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How many…?

Saying I was mildly concerned about Xanther’s rummaging through the grime in that rain storm would be putting it, well, mildly. But that’s just the hypochondriac in me talking.

Yesterday, I commented on ktoney2015’s form and function post highlighting the several instances of pages with deliberately unreadable text: text so small it requires a magnifying glass, or blurry text etc. Immediately after this, I come upon a few pages with painted text that look like rainbows and raindrops. At this point it becomes obvious that the novel is doing something other than inviting reading–at least not in the demotic sense of the word “reading”–although maybe in our broader, critical sense.

At first glance at those pages (478-79; 494-5; 506-7; 514-15), I half expected the characters to be binary. We’re all probably familiar with the trope of constructing visual images out of a bunch of ones and zeros, which become apparent as the image is magnified beyond recognition. I actually almost couldn’t stop myself from viewing the raindrops on p. 514 as zeros–so I guess from that perspective the rain would represent ones? Except, there really is no difference between the zeros and the ones, since the ones (raindrops-in-flight) become the zeros as soon as they hit the ground in a puddle. Then, of course, the circularity of the raindrops and the puddles they carve into the ground is reminiscent of that clock ticking out its seconds up to 5:32

5:33. (Bones Nest chapter)

I guess I never really spend too much time wondering what cryptic things mean. There’s a certain freedom in accepting the solipsism of the text, and I revel in that. An earlier post mentioned how much this novel is meant to be viewed, and not merely read, and I agree with that. It requires that you allow its import to bypass your intellect and mean (signify?), even when you don’t know just what it means. (MacLeish, anyone?) “How many raindrops” is the chapter’s (even the novel‘s) refrain, and to me that “means” how many pages, how many lines, sentences, words, letters, pixels… A lot, and the experience is actually kind of in the deluge of the text, the overwhelming power of it that cannot be contained, counted, arranged in any particular way. Understood.

How Numbers Don’t Work

There have been plenty of posts wondering about the omnipresence of 3 and 9 in the novel. It’s fascinating but seems still unclear. I wonder, though, if the neatness of 3 and 9 is a bit of misdirect by MD. It seems significant that the both early and later in the novel we are given the paradox of zero, i..e that multiplying by zero can lead to a set of equations in which, by mathematical logic, 1=2 (see pp. 59 and 771). Meanwhile, we get other numbers that add up but don’t: Jingjing counts two sets of 5 people to get 9, so 10 =9;  Isandorno has four animal crates, but he claims to have three, so 4=3. So what do we do with this? I’m not entirely sure. I would suggest, for one, that MD keeps imploring to try to think beyond our sense of natural orders (such as time and space). We must work within paradoxes; think of the famous Schrodinger’s cat (aha!) that is both dead and alive, thus, when does something become one or the other? We can’t know how it fits into the bigger picture yet, but I’m suggesting that we have to somehow get comfortable with accepting contradictory possibilities in MD’s gigantic world.

Three’s The Magic Number (pp. 200- 395)

Three is a magic number. We have the holy trinity, mind body and soul, and triangles (which were extremely revered in Ancient Greece and Egypt) and there are lots of three symbolism going on in the book: Xanther is one of three children. Was there a love triangle between Anwar, Astair and Dov? If a seizure goes over three minutes you need to call an ambulance. The number nine is quite prominent too and of course is three squared. The obvious one here is a cat has nine lives and there are nine characters. Then there’s the amount of volumes said to be written – 27, a factor of three. But why three? I would have understood more if it was two- binary seeing as that’s computer language and it appears to be a story about a computer programme.

The three dots that appear when someone hears the cry. They are appearing more often but are getting fainter. This reminds me of the pings from a black box transmitting so that someone can locate something that needs to be found. The fact that it is fading, in my mind means that it need to be located soon. The more we see them the harder it rain, an electrical storm must be fast approaching. An electrical storm in the weather and/or in Xanther’s head. Will we need to time her seizure? Will it last more than three minutes? Will her ‘beast’ kill her this time? Is this her predator, or is it someone closer to home? Someone like Anwar?


Xanther has just started playing Anwar’s game in which she is the prey. I think this simulation corresponds with what’s going on in reality. I think she is being manipulated by Anwar for some reason and quite possibly Anwar may have had something to do with Dov’s death somehow.

In the game, Xanther asks what sort of animal she is, but they don’t know yet, just like we don’t know yet what fragile and dangerous creature it is that Xanther ends up trying to save rather than getting a dog (blurb on the back cover).Is it a real animal, or is it the predator that is chasing her in the game, or the thing that is making the noise that everyone can hear as the storm is fast approaching? Who are the predators she has to look out for in real life? Anwar? Luther? Hopi?

For some reason I am not quite connecting yet with the other stories, but enjoy reading the Singapore narratives as it is so poetical and I feel should read out loud.

The Number Nine

I think this novel has me over-analyzing minor details, but has anyone else noticed the frequent use of the number nine? The number nine appears on page 239 when the twins are playing The Animal Game. Freya tells Shasti, “You can only change your mind nine times.”

On page 272, jingjing counts nine people on the top floor of a building that he refers to as a palace. Even though he counted four on each side (which would equal 8,) it’s “always nine.”

Isandorno can’t say the number nine unless he taps out nine by fingers to thumb. He does this on page 307.

I think the number nine stood out to me because its relevance to cats. Cats are said to have nine lives and there have been many mentions of cats so far in the novel.