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Publication and Sequel

Now that we are several months out from when we first read The Familiar, more information is available about its sequel and the final design of the book. We spent a lot of time interpreting the black and white design elements of the pre-release copy, and it will soon be available in full color with even more interpretations. To the left is the book’s cover, and I think it does a fantastic job of introducing the reader to what they will experience while reading it. Not only does it include a pattern of the margin symbols (which, I believe, we now know are some sort of timeline), but the images within the 1 become less clear the more you look at them. I see what appears to be a dinner plate and centerpiece overlaid by two different kinds of orbs. The one on the left looks especially sic-fi, while the one on the bottom seems to show the functions of the Orb with its warped presentation of human silhouettes in front of the sun or some other source of light.

The Amazon page also provides more information about Volume IIInto the Forest, which is set for release on October 27, 2015.

The Familiar, Volume 1  Wherein the cat is found . . .
The Familiar, Volume 2  Wherein the cat is hungry . . .

From the universally acclaimed, genre-busting author of House of Leaves comes the second volume of The Familiar, a “novel [which] goes beyond the experimental into the visionary, creating a language and style that expands the horizon of meaning . . . hint[ing] at an evolved form of literature.”*

This seems like good news for cat lovers, as the cat is presented as the main focus of the series. It is also ominous about what it means that the cat is hungry. The way Xanther found the cat was odd enough, and now I am really curious about what exactly it is hungry for—perhaps the birds we saw in the preview for this book?

I’ll be preordering the sequel, and I think the pace at which the books are being released bodes well for those of us who don’t want to be in our 40s (or older) when the final volume is released.

Thoughts on the cover design and the hints about Volume Ii?


Seriality explained

I found this article from the L.A. Times to be helpful in discovering more about seriality. The author uses “NCIS” as an example against a serial and explains the negative effects of this type of television show {which can also apply to literature).  The article talks about the successes of “NCIS” coming from the fact that the series “has bucked TV’s trend toward serialized storytelling, which, though popular with hard-core fans and many critics, requires more dedication from viewers and has almost certainly tamped down ratings for many shows.”  I found this interesting because, although true that serials require more attention and dedication, I think viewers (and readers) are willing to put in that time.  Shows like “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” are wildly popular, even though they ask a lot of their fans when it comes to paying attention and making connections.  I disagree with this article, and maybe even the fact that the show steers away from serial elements – it goes through many characters, has varying plot and comes with surprises, all elements of a serial.  I think that seriality will only become more popular due to the interest of viewers, listeners or readers and the fact that media has become so easy to share and spread quickly.  Our world lends itself perfectly to this type of literature (if it can be called that) because of tools like social media and blogs.

Here’s the article, hopefully it helps a bit to understand more about the serial in our contemporary culture and to predict what will eventually happen with the release of The Familiar!

The ways THE FAMILIAR functions as a novel

I’ve recently given a lot of thought to the common phrase “it feels like a movie” when reviewers cover other media. For example, when discussing books, people often praise the story for seeming “cinematic”, and I began to wonder: why do we consider film to be the highest level of media? Wouldn’t it seem insulting to claim that a movie “feels like you’re reading a book”? Having said that, whether or not you enjoyed THE FAMILIAR, I personally was able to appreciate the fact that it seemed to very strongly ground itself in the idea that it was a piece of literature, specifically a novel. This is a story that seems to have been conceived as a book and a book only, never with some grandiose expectation that it could be an entertaining video game or movie. I liked that.

comfort within uncomfortable endings

Although I am frustrated by how many questions and threads are left (un)”answerable” at the end of the book Xanther’s narrative did end up feeling “manageable.” For all of The Familiar’s experimentation, I believe I fully understand Xanther’s narrative and the convention(ality) of it. Does the kitten live? I adamantly believe so. Hopi dies, the cat will survive– so says convention. And even though many parts of the story are left teetering, there’s a balance to Xanther’s story. She, the girl who is always being cared for now is the caregiver and she takes great joy in it. The service dog, on the other hand, would have been another caregiver for her.  It’s a beautifully simple plot. Of course it connects with the theme of ‘prey'(different than patient or needing care, but similar) which we see in other parts of the book: Anwar’s game is about prey and predator and Bobby and Cas are being hunted down. Additionally, looking ahead to the preview for Volume 2 that there is a section told from the point of view of a predator: a bird of prey.

Narrative Loading: A response to griffid2015’s post “The Three Dots”

I find what griffid2015 has to say in the first part of his post “The Three Dots” to be very interesting. The idea that we are part of a novel-length text conversation takes the novel to a new level of immersion.  For me though, this visual element raises another question: Are waiting through the dots?

Many pages in the novel are interrupted by some sort of visual element. For me, these dots are by far one of the most fascinating of these elements. These dots cause pause, much like the ellipsis they resemble. They prompt contemplation and confusion. At times, they frustrate us, almost testing our patience as readers (or viewers) of this novel’s ever-complicating events. In this way, they are quite similar to the loading or buffering screens encountered by viewers when streaming online content.

We talk about the novel as a means by which Danielewski remediates other media, (television, the web, online gaming/communication), so it is possible that these dots are a part of this scheme. The buffering or loading screens for online content take many different forms, sometimes ellipsis like these. Other posts, such as the one by juliapanko, discuss how Danielewski is, through this novel, remediating television. If we allow for the idea that many television shows are now streaming online, then the notion that ellipsis on these pages could represent the loading of future content gains a little more credence.

