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Response to “Raindrop Interpretations” by delklor

Danielewski’s novel The Familiar One Rainy Day in May uses rain to create and depict ideas crucial to its plot line and character development. While rain may be taking place in the physical world around these characters, it is abstractly represented in other ways as well. Xanther’s epilepsy can be seen rather clearly in some ways, and vaguely in others. My first reaction to seeing Danielewski’s choice of design of these “raindrop words” was one of awe. I have never been able to imagine what the mind of someone with epilepsy could be like until I saw this image. In the “Is Everything Okay?” section, the raindrop images begin to develop from one “drop” of words to hundreds over the span of pages 68 and 69. I would interpret these raindrop-heavy pages to be a clear image of Xanther as she is overwhelmed, on the verge of seizing, or experiencing a seizure.

I would definitely agree with delklor’s post as he/she describes the overwhelming nature of this choice in design. Reading the sections with this raindrop design is frustrating, straining, and time consuming. This assessment of emotions can also be reflected onto Xanther’s character. On pages 66 and 67, there are several sections of writing that almost interrupt the pattern of the raindrops. It seems as she has a flood of rain-like thoughts consuming her mind, she is able to respond to them. She is still in some control of her mind as the other writing says “Stop!” several times. Danielewski’s design choice offers a unique way to see in the overwhelming and intricate mind of Xanther.

“The Familiar” Podcast!

This post more resembles a discussion “audio blog,” than a podcast. It was recorded by four students from Weber State University. Dylan Davis, Ben Bigelow, Chelsea Maki, and Trevor Byington each bring a topic to discuss with the group. The discussion covers the re-mediation of television, hetero-normatives in “The Familiar,” the “Signiconic,” and the “aesthetic conundrum” the novel has created.

It was recorded on 1/24/2015.

Keep in mind, this was not done in a studio so the audio can be a little spotty. Regardless, we hope you enjoy it!

Özgür’s Posturing

Özgür struck me emphatically as the most stereotypical of The Familiar’s nine narrators. He portrays himself as a noir style detective, complete with “the overcoat, [and] the trilby” (174). Moreover, he constantly references his heroes- crime novelists and jazz musicians- whom he emulates in practically every way “until eventually he no longer resembled a caricature of Marlowe, but if anything Marlowe looked like a caricature of him” (174). Yet it is this strange sense of self-awareness that saves him from becoming a cliché. In his first section in the novel, he ruminates explicitly on whether or not he is simply a posture, never reaching a real conclusion but claiming that he is not thinking of these cultural icons even though they have populated his thoughts for the last couple of pages and reemerge not five lines later after a brief interlude focusing on a mysterious woman, another noir trope. He seems to realize his own unoriginality but is unwilling to create a distinctive identity for himself or fully admit his banality. Given the meta-fictional context of the novel, Danielewski seems to be commenting here on media’s potential to shape our conceptions of the self insofar as people purposefully craft themselves after cultural archetypes. Özgür epitomizes this aspect of mass media and production.

Has anyone else noticed any instances of purposeful identity construction in the other narratives?

Character list

Still might need a bit of tweaking…..

Storylines 1, 2, and 3._______________________________

Xanther Ibrahim

Xanther’s mother, Astair Ibrahim (40 years old, degree in Counseling, atheist former Catholic)

Xanther’s father, Anwar Ibrahim (54 years old, computer coder, designed game engine, atheist son of a Sufi and a Shiite)

Xanther’s twin sisters, Shasti and Freya

Dov (Xanther’s biological father, killed in Afghanistan)

Dr. Potts (Xanther’s psychologist)

Dendish Mower (bad kid at school)

Xanther’s friends at school: Bayard, Josh, Kle, Mayumi, Cogs

Taymor (Astair’s friend)

Mefisto Dazine (Anwar’s former friend who put his phone # on prank site)

Grez Kacy (owner of Urban Pet)

Anwar’s co-workers: Ehti, Glasgow, Talbot, Winchester

4._______________________________

Lupita (Senora paloma Cadenaza Carnamando)

Luther

Almoraz

Chitel

Mezclador / Miz (cook)

Luther’s crew: Piña, Juarez, Victor, Tweetie (Hopi Mannitou)

Teyo (powerful drug lord)

Carmelita (woman minding Luther’s house)

Nacho Mirande (pimp)

5.______________________________

Jingjing

Tian Li (auntie of niu che shui, seri of serangoon, the smith street sage)

Her White Cat

zhong sim lin (billionaire)

raedem sim lin (zhong’s son)

Zhong’s staff (bow ties)
6.______________________________

Dr. Cas (Catherine Aa’ala Stern)

