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The Orb

What is the meaning of the Orb, how does its meaning unfold as the novel proceeds, and what does its recurrence in the text mean? How might the Orb bring together time and space, temporality and planetarity, nonphysical and physical being, noumenal and phenomenal being? How might it signal “planetarity,” one of the 5 keywords in the front matter (but perhaps also the other keywords–rain, violence, etc.)?

Circles and orbs about in the text:

  • the 5 orbs/planets in the front matter (Rain, Signiconic, Violence, Planetarity, Custody), themselves semi-surrounding an AT&T-like planetary symbol
  • Raindrops throughout book
  • The orb sections themselves (especially “Tiny Storms,” 622ff)
  • the “orbs of time” that are the minutes of Xanther’s seizure, which lasted 5:32 (pp.242 ff).
  • The orbs at the chapter title pages for “Is Everything Ok?” (48), “Big Surprise” (114), “Dr. Potts” (179), “The Horrorsphere” (326), “Cinnamon” (437), “Litter” (455), “Tiny Storms” (622), “If Anything” (787)
  • the circles/orbs of speech on 444-445
  • the fact that this novel is “A circle round a stone production” (end matter)
  • Particularly puzzling: the “orbs” on Xanther’s phone, which include sayings by Hopi. Since this is on “Solosphere,” it is private: how is Hopi on her phone, in these text bubbles?  Is the phone another “channel” to other-worldly communication, like familiars and wizards?

Certainly this seems related even early in the text to the mystical and to famiiars, to the pre-Hispanic cultures of Central America, and to the horrorsphere broadly defined.


We find out, of course, at the end of this volume that the orb is a computer of sorts, that Bobby had a hand in its creation, that Mefisto might be involved. But this doesn’t seem to exhaust the orb’s possibilities or its resonances, or resolve its relation to the Narcons and to other orbs in the text.


The Ws

As a Danielewski virgin, I read the first 199 pages without any preconceptions apart from those mentioned in the lecture requesting volunteers to the project. Therefore, once I started reading I was uncertain if the whole book was going to be made up of what appears to be random snapshots of various communications possibly aimed at an ADHD/MTV readership. These seem to be unrelated, but are probably part of a puzzle that needs deciphering. My worry is that as this is the first of 27 novels that the puzzle may not be solved until the last novel, which is quite a big commitment.

The ADHD snapshots appear to have some relation to the protagonist, who has some unknown learning (I don’t want to call it a disability as I think she is more advanced in some ways despite her family finding her immature) syndrome? So at this point in time I feel as though she is an ‘Indigo child’. And the way that the story is presented to us, the reader is being treated as an Indigo Child too and, are made to feel that we too should be asking all the ‘w’ questions in order to make sense of what is going on.

As for the voices in peoples head, I believe they are Gods or aliens watching how the characters are thinking and acting. These omnipresent voices are from the early chapters. It is quite difficult to work out the pattern of how many there are but it would appear from the different parenthesis used that there are at least four. Are the voices, supernatural familiars, ghosts, something we know but have chosen to forget?  The trouble for me is whether to write all these things down and try and work out the pattern or to just go with the flow and trust Danielewski to tell me in his own time what is going on. However, with the patterns I am worried that I might miss something crucial and this is with the actual patterns made up with words as well. For instance the lovely rain drop patterns, I was so worried that I would miss a hidden clue that I felt I needed to read each word even though you could see that they were repetitive.

As I am not multilingual, how much am I missing by not being able to read all that is being said? And not only is it what is being said but some characters also, think certain words or phrases in language other than English. Am I still able to get the gist of what’s happening or are these vital pieces of information? Should I chose to google everything or ignore? How much like the protagonist should I be?