I know there’s already been a lot of discussion of Narcons on here, but I’m going to add on to that in relation to some of the later events of the book, particularly in the last few sections of the book, so if you haven’t read that far yet, fair warning…
The chapter about narcons completely caught me by surprise–I had been so engrossed in the Xanther/Astair/Anwar narrative and the insertion of this sterile,cold, theoretical concept was chilling to me. It invoked in me an existential sense of awe at the mechanics of the world (or rather Danielewski’s world), almost like seeing the proverbial man behind the curtain. The fact that Astair’s thesis is wrapped up in the idea of God and proving the necessity of God, as well as Anwar’s role as a game-maker, both seemed to connect particularly well to the concept of narcons that is presented in this chapter. The narcons seem to be associated with a god-like omniscience; they “know” everything the characters know. At the same time, though, narcons have very specific limits, one of which is that narcons can’t communicate with other narcons or even any non-narcons (which obviously is confusing in that the narcon seems to be communicating with us, the non-narcon readers). These limits suggest that the narcon is not all-knowing or omnipotent. So if the narcons are not traditional gods, what are they then, simply other characters?
However, the narcons do seem to have some sense of ownership or greater responsibility than the other characters–they are constantly interrupting sections to include cryptic little phrases that begin with braille symbols. One such phrase, that appears on page 712 struck me as particularly god-like: The sentence begins: “Anwar sounding sterner than ever before (as if those words were never his own,” but is interrupted with the braille symbols signalling that the next words (“only at the end of forever owned”) are those of the narcon. This phrase seems to imply that the narcon lives on past forever in a way that Anwar or any other character can’t.
What the debate about the narcons as either characters or gods or something else entirely seem to hinge upon is how we interpret meaning in the text. Are we to understand that everything is connected in a teological way, or is the opposite true: are the various stories that seem to be connected in some unique ways only superficially related? In other words, is The Familiar a nihilistic novel or is it teleological?