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What is a familiar? The simple answer is that it is an animal used and controlled by a person using magic. As I read The Familiar I made a connection between the similarities between a familiar and a video game avatar. The fact that Anwar is a video game engine designer made this connection stand out in the text. Magic is a key element of this description. With greater familiarity with the familiar the stronger the magic binds the person to the animal. But there is one aspect of the person/familiar relationship that I haven’t mentioned: familiars were meant to be sacrificed.

The familiar/avatar connection also connects to sacrifice. How many lives do you get in a video game? And as a writer I know that the reason for creating many characters is so that you can kill them off. I’m really curious if Daneilewski created the character of Anwar as an analog for himself.


Syntax and Semantic Errors

Since I am only on page 384, this will be a short(ish) post, but I wanted to put this idea out there and see if it connected with anyone else. In my non-school life, I work for a software company and spend a lot of time programming, so I glance over the Anwar stuff with an eye for bugs, but not too critically (I am trying to get through the book after all). But I did catch a syntax error in the code presented on page 89:

//          int main()
//          {
//        std::cout << ‘My thoughts unaloud look like this!\n’
return 0;
//          }

This is c++ code and the “//”s mean that what follows on the line is a comment (until the next carriage return, which is why I included the output as one line), but the return line is not commented out. If you were to try to run this through a compiler, you would get a syntax error. When I first saw this, I didn’t think it was intentional, but I didn’t have enough of the book read to feel like I could associate it with something. But while flipping through the book today after having read about the bug in the scene loading code on page 382 something clicked. “Bugs” in code are semantic errors, problems in meaning, where the error above is a syntax error, an error in the grammar of the language (grammar in the linguistic sense, the rules of language; possible sentences versus impossible sentences). You know who makes a lot of semantic errors in their speech? Xanther. But jingjing’s narrations make a lot of syntax errors, which makes the sections harder to read, your brain can’t compile correctly, and you have to debug the sentences.

I got to thinking, couldn’t the syntax and semantic errors run through all different layers of the book? That seems to me to be sort of the idea of the signiconic. It’s sort of a syntax error in the language of books, so we have to stop and debug it, figure it out.

It could also be that I am just very sleep deprived.