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As I read this book, I am noticing the time stamps on some of the pages. They are not in sequential order, nor are the dates the same. The time stamp shows military time, date, and the location (5/10/14 and 5/11/14). Seems that the location does coincide with the location of that particular story, rather, at this time, it is hard to tell what exactly it means. We can assume that the author is trying to tell us the location immediately but I feel we are to view each story and blend them together with time and space.

Has anyone any ideas to this assumption?

The Novel as an Apparatus (By Danielle Levy)

Disclaimer: This is not my post. This post was created by Danielle Levy.


Hey guys! Thought id put this up..we are writing essays for class and i tried to map out the way in which the novel is constructed (how it remains convoluted yet maintains its organization..something along those lines 🙂 ) any comments would be great and criticisms about the writing or ideas! always trying to get better 🙂

Perhaps before we are able to realize it, the Astral Omega passage in the beginning of The Familiar summarizes the entire context of the novel. The passage seems to occur in the earliest period of time of the universe, the Planck Epoch, a time between 0 and 10^-43 seconds. While it appears that the narrator comes from this early time, he seems to come from the future, claiming that the past and the future have grown into one. He reveals that the ‘dissolution’ of the future is what has drawn the present into the future, a dissolution that has perhaps made it possible for him to futuristically report from the past. The narrator darkly mentions that despite prolonged ‘postponements,’ questions of war and death have turned out to be ‘broken promises.’ War and death are just as unanswered as they were in the past, and it seems that the ‘postponement’ of these problems did not lead to the solving of them. Danielewski, with this convergence in mind, thereby establishes the ‘familiar.’ The familiar is a marker of reoccurring significance that represents the convergence of the past and future as narrated in the novel. It appears throughout the novel as, literally, the highlighted word ‘familiar.’ Danielewski materializes the familiar, aside from just the word, in a more specific convergence between mysticism and the technological. The cat is predominantly the mystic familiar while the orb is the technological, and the owl is yet another convergence between the mystic and the technological that adopts characteristics of both worlds. These familiar’s have characters that operate them, and the characters through these mystic means come into contact with technological ends, or vice versa. The cat leads Xanther to the narcons through direct association, while the orb leads Cas and Bobby to the question of the mystic through its invention. The convoluted series of convergences between mystic and technological presuppose the ultimate convergence occurring between the past, present, and the future of everything in existence.

The transfer of the cat from Tian Li to Xanther through the rescue points towards Xanther’s ability to recognize the paranormal and operate in levels above that of her simple humanity. Through her ability, Danielewski converges the technological and the mystic by giving the mystic technological characteristics. The mystic is transformed into something technological when readers discover that the ultimate ‘higher beings’ seem to be narrative construct machines. In this way, God seems to be eliminated as the higher being and replaced by the ‘narcons’ that code the everyday lives of each character. Therefore, Xanther’s ability is indeed mystic, but is ultimately of a technological nature. Xanther’s epilepsy is also rendered simultaneously mystic and technological when it is both related to Tian li and attributed to overloads of information. In one sense, readers can tell that Xanther is some sort of paranormal, if not a witch, because Tian Li also has epileptic fits during spells. Yet, in the other sense, these fits are also said to be due to the aforementioned overloads of information. If one considers the definition of the familiar as a ‘spirit, often taking the form of an animal, which obeys and assists a witch or other person,’ its means is purely mystic. Yet, the ends of Xanther’s connection with the mystic cat lead her to the technological beings that are embodied within that cat. In the immediate sense, Xanther is a witch because she possesses paranormal capabilities of recognition. However, this recognition ultimately connects her to the world of the narcons, the technological beings that are the ends of her mystic abilities.

