CBR #100 — Alice’s Adventures Through Coffeeshop Artistry

The Familiar, Vol. 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski

I cannot remember if I read House of Leaves.  I owned it.  I definitely turned through the pages.  But for the life of me I don’t know if I ever made it to the end.  His typographic shenanigans and means of creating the closest thing to the fucking Necronomicon mankind will see in this lifetime kind of make him Kindle proof.  I know I never bothered with his other books.  Motherfucker has literally created the Donnie Darko of books, which thick glassed beardos will pore through endlessly parsing the dialogue and typography for the true face of God.  Who probably looks and talks like the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie.

So it was with trepidation that I decided to embark on The Familiar.  It is the first volume in what is purported to be an epic 27 volume series.  With one book coming out every six months or so.  One massive 800+ page tome that’s written in various fonts and sideways and with parlor trickery on each page.  I made peace with myself that I will only read this when I check each subsequent volume out from the local library.  Since I will be moving to rural Ohio by year’s end, I will never complete this task.

I found this to actually be his most accessible work.  Having only potentially read one of his previous works.  The Familiar takes place on the same day, spanned out across the US, and in various cities: Singapore, a small town in Texas, a small town in Mexico, and most of the story taking place in Los Angeles.  We follow about nine characters, three of whom are part of the same family, and others who’s interconnected waves we’ll have to wait and see. Each character gets their own color code at the top of the page and their own font.  This is vital to help break up the stories.

To give you a good idea about how artschool this motherfucker is, the description of the plot goes as such: a little girl drives across Los Angeles to find a dog, only to find a kitten instead.  Which is true.  Meanwhile, we’ve got a Benetton ad of various characters smattered across the scape.  There are entire parts of the book written in foreign languages that we don’t get translated.  I respect that.  It adds to the otherness of the story.

By proclaiming this monstrosity of twenty-seven volumes, where undoubtedly we’ll discover the true face of the alphabet and the twenty seventh letter which is pronounced “4Q&” and if you look directly at it any drugs you’ve ever done are reactivated, Danielewski is clearly up his own ass.  Like Richard Kelly, he’s created this movement that seems all artistic and may or may not be hot air.  Kelly did Southland Tales, and then The Box, and now he’s smokehoused two or three other potential projects that have never come to fruition.

But you know what?  Fuck it.  I’m in on this one.  I’ll follow it to the bitter, sniff your own farts ending, because it’s interesting so far.  It may be gimmicky as all fuck, but I’m in.  Volume 2 drops October.


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