Understanding The Familiar Through House of Leaves
I wanted to post a few resources I’ve found in relation to House of Leaves that I think have the ability to help us better understand some of the things that The Familiar is doing.
The first is an article titled “Text and Paratext in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves”
It’s really helpful for understanding how Danielewski likes to both play around with narrative and how he uses the totality of the text as part of a narrative. In particular, I think it is important to take into consideration the points made about the coloration of the word “house” throughout the novel: the fact that this even occurs with the name of the publisher (Random House) shows just how pervasive the narrative can be in Danielewski’s stories. It is not just the actual plot and characters that we need to be aware of and use to understand what is happening in the story, but the entire book, cover to cover. For instance: I am usually pretty against reading the flap or back of books. While on the one hand it can be a nice summary that let’s me know a bit about whether or not I’ll find the story engaging, on the other hand I usually find that such summaries have a tendency to give away a bit too much of the plot for my liking. While this is certainly true of The Familiar, I would advocate reading the back of the book in spite of the fact that it gives away some of the plot. Danielewski has near total control over the composition of this book, and therefore I think it is important to eave no stone unturned. It may very well be that he’d rather the audience already know that Xanther’s trip to the dog shelter will end in “failure”, as it were.
The second article is a bit less about the book itself and more about the full experience that comes with reading a Danielewski book, and is titled: House of Leaves: Reading the Networked Novel
(Note: I found this particular article through my university’s library database, so you might not be able to access it through that link.)
One of the main themes from the article that I think applies very well to The Familiar is actually a quote from another article and says: “[House of Leaves] is a print novel for the digital age, a book that privileges print while plugging into the digital network.”
Obviously, if only by the existence of this website, The Familiar does the same sort of thing. Beyond just the physical book, there is a greater “experience” that is involved with The Familiar. You’re meant to be constantly translating, googling, and generally researching all of the disparate information you encounter throughout the book. It is very much an interactive experience, and to fully enjoy the story I really believe that you have to get out there and do some leg work (like making posts on this site!).
Find anything else int he articles that you think applies well to The Familiar? Let me know! Perhaps one of the major differences I find is the lack of a real horror narrative in The Familiar that is so important to House of Leaves– though with the introduction of the obviously supernatural (and certainly dangerous) cat that may very well change as we move into future volumes.