Cas and Bobby seem to represent the other side of the convergence in which the technological is rendered into the mystic. They have a seemingly governmental objective in which they may want to reveal very sensitive information that is shown on the orbs. These orbs capture ‘narcon’ narrations and show them, in various clips, to those watching. Readers could guess that because the narcons are omnipresent in nature, they show clips that reveal information that is too sensitive for the public, thus making the orbs objects of controversy. By starting with the technological, Cas and Bobby’s stories create different ends than that of Xanthers. The convergence in Xanther lies in the mystic means that lead to the technological ends. To put it simply, the mystic cat leads to the suspicion of the existence of the technological. Cas and Bobby’s orbs begin with technological means that capture mystic ends. The clips, which are the ends, are mystic because they rely on pure coincidence to show specific images or stories. Readers see an example of this reliance on coincidence when Bobby recalls that his friend, Sorcerer, saw Xanther in the orb, and knew her through Anwar. There is no mention of a pattern, nor of a deliberate search for Xanther, but instead a random clip that happened to connect Sorcerer with Xanther. Readers wonder where this coincidence came from, if it is coincidence, and if there is an even higher operational system above the narcons that is somehow controlling who sees what clip. The differentiation arises out of the ends that rely on coincidence, a mystic characterstic.

The owl is representative of yet another inter-convergence between the mystic and the technological that does not have a clear end or means. There are multiple examples of the owl as a predominantly mystic figure that thereby ends with the technological, while there are counter examples that end in the mystic. The Blade Runner allusion in the epigraph of ‘The Orb’ demonstrates the owl as a mechanical ‘replicant’ from the movie; replicants being engineered robots that are almost ‘more than human.’ One could say that the physically mechanical nature of the owl begs the question of its mystic properties, in which the boundaries of technology are challenged by a presence of artificial intelligence or emotion. In other examples, however, the owl is purely mystic when it inspires Tian Li’s epileptic fit from her experience in the owl room or when it appears as Pontianak. It becomes difficult to consider the owl either predominantly mechanical or mystic when it appears as ambiguously both. Furthermore, in the Familiar 2 passage on Oria, readers wonder if Oria is a part of Anwar’s game Paradise Open. If she is the enemy that was described as chasing the prey, she is mechanical in her physical sense, yet mystic in her potential self-awareness. This self-awareness can be seen when she decides to kill the baby jaguar. The lines are blurred, however, when it can be said that she exists in the same mode as every other character in the novel. Technically, every character is coded by a narcon, just as Oria is coded by Anwar. The owl is ambiguously difficult to pinpoint, and marks a perfect example of the convergence between technology and mysticism that does not begin with a specific means.

The convergences between mysticism and technology ultimately presuppose the convergence of the past, present, and the future. The opposite ways in which the mystic or the technological approach the other creates a sense of convolutedness that simultaneously has order. The use of the owl, cat, and orb as objects of interest could appear random superficially, but the way in which they are developed as objects of interest make them significantly more coherent. I specifically focused on the means in which these convergences are carried out, and in a sense tried to determine the means in which these convoluted convergences are formed. The construct that starts with the mystical and ends with the technological can be justified by searching for a technological representation of the cat. There doesn’t seem to be any instance in which the cat presents itself from a predominantly technological existence, and it instead remains in the mainly mystical. On the other hand, the orb better embodies the technological due to its physical existence as a machine. Therefore, its unexplained reliance on random, if not coincidental clips points towards a mystic ends that is not yet attributed to any one character. The owl, as the in between of the schema, is representative of the ever-converging nature of the convergences themselves. It is the explicit way in which these cacophonies and convergences form that creates the extremely convoluted yet meaningful feel in the novel, something that constantly renders us in search yet perpetually premature of the answer.


