When I was looking online to see the cover image that is being advertised with the book now, I discovered that the book is going to be available for purchase in Kindle edition here: http://www.amazon.com/Familiar-One-Rainy-Day-May-ebook/dp/B00N6PBGFO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=
This naturally had me wondering what effect the digitalization of the book will have. I think that having the book be an ebook would beparticularly interesting with respect to the narcons since they (like e-readers) are a fusion of technology and storytelling. I wonder, though, if the unique visual aspects of the book (like the symbols in the spine of the book or the dog eared pages) will be lost in a kindle version of the book…
This may be way off, (or I’m just hoping), but could there be a possibility that all the characters will team up, whether responding to a call from Cas and the Orb, and fight what appears to be, an evil? It’s a crazy thought that’s probably not even close to the truth, but at this point, which is the end of the book, I just want answers. Not “is this what I think it is? What do you think it is?” I just want to be told what’s going on and I want it to be something epic.
I actually took a picture of the whiteboard after class. I found our discussion very interesting. We started off by discussing unmarked and marked text. Unmarked text is traditional. There is a uniform font and text size. Unmarked text is less likely to be taken out of context. Marked text, however, leaves room for much interpretation. When an author plays around with typographic styles, the reader is given an opportunity to think out of the box. Danielewski gives us, as readers, a role in the novel. However, what is our role?
In class, Professor Thomas drew a circle with all of the characters names inside. Since the Narcons seem to have control over the characters, we put them outside the circle. We put VEM outside both the Narcons and the characters because we agreed that VEM has control over the Narcons and the characters. We are left wondering where we fit in the circle. Do we have any power at all? Are we being controlled by the Narcons? by VEM? or by Danielewski? We are left with so many “what ifs.”
Upon reading this comic (concerning “wild thrills” in order to keep an old life feeling young, to put it bluntly), I was reminded of Danielewski’s goal of remediating television, but what of remediating the novel itself?
My first thought concerns the way in which we think of the novel as the “classic” media, the one that has been around for centuries and continues even today. It’s easy to think of it in the same terms as the character in the comic strip, who is seemingly scared of aging or feeling old and goes around seeking new thrills. In the same way, Danielewski seems to think that the novel must be kept alive by showing its potential in qualities that are “new” and “thrilling,” not the same conventional form of writing and printing that has been done over and over.
Concerning the small cube of human flesh, I think of the concept of “lyrical realism,” which has been the focal point of literature for quite some time now (think of The Princess de Cleves, the first psychological novel, up until today, where most best-selling novels seem concern with the “slice of life” motif over any other genre, and even if fantasy plays a part (Twilight, maybe?) it must still be strictly rooted in real-world conventions). Human flesh seems to be what the comic’s character thinks keeps him (or the novel) young: visceral humanity, above all else.
But in the end, what the man finds is a strand of white hair: the exotic thrills have failed to keep it young. Maybe the comic is Danielewski’s way of proclaiming the death of lyrical realism?
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’
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.
Disclaimer: As of this afternoon, I am only on page 358 of the novel. I also recognize that the version I have received to read is not a final version of the book, and that the published version will be in color and on higher quality paper. That being said, I want to discuss some thoughts I’ve been having about the book’s design.
As a graphic designer, I’ve grown accustomed to a linear process when I’m working on a new project. I receive the information and I translate that information into something that an audience will (hopefully) look at. Not only does the information need to be presented clearly, but it has to be done in an engaging and organized way to entice people to view it.
That being said, The Familiar does not obey the same graphic design philosophies that I do. There are wild variations of kerning, leading, and tracking (the “rainstorm” section from pages 62-69 is a good example of this). The font changes as the narrative changes. There are graphics and text mingled on numerous pages. There is a liberal use of justified alignment (Isandorno’s sections, for example).
As I read at sections that contain copious amounts of text, graphics, and text-as-graphics, I find myself stifling the tiny designer in my brain that’s shouting, “Wait, what?”
I think that The Familiar is a novel that’s meant to be viewed as much as it’s meant to be read. Early in the novel, the reader is exposed, in full force, to the ever changing format. For example, “Tom’s Crossing” is set in a serif font with thin boxes surrounding the text. There are graphics of a heart monitor included as well. The layout is angular and throws traditional composition sensibilities out the window. In contrast, however, “Tom’s Crossing” also utilizes one of the most traditional type tropes: the drop cap. I don’t think that was a coincidence.
Since it seems like everything in the book is necessary and oh-so-deliberately placed, I feel that Danielewski is not only attempting to remediate television but that he is also trying to remediate advertising. Perhaps by not including visual tropes of the day (I’m thinking of the “Keep Calm and ______ On” movement, mustaches, chevron print and others) he is remediating the visual world too.
But if that’s the case, why not make one of the character fonts Comic Sans or Papyrus? Would it be too heavy handed? Would people just drop the book and run if they saw that any of it was done in Comic Sans? Believe me, I would probably drop it and run. Comic Sans would be a bad move.
Has anyone else thought about this? Advertising seems so integral to viewership; I don’t think that this would be something that Danielewski would leave out of the conversation.