Building on the latest post about Jakob von Uexküll, I wonder if anyone wants to venture a reading of the epigraphs on page 374 and page 518. Someone has already posted the (as yet unanswered) question about the Deadmau5 quote, and I’d like to situate it alongside the xkcd comic and invite discussion of the two as possible framing statements for The Familiar. The full xkcd comic is here. What conceptual work are the two epigraphs doing? In what sense do they offer a lens through which to re-consider the issue of the Narcons and the programming of Paradise Open?
Readers are first introduced to this gaming system on page 379. Xanther describes Paradise as being a “perfect, peaceful place without death”. The description of Paradise goes on to be described as an “enclosed garden” and “surrounding wall”, but Glasgow makes the comment that it sounds like a “prison”. With these two different meanings, I began to think of what each character’s Paradise/Prison would be. For Xanther, her prison would be her epilepsy. She is constantly having to see therapists (and almost all of those therapists have failed). Knowing when her seizures are about to start requires her to have to breathe slowly and keep her mind distracted with calming thoughts. The Horrosphere could also be a kind of prison because it is filled with unpleasant images. I think the Narcons could represent a little bit of both Paradise and Prison because they control the happenings of the stories. They could take the role of prison guards or even, as some posts have suggested, the role of a God.
My purpose of this post is to see if anyone else can come up with their own theory for the Paradise Open game or even contribute to the Paradise/Prison descriptions.
Danielewski seems to do an excellent job constructing his own self-contained world in The Familiar, a world outside of our own, a world which belongs only to The Familiar. Admittedly, the characters we, as readers, encounter are made “familiar” and relatable through both their experiences (money issues, health concerns, death and fear of death) and our admittance into their crowded, often confusing, inner thoughts or streams of consciousness. However, despite the relatability of these characters–it seems that Danielewski has crafted his very own world disconnected from the one in which his readers live.
One way in which Danielewski is capable of creating this world is through the lines of connectivity which flow through the storylines–through the chapters. One obvious way this is done is through the ever present–ever down pouring–rain. I am still perplexed why Danielewski would choose rain as his most obvious and omnipresent connecting factor throughout the Volume. Also I would love to discuss why this rain has to be so violent ? What is the relevance of a down pour versus a light shower? I would love to know what the rest of you think about this choice.
Another “line of connectivity” drawn by Danielewski, which I have just started to pick up on (400 pages in), is the sound which significantly troubles, almost haunts, Anwar, Luther, and Isandoro. The sound cannot be located by any of them. All three of them hear this sound, despite the assumed substantial distance which separates them from one another. The mysteriousness of the sound proves, almost disproportionately, frustrating and irksome. This seemingly impossible omnipresent sound seems to paint a picture of self-contained world in a similar way that the rain does.
A third “line of connectivity” is the literal line of geometric shapes which runs through the inside of the book, extremely close to the binding. I don’t have too much to say about this line other than it is a form of connectivity through page set up and outside of the plot or dialogue itself and in that way I find it intriguing.
I am sure that others have found their own lines of connectivity in the text and I would love to discuss them !
In addition to his lines of connectivity, Danielewski also makes us aware that we have entered into another world when–ironically enough–he seems to “break the fourth wall”. What better way to make readers aware of that walls exist–that this world is self-contained–than by breaking down those very walls? There are moments when Danielewski undoubtedly elbows the reader, gives them a nudge, and holds a mirror up to this world.
One such moment is when Xanther asks Dr. Potts the following question:
“Do you ever think, like, there’s a conversation going on, you know, like somewhere out there, somehow parallel to the one you’re having with yourself, like in your head, or even with someone else” (193).
We laugh at this moment. We are definitely aware that these conversations do exist–we have already read 193 pages of them. However, with this laughter and with this breaking of the fourth wall, we are made ultra-aware we are laughing at a different self-sustaining world–that if a wall has broken, it was indeed there to begin with.
The most INTERESTING example of the fourth wall breaking comes when Xanther and Anwar are discussing the etymology of Paradise and the meaning behind Paradise Open. Paradise is conceptualized in the discussion as a “surrounding wall”, “enclosed garden”, or “protected place”. Yet the title of Anwar’s project hints that he opens up the enclosed area or removes some of the protection to allow others inside — hence Paradise OPEN.
We laugh at this moment as we realize Anwar and Danielewski seem to be doing the same thing. Anwar’s title could work perfectly for Danielewskis work. Danielewski has created a self-contained, outside world–yet he opens the doors and lets us see what is inside.