It is as if we are waiting for something to happen or for someone to arrive (the Narcon perhaps?) Once it does, everything changes. I looked through the remainder of the book, and after we meet the Narcon, these dots don’t appear to take up any more full pages. The ellipsis pages help the novel build up (or load) to its climax. The narrative entity that has subtly making itself known up until this point has revealed itself. It has overcome whatever barriers have previously held it back and the pace of the novel is speeding up. Strap in for the ride and enjoy the content to come.


I’m not really sure where this fits but has anyone else noticed the mentioning of religion in almost every section of the book? It is normally used in the sense of what one believes.

For example Danielewski specifically mentions that Anwar does not believe in a God, but that Dov did.

He describes things that are not church related as religion, too.

For example, on page 407 traffic is mentioned as a religion. He uses it as a adjective to describe how Shnorhk feels about traffic.

I might be making something out of nothing but I do not think that the use of religion both dealing with and without the church is purely accidental. If Danielewski is remediating television then this could be another theme of sorts to think about. Most television shows these days have the characters that have a strong belief in something. It gives their character another depth so that people can relate better.

I’ve taken fiction classes at school and one thing that my professors stress is developing the characters in a way that does not give everything away but still makes you relate to them.

I think that characters having strong beliefs in something or nothing is a way for us to relate back to the characters without necessarily giving too much away in what is to come.

There might even be a deeper meaning to the use of religion that I have yet to work out in my mind and I will not understand until I reach the end of the book but this is what I have for now.


Reading as We Watch [Not Watching as We Read]

As many have posited, reading Danielewski’s novel can be compared quite closely with watching a television show, or (more loosely) with watching any sort of video at all. The book takes full advantage of its own form, literally illustrating with its own text, to add another dynamic to the plainly apparent complexity of the story. Not only must the reader uncover the details of each of the half dozen or so potentially stand-alone plots but he must at least attempt to make sense of the strange yet illustrative instances of innovative form – the repetitive sentences that cascade across the page like water on glass, the multi-linguistical phrases which one may or may not be expected to translate, the endless brackets of both sentence and code, etc. This sort of form ramps up the speed of the text, creating the sort of visual aura (similar to that of a television screen) that causes the reader to watch the novel and its unique form go by as its pages turn. The reader naturally becomes less concerned with the more traditional approach of reading the sentence/paragraph/etc., momentarily digesting what he has read (not watched), then forming his own idea as it pertains to the narrative and its plot before voluntarily turning the page and moving onto the next sentence/paragraph/etc. Danielewski purposely whys away from this sequential logic of narrative/literary discovery, making it nearly impossible. His paragraphs become fragments and his lack of explication and the absence of linear progression become fundamentally disorienting. And in the midst of this perplexing activity the text naturally speeds up, as the reader realizes that he must search desperately for more stylistic familiarity by whizzing through the “visuals” with which he is constantly bombarded. The novel becomes a video, a film, a rapid slideshow of images, for the reader cannot simply “read, digest, and voluntarily move through” everything; he can can only look at, or watch, what is being present before his scanning eyes.

Undoubtedly, this innovative style creates much confusion for the reader. However, as with a television show in which one is presented with countless visual stimuli that gradually filter out to form a comprehendible story, I believe the novel with its numerous volumes attempts to do the same – familiarizing the watcher so much so that he will gradually come to know what exactly he should be looking for, what exactly he should be “reading,” and, more importantly, what exactly warrants none of his attention. Within film this takes place very quickly, as the viewer quickly realizes what is to grab his attention through the camera’s focus and subtle suggestions. The question is, however, how long until the bound pages of a book allow the same – for the reader (with his traditional habits) often believes that every word is painstakingly chosen for its particular place. And will everyone arrive at the turning point from “watching” to “reading” at the same time within the text, if even at all?

Response to “Remediating TV” by juliapanko

How is reading The Familiar like watching at TV program?

I would agree that The Familiar has many similar characteristics to a television program. The stories that develop throughout the novel often remind me of developing plot lines in a tv series. Just like watching a series on Netflix, The Familiar tells the story of several groups of people with one connecting factor. In television, the connecting factor could be the relationship all the characters share with one another. In Danielewski’s novel, the connection is the time and date. In addition, this novel mirrors tv by how it leaves the reader (or watcher) hooked and interested without providing many answer to large questions/issues taking place. The novel shows a peak of the plot line and then moves to the next group of characters. Television series keep watchers interested by leaving them hanging from week to week. The design of the first section of the novel resembles a television screen and almost represents previews before a television show begins. The direction the book must be held to read this section is different from the rest of the novel.

Remediating TV

Danielewski has said that his works “remediate” other media: House of Leaves remediates film, for instance, Only Revolutions remediates music, and The Familiar remediates television.

We might think about The Familiar remediating television in two ways: as genre and as medium. We can certainly think about The Familiar building on literary genres like detective fiction and science fiction. But are there ways we could say that TF incorporates elements of television genres? (Perhaps reality tv? The nightly news?) We might also look for subtler ways that the novel nods to the conventions of TV programs. There’s an early reference to Stephen Colbert, for instance, and you’ll find references to very current events, which you might not expect to see in a novel.

In terms of medium, are there ways that the novel’s use of the “signiconic” remediates TV as a technology? The book is rectangular, a shape that could mimic either the physical hardware of a television set or the space of the TV screen. Are either of these reflected in the book’s design? And how is reading The Familiar like watching a TV program?

How do you see TF incorporating and playing with the conventions of television?