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The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May…

The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May

by Mark Z. Danielewski

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
What on Earth possessed me to buy this book? I mean, of course I know, I was there. I loved House of Leaves so deeply, and then when I finally wasn't too intimidated to read it, I loved Only Revolutions, too. So one day when we were on our way to Grand Rapids, and I didn't have a book with me to read in the car (unacceptable!), when we stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way and had wandered around and around without anything catching my eye... Well, this was sure to at least be interesting.

Never mind the fact that this is the first book in what's going to be a 123 book series (slight exaggeration). Never mind that each book is sure to be a 900 page behemoth like this one. Never mind that 880 pages color-cded so that you can keep track of which narrator is speaking is hardly what anyone would call a summer read.

If you know Danielewski, you know this is complicated book.

I have complicated feelings about this book.

For one, I loved Xanther right away. Xanther who seems to be the main narrator out of all the many narrators of this book. Xanther who is prone to obsessive thought processes, who cannot help but follow her brain down wandering/wondering rabbit holes about how many raindrops are falling. Xanther who gets the best word art.

I did not love Zhong. First of all, I've never been much of a fan of writing in vernacular. Add to Zhong's vernacular the use of slang and also words in multiple languages. It feels like trying too hard. And reading it is harder because it's so occasional. You can't get into the groove of how to read Zhang when you're a dozen pages in and you switch to a new narrator, having to start all over again with Zhang hundreds of pages later.

I'm thinking of this like a graphic novel -- there's a lot of set-up to do with world building and character introductions and the whole story might unfold over a hundred issues, so that first trade paperback is really just sort of a teaser, it hardly gets you into the story at all. I am interested enough in Xanther and Astair (Xanther's mother) and the familiar that I've bought the second volume. Hopefully there I'll get more buy-in to some other characters. We'll see. ( )
1 vote greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
The most fascinating parts are really only glazed over while tangential narratives fill more than half the book; the twist parade in the last 200 pages are executed fairly well, which make this book - otherwise plagued with one dimensional characters and some of Danielewski's most irritating concrete poetry - just interesting enough to give the next book a try. ( )
  michaeljoyce | Dec 4, 2017 |
Incredibly ambitious, dizzyingly complex, and utterly enthralling. I am itching to know where these diverse people and stories are going and if they will ever connect or resolve in any way. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
This first volume (of a planned 27 volumes) of The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski is very much an introduction to a series. There are multiple story lines, but the main one focuses on a twelve year old girl (Xanther) who is soon to acquire a new pet on a rain soaked Los Angeles day.

Each chapter concerns one of the nine main stories, which are mostly kept separate from each other in this volume. The fonts, language, tone and style differ in each of these perspectives to better differentiate between the characters therein from the rest.

Anyone who has read Danielewski's other works (House Of Leaves, The Fifty Year Sword, Only Revolutions) will be familiar with the unique style that he brings to the table with the unusual format of text littering these pages. Some pages have only a single word, while others have an immense amount ("How many raindrops?") which are made to look like what the character is looking at (a rainstorm).

I found some of the characters more engaging (Xanther and her parents ([Anwar] and (Astair)), Oz, Luther) and others less so (Jingjing). With this many stories and characters, favouritism for some is always a likely possibility.

Given the number of characters and story lines introduced in this novel, even with 800 plus pages, we don't spend a significant amount of time with anyone but Xanther and her family. This means that there is little in the way of plot advancement for many of these characters (how much can happen in one day?) - it's mainly sequences of 'slice of life' moments that we see in this volume.
In order to get the most out of the book, you need to think of The Familiar as a television series and One Rainy Day In May as episode number one. If you can't do that then this book is likely not for you. This is only the beginning, everything will either come together or unravel at a later date, but until then it is too soon to make any definitive call on the series. This may mean that it would be worth while to wait until several volumes have been released before reading them, and deciding based on that whether The Familiar is for you. Sometimes you need more than one episode to make up your mind.

Putting aside the different fonts, the coloured text, and the creative formatting, the heart of this book is the familial relationship between Xanther and her parents. If for nothing else, this makes Volume One of The Familiar worth the effort. ( )
  Wolfman08 | Aug 6, 2016 |
Oh Wow. This is such an amazing experience. And this is just the beginning! Can't wait for the next one... and the next one... and the next one etc etc. ( )
  ebethiepaige | Oct 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
...this book reads less like a novel than an art project put together by a college sophomore after his third joint. The reader is introduced to the first Singapore section with “they saysay she tutor demons, lah. saysay mice dance to her finger snap and a pelesit.” Not long after, the reader is whisked away to Marfa, where the two scientists speak to each other in what sounds like dialogue from Matrix fan fiction. (Danielewski later name-checks the science fiction film, because of course he does.)

Authors do not have a responsibility to write easy books. But the problem with The Familiar isn’t that it’s difficult; it’s that it’s unreadable. Take away the typographical gimmicks, the frequently unfathomable dialogue, and the confusing storylines that pass for a plot, and you’re essentially left with nothing.
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I've said what matters, he seems to have shouted, but all that matters he had shouted in an unintelligible way.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375714944, Paperback)

From the author of the international best seller House of Leaves and National Book Award-nominated Only Revolutions comes a monumental new novel as dazzling as it is riveting. The Familiar (Vol.1) ranges from Mexico to Southeast Asia, from Venice, Italy, to Venice, California, with nine lives hanging in the balance, each called upon to make a terrifying choice. They include a therapist-in-training grappling with daughters as demanding as her patients; an ambitious East L.A. gang member contracted for violence; two scientists in Marfa, Texas, on the run from an organization powerful beyond imagining; plus a recovering addict in Singapore summoned at midnight by a desperate billionaire; and a programmer near Silicon Beach whose game engine might unleash consequences far exceeding the entertainment he intends. 

At the very heart, though, is a 12-year-old girl named Xanther who one rainy day in May sets out with her father to get a dog, only to end up trying to save a creature as fragile as it is dangerous . . . which will change not only her life and the lives of those she has yet to encounter, but this world, too—or at least the world we think we know and the future we take for granted.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:00 -0400)

From the universally acclaimed, genre-busting author of House of Leaves comes a new book as dazzling as it is riveting . . . A page-turner from start to finish, ranging from Southeast Asia to Mexico to Venice, Italy, and Venice, California, with characters as diverse as a therapist-in-training whose daughters prove far more complex than her patients, an ambitious East-L.A. gang member hired for violence, two scientists on the run in Marfa, