Danielewski’s novel The Familiar One Rainy Day in May uses rain to create and depict ideas crucial to its plot line and character development. While rain may be taking place in the physical world around these characters, it is abstractly represented in other ways as well. Xanther’s epilepsy can be seen rather clearly in some ways, and vaguely in others. My first reaction to seeing Danielewski’s choice of design of these “raindrop words” was one of awe. I have never been able to imagine what the mind of someone with epilepsy could be like until I saw this image. In the “Is Everything Okay?” section, the raindrop images begin to develop from one “drop” of words to hundreds over the span of pages 68 and 69. I would interpret these raindrop-heavy pages to be a clear image of Xanther as she is overwhelmed, on the verge of seizing, or experiencing a seizure.
I would definitely agree with delklor’s post as he/she describes the overwhelming nature of this choice in design. Reading the sections with this raindrop design is frustrating, straining, and time consuming. This assessment of emotions can also be reflected onto Xanther’s character. On pages 66 and 67, there are several sections of writing that almost interrupt the pattern of the raindrops. It seems as she has a flood of rain-like thoughts consuming her mind, she is able to respond to them. She is still in some control of her mind as the other writing says “Stop!” several times. Danielewski’s design choice offers a unique way to see in the overwhelming and intricate mind of Xanther.
So I’m not sure how everyone else reacted to the raindrop pages in the “Is Everything Okay?” Section I was really invested in it. I thought it was simply amazing how well the narration blends with these word-raindrop amalgams. So I started reading each individual drop and on p63 in the top right, she’s counting every drop with a finger. Every drop. I can’t even begin to think about doing something like that. But what’s really got me amazed is the fact that just seven pages prior, we get an image of these 10 Ws compared to her ten fingers. So not only are these seemingly endless questions falling down the page a part of her, they’re overwhelming her, like a catsum. But I feel as if this is natural to Xanther because her dad is always asking her questions and certainly because they’re her fingers. So by p64-65 and much more so p68-69, surely we as readers aren’t sitting here reading every single question because it’s just simply overwhelming. Rather, we’re searching for what little white space there is on the page (“Rain is just water with holes in it. Adding up to one big hole. One all engulfing catsum. Brutal. Banishing.” p67).
Another mind blowing piece was on p69 “Xanther’s the zero”. Thinking back to the equation Anwar makes on p59, if we plug in Xanther for 0 then mom and dad for 1 and 2 respectively (just because), it leaves me with the impression that they could live better or at the very least drastically different lives with Xanther or children at all for that matter. However, 1=2 leaves their relationship unequal, so Xanther’s presence balances it, creating happiness. Zero is even directly compared to happiness on p84. Which leaves me wondering why Anwar had the notion of dividing both sides by zero in the first place.
I think all of this mirrors what we as readers feel when we look at the raindrop pages. Personally, I looked at it for the first time while flipping through the book and felt like it was gonna be a pain or at least overwhelming to read. And that’s exactly how Xanther feels. And then there’s the bit of really heavy emotion on pages 66 and 67 (which could just be a touch of epilepsy) and it sort of comes out of nowhere and that itself is overwhelming. I think these pages work to emphasize metafiction really well not only because of the unusual structure but also because of the emotions they evoke.