I really don’t quite understand the full significance of the raindrops but it is abundantly clear that they tie so many different aspects of this novel together. Raindrops are the strangest phenomena in this novel, Xanther seems to connect with this force of nature that certainly has a deeper meaning to its constant appearances. What do the raindrops have to do with the Xanther’s panic attacks and the narcons that each character is defined by? It’s possible that Xanther’s epilepsy ties into her ability to sift through other characters feelings and emotions in narcons and their computer code, but she is haunted by this influx of data causing her to have massive panic attacks. Her connection to the cat and her hunger for the number of raindrops displays her undeniable ability while that ability is still unable to be explained. Danielewski alludes to Xanther’s lonely battles with the rain on pg 66, “Like a ghost. A ghost in the raindrops.” Xanther has always been bullied and hasn’t been able to fit in due to her epileptic tendencies but the ability to read others thoughts and emotions could really have caused all these discrepancies with her peers. Borrowing from Kirschenbaum’s “Bookscapes,” the raindrops appear to be Xanther’s affordance between the narcons, other characters emotions and feelings, and her struggle to understand these frantic events while raining. Xanther unknowingly uses the rain to float between the layers of knowledge and power among the VEM, narcons, and other characters.

It’s All About the Timing

In The Familiar, Danielewski made the deliberate choice to choose a specific time frame for the book to take place. I’ve found this choice to be incredibly rare, because most authors aim to produce a piece that’s timeless. When you anchor your work to a specific time, some may argue that you’re limiting the potential relationship between the reader and the book. Let’s just look at Back to the Future: Part II. It became a running joke once 2015 hit that we didn’t have the hoverboards that Marty McFly promised us. When we’re given such specific details like actual days, months, and years, it’s almost like we want to find holes. We want to pick fights and say that the idea of this program in our time is ludicrous. We like to argue and pick things apart in a society where nothing is ever enough, so why would Danielewski invite these criticisms into his world when he could have easily kept the time period to himself? Dates are usually reserved for journals and letters, so why would Danielewski make this exception?


I want to discuss the letters and respective words at the beginning that we could interpret as a roadmap of connecting lines, weaving threads, overarching categories of continuity and significance.

I don’t have them all figured out yet. How they might relate to one another in congruence to the character plots calling out to one another, whether the order matters R-S-V-P-C, whether these words were chosen to locate specific moments within the text or to spark our imaginative assemblage of meanings under the umbrella constructed by them…??

In any case, I will connect as many dots as I can… (missing S and P. Ideas welcome)

On this rainy day in May, the individual world’s of each character connect at the point of a narrative constant, the rain remains.

R is for Rain-

Rain, I believe, stands for infinity. OR the possibility of an answer too infinite to hold on to- the space beyond knowing. How many raindrops? is not the underlying question being asked. Rather, the question is “How far am I from grasping infinity?” Isn’t that Xanther’s greatest cause for anxiety? Not knowing how much is out there and feeling like she should be able to figure it out somehow? If she could just ask the right question.
The number of raindrops is out there. “Dancing on the pavement” even if she can’t know it.

“Terror tightens around the child’s eyes. Finally something about Hopi that isn’t wobbly. Terror doesn’t wobble. It knows what it is.” (223)

Hopi and Xanther share a common trembling anxiety. Hopi bites his blue pencil, Xanther sings the Question Song. The wobbling tremor of their minds’ racing is not for fear, but rather in anticipation of the thing they fear most. Death, I’d suspect. Or rather, a painful death, one without care, one without reason. Being lost or alone before the end. [all the characters might actually share this in common {all beings might}].
The questions, although we know them to be never-ending, and possibly unanswerable, still cause us to tremble in the wake of their enormity, and we worry that we will die before we know what it was we were looking for. “As if begging for and answer. Even the echo of an old answer. As if begging for the comfort of just knowing itself to be begging could suffice” -Cas (150).

This anxious, desperate desire {and simultaneous dread} for unknown answers is the violent side of infinity.

V is for Violence-

A stormy cold night is a good setting for Violence, or at least that’s what hollywood and old murder mysteries tell us. The climactic action happens in a downpour where blood and rain and sweat and tears seem to flow as one down into…earth, deeper darkness, an end. The Violent End of All.
“Even the planet itself orbits against itself, with constant anomalies threatening to set it loose, heading toward unreachable light or surrendering to the dark obliterating mass at the galaxy’s core.” (135).

