CBR #147 — For The Trees

The Familiar, Vol. 2: Into the Forest by Mark Z. Danielewski

Again, I enter the surreal vortex of The Familiar.  You don’t so much read it as experience it.  If I could compare it to something it’d be either Cloud Atlas or the Netflix series Sense8. Just massive sprawling world-bent narratives that are slowly, glacially coalescing into something.  I can’t even say coherent.  This project is why drugs are. I’m not saying, no man, it’s so much better if you’ve expanded your mind, man.  I’m just saying it’s an art installation that I haven’t quite sunk my teeth into yet.  But I’m digging the flavor.

Again, there are nine different stories being told, all across the globe.  Most of the story takes place in Los Angeles, with three of the threads occurring in Mexico, Ohio, and Singapore. Three of the threads revolve around the same family members: Xanther, her father Anwar, and her mother Astair.  We’ve got an Armenian cab driver named Shnork, a on-his-way-out detective named Ozgur (I’m leaving out a bunch of umlauts), a drug dealer named Luther — all of whom are in LA, and the outliers are a, you know I’m not sure exactly what he is, helper monkey? named Jingjing who speaks in a sort of pidgin mandarin patois, a cartel handler named Isandoro working in Mexico, and then The Wizard, Cas, who possesses an Orb and is currently on the run, having just left Texas.

Parsing this 800+ page novel is next to impossible.  It’s like reading a television series, it truly is.  What’s impressive is that the narrative, while crazy and sometimes in foreign languages that are impossible to navigate without actually being a native speaker, moves along.  The first book was about Xanther and her kitten mostly.  Now the second book is about the repercussions of everything that happened in the first book.  While the first book took place during one day, this one goes for almost two months.  The threads are starting to slowly connect.  Luther, Isandoro and it seems Jingjing may be connected through drugs.  The Wizard can see Xanther and her family while scrying with the orb, and they are currently working with Mefisto, who is the friend/enemy of Anwar. I think Ozgur and Shornk are possibly tying together, but Shnork’s storyline is almost as frustrating as Jingjing’s to deal with.

Again, Danielewski is supposedly doing twenty six volumes in this massive undertaking.  And I eagerly await the next one.  I thought he’d do it in thirteen years, two a year, but Volume 3, as yet untitled, is due out in Summer of 2016.  So maybe this’ll be eighteen or twenty years?  I mean, can you imagine signing on for that huge of a literary commitment?  And these aren’t little piddly short stories or something.  These are massive, structured, 800+ page behemoths with the nine main stories, plus some kind of Italian comic, a YouTube like scripted project, and various other brief interludes incorporated within.  It’s impressive, yet sometimes I just move forward because I accept I don’t get it yet and maybe I will.


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