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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…