Özgür – “When you are standing in the rain where the dead have lain and the blood has mostly washed away, it makes sense then to think only of her” Katla Katla Katla.
Surrounded by relentless violence and grey storms, we think of the ones we love, the ones who cared for us as we cared for them.

Does the rain know death like we do?
Maybe. And the people that were, the paraphysical entities that were, the animals that were, know there will be a violent end to all of this, but we will probably have already faded into a convoluted or lost history by then.

“All those memories lost. Like tears in rain. Time to die.” -Blade Runner
This storm, too, will rage with war, and eventually, will come too, to silent death.
“Easy as rain. Quiet as what comes after rain” (210)

Could it be that there is still Hope in spite of all this dismal destruction? Could the questions be- perhaps not answered, but- brightened, given a lighter quality than the dense doom of a raging storm?

The sun won’t stay behind the cloud.
-Armenian proverb.
The sun, a familiar friend, warm and bright, gives us light, to ignite the path towards tomorrow.

‘C’ is for Custody
…and Care…and Cariño (not your Google bitch)…

‘C’ coincidentally, also stands for Cat, which is the entity that counteracts the magnifying grandiosity of infinity (‘R’).

Perhaps those that hear well will find something Captured which escapes Contemplation. -Bill Evans
The one who hears the Cry for help and answers it, will in turn have answered for themselves, what they had been searching for, in the rain. Xanther pays attention. She hears. And Cares enough to go searching for the source of the Cry.

The Cat, unlike the rain, is something small and sweet and needs to be Cared for, requires to mathematical Computation, nor violent methods of Control; a kitten needs protection and Care and love. This affectiona (not just for the Cat, but Care for Xanther, [and Care given by Xanther] {Also how Cas and Bobby Care for each other}) is what makes this Catastrophic kaleidoscope of Colors and Cacophonies, darkening destruction, and infinitely quantifiable raindrops, possible. It adds Calm to the Chaos.

“Even this kitten beside her seems nothing other than simplicity itself.

Also in place

Also arranged.

Also safe…
the kitten is here at her side and even if nothing seems to have changed everything suddenly feels manageable.

Or better:



“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!

Schrodinger’s Familiar

You’ll have to bear with me through this post because my understanding of some of these concepts are rudimentary and mainly derived from this wikipedia article (, but I am going to attempt to postulate some kind of theory to connect these ideas with The Familiar.

Most people are familiar with the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment, which offers an explanation for interpretations of quantum mechanics by asking the reader to imagine a cat in a box with radioactive material, placing the cat in a state where it is either alive or dead, and both are equally possible until observation confirms one or the other. There are different interpretations of this experiment, but one of the most interesting states that when the box is opened, reality basically splits into two separate realities that no longer interact: one reality where the cat is alive, and one reality where the cat is dead.

But how does this relate to The Familiar? Besides the obvious connection with the cat, other paradoxes with related themes have presented themselves throughout the novel. For example, Jingjing twice counts 9 bow-tied assistants in the penthouse, but only sees 2 rows of 4 and 8 pairs of heels. Another parallel that echoes the Schrodinger thought experiment is Astair’s reaction to her graded paper. If she doesn’t open the envelope, she neither passed nor failed. If she does open it, then theoretically reality splits into two realities, one where she passed, and one where she failed. Some of these examples may be a little shaky but it’s very interesting to think about.

I’m not sure how this relates to Xanther’s finding of the cat, but there must be some kind of force that allows her to hear the meow from so far away. Perhaps another reality is interacting with the one we’re reading about and Xanther is able to save the cat? Thus there must be a reality in which Xanther fails to save the cat or does not hear the meow and it drowns.

Does anyone else have a better understanding of this concept that can maybe explain it further or better relate it to The Familiar?

Xanther and Jingjing’s Time Stamps

Yes, alright, so I don’t know how to start this so that it will sound academic and knowledgeable and such, but I suppose I’ll just dive right in. Okay? Okay.


