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?
When I was looking online to see the cover image that is being advertised with the book now, I discovered that the book is going to be available for purchase in Kindle edition here: http://www.amazon.com/Familiar-One-Rainy-Day-May-ebook/dp/B00N6PBGFO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=
This naturally had me wondering what effect the digitalization of the book will have. I think that having the book be an ebook would beparticularly interesting with respect to the narcons since they (like e-readers) are a fusion of technology and storytelling. I wonder, though, if the unique visual aspects of the book (like the symbols in the spine of the book or the dog eared pages) will be lost in a kindle version of the book…
Yes, alright, so I don’t know how to start this so that it will sound academic and knowledgeable and such, but I suppose I’ll just dive right in. Okay? Okay.
The time stamps.
Up until this last section I hadn’t really been paying any attention to them. I was really thinking that they were just there to achieve a certain ‘feel’, perhaps similar to that of the opening of a crime show where the date and location are displayed somewhere onscreen while the scene begins (or just before the scene, sometimes). I mean, obviously they help to connect the various stories in a certain order, but because the dates and times are accurate for the character’s time zones, it would take a little work to figure the exact time line out – the sort of work I’m usually unwilling to do. However, in this last section I think the time stamps become incredibly important to understanding what is happening with the plot.
(Spoilers ahead, I guess?)
At the end of Xanther’s chapter where she has run out into the rainstorm in search of the strange cry, the time stamp reads as 15:14:49 Los Angeles, CA 05/10/2014 (p.517).
At the beginning of the very next chapter, the chapter in which Tian Li suffers a very intense seizure, the time stamp reads 06:14:50 Singapore 05/11/2014 (p.519).
Now at first glance, these two time stamps look similar, but the days and hours don’t seem to line up. It appears as though Tian Li’s seizure takes place about a day after Xanther finds the kitten. However, Singapore is across the international date line, meaning that these events, and the time stamps, are actually occurring on the same day. Furthermore, when you take into account the differing time zones (6:14 AM SST (UTC +8) for Singapore and 3:14 PM PDT (UTC -7) for Los Angeles) you will find that Tian Li’s seizure begins somewhere between one second to three minutes after Xanther finds the kitten. (Jingjing’s ending time stamp, and the end of Tian Li’s seizure, is 06:17:55 Singapore 05/11/2014 (p.538), three minutes and five seconds after the chapter begins.)
The concurrence of these time stamps is even more interesting when we look at what is happening to the characters. Tian Li, frightened by the owl room in Zhong’s manor, implies that she has some prior knowledge or understanding of the events about to ensue, saying “We’ve been here before” (p.238). Jingjing helpfully clarifies that he is not part of the ‘we’ Tian Li is talking about and that she “Can only mean one we” (p.286). It is here heavily implied that the other in the ‘we’ is Tian Li’s familiar, the strange white cat that so terrifies Jingjing. It is not long after this that Tian Li has her seizure and Xanther finds, curiously, a white kitten.
It is my theory that the kitten Xanther finds is the same white cat that had belonged to (or attached itself to?) Tian Li, and that it has been reborn / transfered hosts to Xanther somehow using Tian Li’s seizure and Xanther’s epilepsy as some sort of link.
Of course, I could certainly be missing some key pieces that could either enhance or detract from this theory since I don’t know ANY Chinese at all, and cannot even guess at what Jingjing and Tian Li are saying before Tian Li has her seizure.
I know that the Orb has been addressed a number of times already, and I went back and examined some of the threads that were already made not only concerning the patterns of orbs throughout the text but what the meaning of the central Orbs in this story might be. Coming to the close of the book I felt like a separate post concerning the ending section of the book would be beneficial, and I felt that some of the information was just significant and different enough that it warranted a separate post rather than just a comment.
Looking back for a moment, the most striking thing to me about the sections concerning the Orbs was the fact that whatever is happening with the Orbs in Texas is happening at the same time as the rest of the narrative. Some of the introductory descriptions we get during the first Orb section include: “Eons slip by. The canyon rises. Her mesa falls then rises then falls again until eventually it flattens into a storm-polished plain. The temple, though, remains unchanged” (pg. 137). This kind of description originally led me to believe that I was reading about a civilization far in the past or the future, considering I wasn’t initially used to the formatting of the novel or paying attention to the dog eared pages.
Upon re-reading such a section, I realized that the Orb was giving the viewer, assumedly Cas, the ability to see into both the past and the future. I also noticed the time stamp on the dog ear indicating that this narrative was going on at the same time as everything else. This observation really put the events that were occurring in those sections a bit more in perspective, as well as increased my speculation that the technology that the Orb has is both very advanced and very experimental.
The section involving the revelation of the Narcon (pg. 563-578), short for “narrative construct” (pg. 565), put even more in perspective for me in terms of the main point of view from which all these stories are branching and how all of these stories might actually start to thread together and form a coherent and complex picture. One of the threads already mentioned running through all the stories is the presence of the striking wail which shows up at least once in all of the running narratives in this novel. Another thread involves the direct awareness of the other narratives by each other by the end of the novel.
This recognition occurs on the last page of the final Orb section, when on page 655 The Sorcerer states that he was a good friend of Xanther’s father, and knows both of him and his daughter, whose name he blatantly states. This is, as far as I can recall, the first instance of someone in a separate place and story within the narrative stating that they are aware of another story that’s occurring simultaneously along these many jumbled narratives. Unfortunately not much more of this direct connection is made since it isn’t brought up again in any following sections for the rest of the novel.
A number of questions arise in the face of this revelation. Are the Orbs connected to the Narcons in some way? Why were they developed and why are Bobby, Cas, and the others in their narrative the only ones aware of them or able to use them? Will this lead to a greater convergence of the narratives in the later volumes, a very distinctive thread that connects the narratives from a direct point rather than just someone in each of the narratives hearing a random noise? This evidence really only makes it clear that there is a definitive tie between the Ibrahim’s narrative and Bobby and Cas narrative—I can honestly say I am very much looking forward to see where the connection is taken and possibly expanded in later novels.
Side Note: One other possible instance of the narratives merging occurs on pages 434-435 when it appears Hopi’s name occurs in one of Xanther’s social networking chats, although I don’t consider this direct evidence considering I’ve read some other threads that discuss the possibility that this isn’t Xanther and Hopi’s narratives actually merging.
*Edit* — In class today it was brought to my attention that the one who says he knows Xanther and Anwar is actually The Sorcerer, and not Bobby. We theorized that perhaps Mefisto is actually the unnamed Sorcerer, and that this could be a very interesting and solid link between these two stories. If the Sorcerer really is Mefisto, how does that impact the plot of these two separate story lines? Why do you think Danielewski chose to merge them specifically? The more I think about it the more complex and intriguing it gets.
What do we make of the dog-eared look that many of the tops of the novel’s pages have? It looks like many of them have been folded back, marking the previous page. Which pages aren’t marked in this way, and why? Or maybe these aren’t dog ears — what else could this design suggest?