Tag Archive | character

Kittens and Narcons, these are a few of my favorite things

This might be out of context, or it might be brilliant. I have no clue. I’ve seen a couple of people elude to it but not seen someone come out and say it: I think the kitten is a Narcon physical construct.

And here’s why:

Let’s start with the Narcons and their rules.

Parameter 1: MetaNarcons Do Not Exist.

Parameter 3: Narcons cannot interact with non-narcons. and vice-versa. No matter what.

Parameter 5: Form is not a narcon limit.

Facts:

The Narcon9 can lie. “last one… So okay, I was wrong. Not the last one. Sue me” (574-575).

Narcons can appear as animals. “Narcons can take on multiple shapes whether textual, musical…. Narcons may even appear as animals. Say a killer whale, boar, hyena, even a markhor, or an owl” (575) [By the way, the owl in the next book. hint hint. come on now. Tell me you saw that.] “This is often the case when personality factors determined to be significant are compressed in order to preserve future renderings of character.”

There is a form of meta Narcon that Narcon 9 is aware of but he lies to us in parameter one. “a superset [being Narcon 9] is always a subset [being the characters the Narcon 9 encompasses]. I’m the superset of my suvsets where I’m also an I. Just as I am a subset of a superset where I is also I.”

Trickster. Now let’s switch gears.

Remember Tian Li’s shadow cat that gave her magical healing powers? Anyone find it funny how is just up and disappears right before Xanther finds a kitten?

Okay so, here’s the theory a little bit more fleshed out. I’m supposing that Xanther is a special character. Obviously she needs a little healing. And maybe something in Xanther’s world needs preserving? So, I’m not suggesting Narcon9 but maybe a different Narcon that was helping Tian Li, took on a physical form of a kitten to preserve something in Xanther’s world and possibly healing Xanther?

It’s just a little connection I made. Hope you at least enjoyed reading it.

Is the Kitten Evil Incarnate?

I kind of answered this in a response to another post but, what if the cat Xanther found was meant to be with her. I’ve been wondering if maybe the reason some characters can hear a meow or cry might be that the cat is trying to get attention from the character it needs to be with. Or maybe, since the theory is that Xanther can hear/see narcons, the cat “knows” that Xanther can do this and was deliberately trying to get her attention to be with her. Whether to protect or harm her remains to be unseen. However, since this book has been described as a story about a girl and her cat, I’m getting the feeling that the cat might have been sent to protect her. Here’s hoping for a Girl and Cat Space Adventure.

Such a Sucker For a Good Disaster

As soon as we were introduced, I fell for Xanther. Danielewski did such an incredible job at making her truly realistic as well as relatable. As I was reading Xanther’s chapters, I kept getting pulled back into my twelve-year-old mindset. When I was twelve, I was a lot like Xanther. I would get hung up on minuscule details that seemed giant at the time; I would go off on tangents and rambles with no sign of stopping; and I was so insecure and obsessed with what everybody thought of me.
I believe that Danielewski made a very deliberate choice in having Xanther be the first character that we really met, and the one that we got to know the best. He gave us an empathetic disaster who we desperately wanted to see succeed. Xanther still exhibits that unlimited excitement of life that we all used to have. She asks every question that she can (via what has been dubbed her Question Song) and I feel like we can all relate to that. I, myself, remember craving knowledge and wanting answers to everything. However, eventually people became tired of giving me answers. I was forced to grow up, and Xanther gave me a taste of that childhood excitement, again.
Xanther is such a great character, because she’s rooted in reality. She isn’t some holy entity that we can’t draw parallels to relate to because she’s perfect. Danielewski is too smart to write a character like that. He gave us a human to fall in love with. He gave us back a piece of ourselves.

The Family Dynamic

The unique ability to get a transparent representation of a family dynamic is awarded by the multiple sections in the Familar by Xanther, Anwar, and Astair and the ways that they interact and see each other.  It is arguable that this family is the most relevant and central to TF, but it is also the most reliable due to the accountability and multiple presentations of each character.  Details, patterns, and the random nature of The Familiar are already almost impossible to decipher, and the incomplete and by consequence unreliable perspectives of the other characters make it even more difficult to construct an accurate view to attempt to understand what Danielewski is trying to say.  Because this family is most evident throughout the novel and the story line the most fully explained, it is safe to conclude that it has the most to reveal about the plot.  Anwar is seen in Xanther’s eyes as a superhero who codes and answers her questions, but to Astair she is critical of him and to himself, perhaps even more critical.  Whether colored favorably or not, a first person depiction of one’s self is never reliable and the validation or invalidation given by the other characters gives different aspects of the story credibility.  Astair is seen as a strong mother and intelligent character by both her husband and children, but only upon her own perspective it is revealed to the audience the true desperate nature of her thoughts.  Upon the kitten’s arrival, some form of a mental breakdown occurs within her sections but without their inclusion would go completely unnoticed.  Without this perspective, the worry over Xanther and her constant feeling like she’s placing buckets everywhere to catch the leaks would not show how hard she’s working to try to keep things together and be successful rather than her claim that she is just allergic to cats.  Xanther’s epilepsy is consuming to all members of the family, but if only viewed from her parent’s perspectives you would miss the strength, curiosity, and compassionate nature of Xanther that comes from her own perspectives.