The time stamps.

Up until this last section I hadn’t really been paying any attention to them. I was really thinking that they were just there to achieve a certain ‘feel’, perhaps similar to that of the opening of a crime show where the date and location are displayed somewhere onscreen while the scene begins (or just before the scene, sometimes). I mean, obviously they help to connect the various stories in a certain order, but because the dates and times are accurate for the character’s time zones, it would take a little work to figure the exact time line out – the sort of work I’m usually unwilling to do. However, in this last section I think the time stamps become incredibly important to understanding what is happening with the plot.

(Spoilers ahead, I guess?)

At the end of Xanther’s chapter where she has run out into the rainstorm in search of the strange cry, the time stamp reads as 15:14:49 Los Angeles, CA 05/10/2014 (p.517).

At the beginning of the very next chapter, the chapter in which Tian Li suffers a very intense seizure, the time stamp reads 06:14:50 Singapore 05/11/2014 (p.519).

Now at first glance, these two time stamps look similar, but the days and hours don’t seem to line up. It appears as though Tian Li’s seizure takes place about a day after Xanther finds the kitten. However, Singapore is across the international date line, meaning that these events, and the time stamps, are actually occurring on the same day. Furthermore, when you take into account the differing time zones (6:14 AM SST (UTC +8) for Singapore and 3:14 PM PDT (UTC -7) for Los Angeles) you will find that Tian Li’s seizure begins somewhere between one second to three minutes after Xanther finds the kitten. (Jingjing’s ending time stamp, and the end of Tian Li’s seizure, is 06:17:55 Singapore 05/11/2014 (p.538), three minutes and five seconds after the chapter begins.)

The concurrence of these time stamps is even more interesting when we look at what is happening to the characters. Tian Li, frightened by the owl room in Zhong’s manor, implies that she has some prior knowledge or understanding of the events about to ensue, saying “We’ve been here before” (p.238). Jingjing helpfully clarifies that he is not part of the ‘we’ Tian Li is talking about and that she “Can only mean one we” (p.286). It is here heavily implied that the other in the ‘we’ is Tian Li’s familiar, the strange white cat that so terrifies Jingjing. It is not long after this that Tian Li has her seizure and Xanther finds, curiously, a white kitten.

It is my theory that the kitten Xanther finds is the same white cat that had belonged to (or attached itself to?) Tian Li, and that it has been reborn / transfered hosts to Xanther somehow using Tian Li’s seizure and Xanther’s epilepsy as some sort of link.

Of course, I could certainly be missing some key pieces that could either enhance or detract from this theory since I don’t know ANY Chinese at all, and cannot even guess at what Jingjing and Tian Li are saying before Tian Li has her seizure.


The Thread Between the Stories

I know that the Orb has been addressed a number of times already, and I went back and examined some of the threads that were already made not only concerning the patterns of orbs throughout the text but what the meaning of the central Orbs in this story might be. Coming to the close of the book I felt like a separate post concerning the ending section of the book would be beneficial, and I felt that some of the information was just significant and different enough that it warranted a separate post rather than just a comment.

Looking back for a moment, the most striking thing to me about the sections concerning the Orbs was the fact that whatever is happening with the Orbs in Texas is happening at the same time as the rest of the narrative. Some of the introductory descriptions we get during the first Orb section include: “Eons slip by. The canyon rises. Her mesa falls then rises then falls again until eventually it flattens into a storm-polished plain. The temple, though, remains unchanged” (pg. 137). This kind of description originally led me to believe that I was reading about a civilization far in the past or the future, considering I wasn’t initially used to the formatting of the novel or paying attention to the dog eared pages.

Upon re-reading such a section, I realized that the Orb was giving the viewer, assumedly Cas, the ability to see into both the past and the future. I also noticed the time stamp on the dog ear indicating that this narrative was going on at the same time as everything else. This observation really put the events that were occurring in those sections a bit more in perspective, as well as increased my speculation that the technology that the Orb has is both very advanced and very experimental.

