why this book is a complete mystery.  Yes, we have talked about why literary books are “deeply over read” but in this case (reading The Familiar or any of Danielewski’s books) your mind can wander and think about anything it wants time and time again.  

Let me clarify: When reading a “regular” literary novel that is written in unmarked text it is simple to understand the meaning of the story.  And again, when reading the book a second time, more information may surface.  Possibly, when reading a third time, the reader can again pick up on more information.  In The Familiar each time the book is read, I feel that new information is everlasting.  Every time the text is read, new information will surface time after time after time….

This book is definitely not for the typical reader.  It’s special.


This may be a bit out there…

As a discussion in class about VEM, I google searched and this is quoted on a technological website.  The explanation is much like the theory that we had in class. VEM: codes, identity, future, and power.

Therefore, the characters are powered by VEM?

innovative, future and customer oriented
VEM is an innovative, flexible, cosmopolitan, internationally-active and reliable manufacturer of technically sophisticated system and drive solutions, custom drives and single components. The output capacity ranges from 0.06 kilowatts to 42 megawatts. Continuity and reliability, including in the future, this is what the production and service at VEM stands for. The engineering and quality of the products with the VEM logo are trendsetters within the market.

The Design, Limitations, and Purpose of Narcons

“Hi.” This congenial, seemingly innocent greeting is what opens Pandora’s Box (and indeed opens paradise) in Volume 1 of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar. Like some metafictional game of peek-a-boo, the novel’s Narrative Construct pauses the story completely and introduces itself to the reader. TF-Narcon9, as is its designation, exists someplace above and beyond the […]

The Familiar and Wild Seed: The Bond Between Humans and Animals

The conclusion of The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski displays a powerful bond between humans and animals. The therapeutic relationship with animals is a theme shared with the novel Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler. Both Xanther and Anyanwu, who are controlled by something greater than themselves, find themselves comforted by the presence of animals. Xanther’s epilepsy keeps her on edge and anxious that she might have an attack at any moment. However, when she finds the cat which she can take care of, she experiences some serenity and is not overwhelmed with a cascade of questions. Instead, she finally feels that life is “answerable.” Similarly, Anyanwu finds herself controlled by Doro who forces her to adopt his lifestyle even if she does not agree with his practices, such as incest. Anyanwu is only able to evade his grasp by changing into an animal form. Also, when living with animals, she experiences a similar restoration as Xanther. This is demonstrated when she becomes despondent after the Margaret’s suicide and is told by Luisa to go back to the sea and live as a dolphin. After she does, she returns over a month later she feels and looks better. Both novels focus on the benefits of living harmoniously with animals.

Purpose – Part Two

In my first post I discussed the how purpose plays various roles within the book/story of The Familiar, especially in regard to the Narcons and the world they have created. Now I want to focus on purpose from outside the book, and to do that I have taken a giant step back from it.

So, my question is: what is the purpose of this piece of work? The most immediate and obvious answer is that it remediates television the same way House of Leaves remediated film. However, I am still unsatisfied with that answer. To get a better answer, I feel I must ask another question: what is the purpose of this remediation?

I recently ran across a quote by Audre Lorde. She said, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” The Familiar definitely does present the story (and itself) in a new way to most readers. However, there is nothing “new” about the story itself. I am not going to take the time to indentify all the mythemes in the book or compare the narratives to other works, but I do want to discuss how MZD made his story feel and the purpose behind his choices (I am also not going to rehash all the clever ways this book does make us feel or see things differently).

So, is the purpose of this work to make us see and feel the novel in a different light? If so, it seems to me that the newness, cleverness, and oddity of The Familiar will lose its charm well before the twenty-some-odd volumes are finished. Or, is the purpose of this work to add feeling to the narratives within the story? Very early in the story, I was drawn in by the visual aspect of the scene in which Xanther stresses about the idea of counting all the raindrops in the storm. However, more often I was taken OUT of the story when trying to make connections, interpret the visual aspects of the text, or having to look up things to make the text “make sense.” If the purpose is to add something to the story, I think MZD took everything a bit too far. I enjoy losing myself in a well written story, but in The Familiar I was often just plain lost, sidetracked, or frustrated. Perhaps I am just too lazy to fully enjoy ergodic literature.

(Shawn Atkinson)

If Anything…

It’s hardly strange that Xanther feels somewhat connected to this hummingbird after her epileptic bout. She certainly has a knack for injured animals, and I wonder if it is because she feels herself one. Hummingbirds, even in health, are all vibration and almost make a normality of epilepsy. So this injured one announces the pathology of its own state not in the shaking, but in its “eyes going blank”–though the blankness is more of a super-saturated knowledge and awareness. It does what Xanther appears to be able to do with the Narcon: invade other consciousnesses. It is able to refract itself “into another self beyond what every reflection still fails to consider” (794).

The seizure the bird was experiencing was the final stages of life. A threshold. A portal. The above analysis doesn’t change much. When the bird “departs,” Xanther is left in darkness, one that is strikingly like the blankness of the bird’s gaze, as nothing can hide there. The unequal darkness leads to her encounter (memory?) of that resuscitated kitten that sleeps next to her and transforms her inexorable sadness into a manageable one. It’s as though the darkness, the absence (or excess) of light (sense, sound, impulse…) were a proving ground, or some sort of cosmic (re)birth canal that grants the most mundane and unremarkable of second chances. Unless, of course, you’re Xanther, and then you do remark it because you recognise it for what it is.