The narcons who produce the stories produce them one character at a time, so it is up to the reader and not the writer to figure out the family dynamic and to deduce the truth from the multiple perspectives.  A character alone is biased and incomplete, but the whole family unit allows for a sense of completion, and with that sense of completion, the task of starting to understand can begin.

Race?

After reading the “Is Little Irrelevant” chapter, I realized something I hadn’t  stopped to think about before about race. Most of the characters are immigrants. I hadn’t really noticed it before because not all of the characters are foreign, so I didn’t think it would necessarily matter, and only the ones in Los Angeles are immigrants.

And though it’s kind of a cheesy thing, I think it might have something to do with a failed “American Dream” scenario. On page 416, Shnorhk’s friend Mnatsagan says “Pity instead those who labor so hard to uphold a lie. It is such work that robs them of fruitful work the future would bless.” And before that on page 401 Shnorhk thinks to himself that a “judge would believe Mnatsagan. Officer believe Mnatsagan.” You get the strong connotation that foreigners are not treated as well in the United States. I know it probably has nothing to do with the bigger picture, but you can see little bits of this in Anwar’s life, as well as Oezguer’s and Luther’s. That passage just got me thinking about it.

It’s interesting how even through all these complex narratives, Danielewski is able to incorporate a sense of the class division that is meaningful without being to overbearing.

Cats and Dogs

Just a quick post regarding the Luther and Xanther texts. My history might be a bit rusty here, but I noticed Luther seems to come from a primarily Mexican background whereas Xanther’s father, Anwar, is revealed to be of Egyptian descent. Luther owns various dogs and in the end (spoilers, I guess?) Xanther comes into possession of a dying baby cat. From what I recall, Aztecs used to revere the dog breed Xoloitzcuintli (which is mentioned in the text) and would bury their dead with these dogs to help guide their souls to the afterlife. I’m not knowledgeable of Egyptian culture at all, but I do know cats were regarded with similar honors by ancient Egyptian civilizations (perhaps someone could help me with how exactly this was done). Xanther was originally going to get a dog, but the cat interfered in what was seemingly going to be an idyllic turnaround for her family (particularly Astair’s) life. The cat in this sense is a bringer of chaos. In the same way, Luther at some point thought of letting Hopi take care of his dogs, but ended up killing him (the death that we so anticipated in his narrative). Is there something to be done with the way animals deeply attached to cultural roots of these characters seem to also be harbingers of chaos?

The Importance of Names

There is a really wide selection of names in this book, and i think there is an important discussion to be had about their significance. For the most part don’t tend to think that names are really random choices by an author, especially in the case of a book like this one.

Now, I have pretty much no background in name meanings at all, and for the most part when I’m looking up names from books I’m reading they have largely Western European origins. The names in this book have a much wider range of backgrounds, so it was quite interesting looking for their meanings.

Our heroine (?) Xanther has a name I myself had never encountered before, though that is going to be the case for the majority of names I come across in this story. A bit of rooting around revealed that it is most likely a Hebrew name with meanings that seem to fit Xanther very well: There is a tendency to assume too heavy a burden of responsibility for others, you have a generous quality to your nature, you love people, family, home, and friends and try to be a parent to the whole human race, any health problems would show as tension in the nervous system brought on by worry. There are certainly some aspects that don’t really fit her character at all, such as “people with problems are drawn to you” and “you have generally stable conditions in your personal life”. So, I wonder if I am simply twisting around and trying to make these name meanings fit?

I definitely find myself doing a bit of twisting when I consider the names of Xanther’s sisters, Shasti and Freya. Shasti was another name that was unknown to me, though the same is not true of Freya. However, they both seem to refer to the same idea: Shasti is a hindu goddess of childbirth and Freya is a Norse fertility goddess. Why are these two names in some way referencing childbirth? Does it have to do with their energetic nature? Or is it that their being twins was a surprise to their parents?

At the very least, there are a great deal of very interesting name meanings to think about in this book. I would definitely recommend looking a few up and seeing where you are lead – and if you do happen to know anything about some of the names in the book please do let me know!

Religion

I’m not really sure where this fits but has anyone else noticed the mentioning of religion in almost every section of the book? It is normally used in the sense of what one believes.

For example Danielewski specifically mentions that Anwar does not believe in a God, but that Dov did.