Bobby (71 yrs old, former Berkeley astronomer)

the Orb  (there are 5 of them in existence)

Kirby (night manager)

Sorcerer

Mifflet Shimworth

Deakin

The Recluse

Realic S. Tarnen (dead, cut into pieces)

7._______________________________

Özgür Yildiram (Oz) (57 years old, PI)

Detective Rodney Balascoe

Officer Nyra Carlton

Stan Gebbis

Marvin D’Organidrelle aka Android

Detective Florian Sérbulo

Agent Tramilli (FBI)

8._______________________________

Shnorhk Zildjian

Patil (Shnorhk’s wife)

Dwight Plaguer (student witness), Pattalosky (lawyer at traffic court)

Zanazan (Patil’s friend)

Mnatsagan (professor of history, musician, friend of Shnorhk documenting Turkish genocide)

9.______________________________

Isandòrno

“she”

Maria Estancia (tells fortune)

Old Indian

Juan Ernesto Izquierdo (Isandòrno’s

Maria Ernesto Izquierdo (Juan’s wife)

Nastasi and Estella (Isandòrno’s nephew and niece)

10. TF-Narcon 9, 3, 27

The Revealing of Character Through Formatting

One of the most interesting things for me about The Familiar is the fact that Mark Z. Danielewski takes the time to pick out how the different chapters for each character will be formatted. I’m not sure if this topic has been covered before (it is my understanding that my class is a little bit behind some of the others) but regardless it is one that has caught my interest and I was hoping to get some ideas and feedback on the matter from others in this forum.

When it comes to the formatting of the different points of view, I’m not talking so much about the font size or the line spacing but more about the punctuation. Each character has a distinct format that makes it a little difficult on the first run through to distinguish who is who and how they think, and what new sort of weird format am I going to have to deal with this time but it gets easier as the book continues.

Though each chapter follows a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ with each character, which is definitely not unheard of, I don’t think I’ve seen it vary quite this much from character to character before reading The Familiar. Seeing as Danielewski doesn’t seem to do anything without reason, I would mark these differences as important. In fact, I would argue that the distinct formatting of each character’s chapter reveals a little bit more about them without having to come right out and say it to the readers. It’s actually a really clever way of getting to know them.

For example, Xanther takes us into her mind and it is with her that we get to experience her Question Song firsthand before we see it through her parent’s point of view. Readers get to experience Xanther jumping around from thought to thought and some of the ongoing anxiety that comes with this type of thinking. Almost immediately readers deduce that something is not quite right with her due to how her chapters are set up. Her thoughts about ‘how many raindrops’ make this most explicit when she runs herself into a state that she can’t control, “Exhausting herself. Like running-of-of-breath exhausting herself” (64). Long before it’s revealed explicitly that Xanther has epilepsy, it’s made clear by her thoughts that not all is mentally sound within her.

Anwar’s narration, on the other hand, is set up to resemble programming. Rather than using normal punctuation, his sections of The Familiar use brackets (both curly and standard) as well was slashes to organize his thoughts. It’s very reminiscent of HTML or something similar. Through this narration choice, readers can conclude that Anwar is a problem solver, the biggest puzzle in his life being his daughter. Again, as with Xanther, it can be speculated that he is some sort of programmer before it’s stated plainly.

Astair’s thoughts read much like she is still writing and rewriting her thesis,‘Hope’s Nest: On the Necessity of God’ (121), with large (almost unnecessarily so) words scattered throughout and parentheses inside parentheses which are inside even more parentheses. She is constantly in the process of analyzing and editing, even within her own mind. Though it is stated rather early in her narration that she is a student, her thought process proves to reaffirm this showing how she approaches education (as well as being a mother) with diligence and maybe just a little bit of over thinking.

Since these are the three characters I feel like I’ve learned the most about, I haven’t gotten a good grasp on what the different formats would mean for the rest of the cast and was hoping to get some feedback about that. Any ideas?

Frustration

Xanther, Anwar, and Astair’s storyline is the one I am most interested in as well. I wonder if the same would be true if the novel opened with one of the other story lines though. There are several storylines going on, so I think the opening storyline is the one that we are most interested in. Also, it might not be a coincidence that Xanther’s chapters are written in a style that resembles computer coding. Is Danielewski using a coding format to program us, as readers, to pay attention to certain things more than others?
I feel like I’m trying to solve a puzzle. My mind wanders from section to section, but I think that is Danielewski’s intention. To keep track of the storylines, I made a chart for myself that lists the characters in each chapter. It helps me visualize which characters belong to the separate storyline. I am waiting to see if there will be any overlapping.