The section involving the revelation of the Narcon (pg. 563-578), short for “narrative construct” (pg. 565), put even more in perspective for me in terms of the main point of view from which all these stories are branching and how all of these stories might actually start to thread together and form a coherent and complex picture. One of the threads already mentioned running through all the stories is the presence of the striking wail which shows up at least once in all of the running narratives in this novel. Another thread involves the direct awareness of the other narratives by each other by the end of the novel.

This recognition occurs on the last page of the final Orb section, when on page 655 The Sorcerer states that he was a good friend of Xanther’s father, and knows both of him and his daughter, whose name he blatantly states. This is, as far as I can recall, the first instance of someone in a separate place and story within the narrative stating that they are aware of another story that’s occurring simultaneously along these many jumbled narratives. Unfortunately not much more of this direct connection is made since it isn’t brought up again in any following sections for the rest of the novel.

A number of questions arise in the face of this revelation. Are the Orbs connected to the Narcons in some way? Why were they developed and why are Bobby, Cas, and the others in their narrative the only ones aware of them or able to use them? Will this lead to a greater convergence of the narratives in the later volumes, a very distinctive thread that connects the narratives from a direct point rather than just someone in each of the narratives hearing a random noise? This evidence really only makes it clear that there is a definitive tie between the Ibrahim’s narrative and Bobby and Cas narrative—I can honestly say I am very much looking forward to see where the connection is taken and possibly expanded in later novels.

Side Note: One other possible instance of the narratives merging occurs on pages 434-435 when it appears Hopi’s name occurs in one of Xanther’s social networking chats, although I don’t consider this direct evidence considering I’ve read some other threads that discuss the possibility that this isn’t Xanther and Hopi’s narratives actually merging.

*Edit* — In class today it was brought to my attention that the one who says he knows Xanther and Anwar is actually The Sorcerer, and not Bobby. We theorized that perhaps Mefisto is actually the unnamed Sorcerer, and that this could be a very interesting and solid link between these two stories. If the Sorcerer really is Mefisto, how does that impact the plot of these two separate story lines? Why do you think Danielewski chose to merge them specifically? The more I think about it the more complex and intriguing it gets.

All the Colors

I first started paying attention to Danielewski’s descriptions of color in the first preview with Girl and Boy. In the scene, the Boy paints the Girls face. The colors are listed individually at first: “ochres…pink, black, and brown” (38) and the word color is used repeatedly. Then the Boy uses “All colors” (39). For a book obsessed with the world of images, Danielewski actually uses limited color descriptions. Pink is mentioned (and may be more prominent in the published version) and a whole section takes its name from “just one blue pencil” (222). These colors pop out (as I imagine the word ‘familiar’ will when printed in final, color version). I am therefore very interested in these moments of hyper-saturation. It happens again while Lupita is preparing jicama and considering her nails. The description of her movements are vivid and close—she uses “big dashes of chili pepper” and “wipes her hands on her shirt” (78). It continues, Lupita “likes all kinds of color. And she likes her nails long” (78).

I have two thoughts on “all colors” and saturation. The first is that it relates to book’s conflicted relationship with the black on white of the tradition book. On the one hand, Danielewski’s experimentation with design and images shows the infinite possibility of the book. But on the other, it continuously acknowledges the form’s limitations (just black and white is not enough). But what does this bloom of color do? I think it has something to do with the way the rainbow functions in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, “The Fish.” The poem concludes with the magical line “until everything/ was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!” It is an ecstatic moment in which the neat, precise poem bursts open and expresses a joy and fear and knowledge that is beyond description. In the Familiar, I see all color as ecstatic—if not triumphant or conclusive. We are, after all, living in a hyper-colored world of neon and screens. Which makes me wonder if the “horrific real” (to reference Lacan) of the white page is in fact of more interest…