Tag Archive | narrative voice

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.

The Narcons

So, since we’ve started the book, I’ve found the “voices between the braille” otherwise known as the Narcons quite interesting. I’ve studied them since I noticed them correcting, editing, or commenting on the dialogue and narration. Even the characters’ narrator was revealed as TF-Narcon9. (564-576) Originally (around page 199 and 250) I got the idea that the “voices between the braille” (I hadn’t seen the font character list in the back of the book yet. [Maybe put it in the front, unless you {the author} don’t want it to be obvious?]) were characters that edited the actual characters within the book as events and dialogue were happening.

I found the dynamics described by Narcon 9 about other Narcons very interesting. And then developed the idea that it was a (young) early Narcon because it could barely hear the other Narcons who actually edited it. I also developed the impression that it was a girl for some reason. Then thought that the only reason the other Narcons could hear Narcon 9 was because they were possibly older.

I was a little proud of myself for even following this idea because I’ve even read a book remotely close to this. And I’m a little proud of myself for discovering truth in some of my theories. Not gonna lie though. Every thought I had, I rethought and tripple thought because what if I was being tricked into thinking my thoughts by Danielewski’s narration. Trickster. I almost went a little schizo there.

One Voice to Connect Them All

In the narrative, characters keep hearing a faint voice described as a baby’s cry or a kitten meowing. This cry has been experienced by all of the characters, but I will elaborate on three of them: Luther, Anwar and Shnorhk. Luther heard a kitten crying, Anwar heard a babies cry, Shnorhk thought it might be a baby bird. It is my belief that this voice, whoever or whatever it is, is reaching out to them, trying to connect or warn them in some way.

I believe that this voice is Cas talking through her orb. She is calling out for help and the voice is being transmitted through the air to those who are receptive to it. Do you think Cas is the voice of these cries? Could it be the narcons, who have been briefly mentioned?  If not, who do you think it is?

On another thought, Cas may also have tried to contact the others through the use of media, like spamming the Ibrahaim’s phones and causing a bug in Anwar’s video game. There is also the strange black-ribboned-black-box app that Xanther has on her phone that is a forum where she can share or “parcel” thoughts and pictures with just friends or the whole world. This may be another way Cas tries (has tried?) to connect with Xanther. Are there any other ways Cas may try to contact other characters?


UPDATE: 1-29-2015

As I have finished the book, it has come to my attention that I now believe that these “voices” are the characters familiars trying to connect with them. The only one who truly heard the voice and responded to it was Xanther, and we now all know that her familiar is in the form of a strange (demonic, evil, and soul-sucking) cat. What form do you think the familiars will take for the other characters? We have heard mention of an owl already. Whose familiar is that?

A question on narration and representations of consciousness

Something that interested me when starting to read The Familiar was its narrative style. Throughout Danielewski’s oeuvre, readers have seen him match styles of narrative voice with his characters. This has included choices of font as well as linguistic idiolect.

In The Familiar, chapters are aligned with different narratives and different characters and once again we can see Danielewski alternating font and style. To what extent can we interpret his stylistic choices as attempts to render the cognitive processes and styles of his characters?

As an example, through pages 1-199 there are 3 chapters that we might think of as relating to Xanther’s story and all are presented as third-person narration. However, the focalisation differs: ‘Is Everything Okay?’ is written from Xanther’s point of view, ‘Square One’ from Anwar’s, and ‘Big Surprise’ from Astair’s. As a result, there are some interesting differences in thought presentation. Parenthesis is used throughout Anwar’s and Astair’s narration, for instance, to represent digressions of thought, though the punctuation symbols differ between the two.

I therefore wanted to pose a question: To what extent can we consider style, punctuation, and visual-multimodal elements in Danielewski’s writing as being used to represent character cognition and mind style? Can an argument be made about contemporary fiction and innovations in stream of consciousness?