Discussion board for Mark Z. Danielewski's THE FAMILIAR, Volume 1

Is anyone else feeling slightly frustrated with Danielewski at this point? I have finished 400 pages of a book, and half the time, I haven’t a clue where it is going.  I find myself clinging to the Xanther stories (and Anwar and Astair’s by association) as a sort of scaffolding to support my interest.   I find my interesting peaking when one of those sections comes up.

The scope is throwing me off.  I am growing to understand Luther’s storyline, but only because it has been given several significant sections.  I am very confused as to the relevance of several others (“Yeah man. Something died.” “palace above the day” “Veinte pesos” to name a few).  So far, the only thing I know they have in common is their timestamp putting them into the timeline.

I am curious and excited to see how (if?) all of these will tie together, or if…

View original post 57 more words

Frustration

Is anyone else feeling slightly frustrated with Danielewski at this point? I have finished 400 pages of a book, and half the time, I haven’t a clue where it is going.  I find myself clinging to the Xanther stories (and Anwar and Astair’s by association) as a sort of scaffolding to support my interest.   I find my interesting peaking when one of those sections comes up.

The scope is throwing me off.  I am growing to understand Luther’s storyline, but only because it has been given several significant sections.  I am very confused as to the relevance of several others (“Yeah man. Something died.” “palace above the day” “Veinte pesos” to name a few).  So far, the only thing I know they have in common is their timestamp putting them into the timeline.

I am curious and excited to see how (if?) all of these will tie together, or if we really are just seeing snapshots of One Rainy Day in May.  Despite this, I would appreciate a sense of where this is going.  As each chapter shifts, I sometimes have a hard time regaining focus or finding relevance.  Am I the only one experiencing this? How have other readers been keeping track of the storylines?

A storm within a storm…within a storm…

infinity

In Xanther’s opening chapter, as her brain desperately searches for a way to begin the problem of counting all the raindrops in the sky, Danielewski introduces his readers to the theme of “a storm within a storm” (bottom of p63, or left of p62, depending on how you think about it, or how you’re holding your book as it begins to spin). In fact, Danielewski begins unleashing multiple storms; some nested within others, and others that are separate but share the same parent storm. My guess is that you could step backwards, or forwards for that matter, through these levels of storms infinitely in your mind if you tried. In Xanther’s second chapter, there exists clarifications of the story injected into the text surrounded by brackets, which sometimes contain more specific clarifications of those clarifications, and so on. These instances of clarification, which I assume are being given by those speaking on the black pages (p16-17), can each be thought of as little individual storms that pull you further and further away from the storm you were just in. But these clarifications all reside in storms of individual chapters, that reside in larger storms that are the individual stories of the book. What’s more, these stories run parallel to other stories, that reside in the storm that is the novel. This novel is only a single storm in a whole storm of novels, which is a series of novels in a whole storm of series by the publisher. Okay, I think you get the picture; the concept of infinity (p59). A number line that stretches forever in both directions. This too represents a storm within a storm because the distance between any two numbers can be divided an infinite number of times. The idea can be applied to so many things in the novel and the universe; an infinite number of things, perhaps. I’m starting to see how this way of thinking could become an obsession.

chart for 1-199

from the MZD Forums, supplemented. Epigraphs have links to sources when I could find them.

Chapter 1

(48)

“Is Everything Okay?” Xanther Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014

08:03:05/08:19:15

(her big surprise is at 3 pm in Venice; her bad seizure at Dov’s funeral 4 months earlier)

Epigraph: Thoreau
Chapter 2

(73)

Lupita’s Luther Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014

08:19:16/08:43:58

Epigraph: Luis J. Rodriguez
Chapter 3

(82)

Square One Xanther,

Anwar

Square One Dining, Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014

08:43:59/09:19:20 Los Angeles, CA

Epigraph: Norm Schryer and quote from Square One Dining website
Chapter 4

(100)

zhong jingjing Apartment house, Singapore

May 11, 2014

00:19:21/00:36:14

Epigraph: Lady Gaga
Chapter 5

(114)

Big Surprise Astair Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014

09:36:15/09:51:09

Epigraph: Moonrise Kingdom
Chapter 6

(133)

The Orb Dr. Cas (Catherine Aa’ala Stern) Marfa, Texas

May 10, 2014

11:51:10/12:04:07

Epigraph: Blade Runner
Chapter 7

(160)

Power Draws a Crowd Özgür Van Ness, Southwest Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014

10?:04:08/10:38:38

Epigraph: Bill Evans
Chapter 8

(178)

Dr. Potts Xanther Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014

10:38:39/10:59:22

Epigraph: Jakob von Uexküll

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?