He describes things that are not church related as religion, too.

For example, on page 407 traffic is mentioned as a religion. He uses it as a adjective to describe how Shnorhk feels about traffic.

I might be making something out of nothing but I do not think that the use of religion both dealing with and without the church is purely accidental. If Danielewski is remediating television then this could be another theme of sorts to think about. Most television shows these days have the characters that have a strong belief in something. It gives their character another depth so that people can relate better.

I’ve taken fiction classes at school and one thing that my professors stress is developing the characters in a way that does not give everything away but still makes you relate to them.

I think that characters having strong beliefs in something or nothing is a way for us to relate back to the characters without necessarily giving too much away in what is to come.

There might even be a deeper meaning to the use of religion that I have yet to work out in my mind and I will not understand until I reach the end of the book but this is what I have for now.

 

Beyond the Horrorsphere

Xanther’s narrative seems to be mainly concerned with interiority: the suppression of impulses, storming thoughts, epilepsy, etc. As to be expected by such a level of suppression, her narrative, thus far, seems to be the most uneventful: a simple daughter-and-father walk on a rainy day. Even the subtitle of the volume, A Rainy Day in May, suggests tranquil, almost pastoral themes. This is highly contrasted the narratives of Jingjing, Luther, Ozgur, etc., which are splattered with violence, particularly Luther and its crude aggression and lewdness, and Jinjing’s, which while not violent in the conventional sense of the word, presents violence in its written form, by use of a plethora of dialects, slangs and different languages which make the narrative confusing and at times even borderline unintelligible.
Going back to Xanther, her discussion of the Horrorsphere seems to mirror the state of being of the other characters’ worlds: first and foremost, it’s free of taboo, an “anything goes” ordeal (as seen in social media sites like the infamous 4chan or certain corners of reddit, Tumblr, etc.), and given its name, it is a place of horror (the online OED returns an interesting definition of horror in its first result: that of “roughness” or “ruggedness,” both words that could easily go along with the view of life “out on the streets,” as the general public would call it). So what is the significance of suppression vs. release in the context of the world as a whole?
I’ll shift my focus now into a short account to further drive my point home (hopefully). There existed a Japanese horror flash animation in the 90s called “The Red Room,” known for breaking the fourth wall in a chilling fashion. In a brief summary, the story of the animation concerns a high school student who finds a pop up on his computer that reads “Do you like the red room?” As he closes it, he feels a presence behind him, and the next day news arrives that the same student has committed suicide and painted the walls of his room with his blood. The animation then breaks the fourth wall upon ending, actually sending the same pop-up of the story into the viewer’s computer. This animation gained notoriety when a young elementary school girl in Japan, who was a proclaimed fan of the story, committed a homicide in what became known as the Sasebo slashing. The relevance of this lies in where the horror is truly situated. The flash animation only truly becomes terrifying when it infiltrates the real world – when the pop up appears on your own (real) computer screen. Concern is not in regards to what the young elementary school student watched, but in what she did after watching it.
I feel Danielewski might be making the point that virtual or imaginary spaces subdue our definition of horror and violence. Xanther’s brief encounter with the Horrorsphere affects her because she cannot recognize the difference between this and reality because her entire narrative focuses on the interior – which is where the biggest horrors lie. Likewise, in our own real world, reading of Luther is not the same as witnessing it. The horrorsphere exists as a deposit for all horror – and only when it leaks out into real life does it truly damage us. But having a character like Xanther really lets the reader see how equally violent both realms of horror can be. Although it is but a Rainy Day in May, Xanther’s narrative can be disturbing and unsettling, because the imaginative is depicted with vast realism. In this sense, is the horrorsphere really contained, or can it affect us now, beyond the computer screen (think of Jingjing, whose narrative is violent in language)?

Fonts

Someone mentioned an existing post or thread on the font choices, but I haven’t been able to track it down. In the interim, I’ll sketch out some preliminary notes to start and we can build together as the reading progresses.

(This would be more fun with CSS. We’re unfortunately stuck with the template style sheet though.)

Luther: Imperial BT
– “cower power”

Anwar: Adobe Garamond
– old-style serif dating to 15C, i.e. beginnings of print
– see: character biography, Egypt as origin of writing

jingjing: rotis semi sans
– font used for highway and street signs in Singapore

Özgür: Baskerville
– Hounds thereof
– A transitional font between modern and old style; printing history of John Baskerville may pertain

Shnorkh: Promemoria
– Armenian genocide, traumatic memory and memorialization

Xanther: Minion
– OED: “A person who is specially favoured or loved; a popular hero, a favourite of the public”; “The supposed companion or favourite of something personified”; “Originally: a (usually male) favourite of a sovereign, prince, or other powerful person; a person who is dependent on a patron’s favour”

I’ll leave it to commenters to work on the rest…