Since the beginning of our reading and posting and analyzing of The Familiar we have been calling the symbols that enclose and signify the Narcons coming in and explaining or editing “braille dots.” There are multiple posts about what the braille don’t mean. They could be a letter “N” so that when read aloud could sound like “The End.” They could mean “not.” At first people thought they could be a letter “Z” as well. We’ve been so caught up in the meaning of the dots before we knew the Narcons existed, and now that we do know their place in the scheme of the novel, we haven’t stopped trying to figure out why the Narcons tell us the things that they do in the way that do. But we’ve been leaving out one question that I think is pretty important: WHO IS READING THIS STORY THAT NEEDS BRAILLE?? Danielewski had clearly made use of traditionally disadvantaged characters as his protagonists but has yet to discuss a blind character, making his use of braille an interesting choice. Since Danielewski has everything planned out so specifically it would only make sense that if the braille dots are, in fact, braille dots then they are there to serve some purpose.
On Tuesday in class we discussed the possibility of there being another implied reader of the novel who might be allowed to see the pieces of text that are blacked out. From our discussion we came up with the idea that the VEM Corporation has censored out parts of the text because the character and we ourselves are not high enough on the totem pole to know about the happenings or key players in the development of some way of controlling the future. This got me thinking that maybe this other reader gets to know the full story. Because the text is blacked out, how are we to know that the words or numbers or codes that are blacked out aren’t in the Narcon braille dot language or just in straight up braille? At this point in volume one of The Familiar we simply don’t know.
Back to the idea of the braille being for a certain reader or readers in particular… Why would only the Narcon sections be marked by braille? Is this “other reader” privy to everything else that is going on (so he/she wouldn’t need to read the other parts simply printed in ink on the page) except for what is going on with the Narcons? Is the “other reader” some kind of editor of the world of the novel and is in control of what the Narcons say and, being blind, only knows how to write in braille? There are a whole slew of questions that could be asked about this “other reader” that I hope are answered in the coming volumes because the idea of there being an “other reader” at all is so fascinating to me.
Or the use of braille could represent the notion that there is so much going on in the world that is unseen. A little unsettling, but another valid possibility that falls in with the world or mystery that Danielewski has created.
In the text, we frequently see comments in the font designated for “The Narcons” (for more information on who uses which font, you can find this information in the back of your book approximately pg. 843). These comments are bracketed by the braille letters “N” and “Z”. It is my hypothesis that “The Narcons” are Mark Z. Danielewski playing the part of creator or God. These Narcons (TF-Narcon3, 9 & 27) are giving us clues in the text, translations, and then states that they aren’t our “Google bitch[es],” as the Mandarin and Cantonese characters start showing up frequently in the character jingjing’s chapters, I believe that these inserted comments are the author’s way of communicating signals and clues to his readers without leaving footnotes. As some mentioned in an earlier class this week, the braille letter may in fact be Danielewski’s way of signing his name.
The most important clue that “The Narcons” has left us (or me) so far is found on Page 110, where “The Narcons” point out that the spelling of “catstrophe” may not just be coincidental or the fault of mistranslation or an accent. He points this out with the use of an “!” which leads me to believe that cats will be significant later on in the story (this and the fact that others have many posts about cats).
What do you think? Could “The Narcons” be Mark Z. Danielewski? Or do you think that Mark Z. Danielewski is playing the role of creator by implementing the narcons into the story to create and manipulate the narrative for him? Would Danielewski engage with his audience in such a personal way as to write himself as one of the characters? Or are “The Narcons” something else entirely? If so, who do you think it is?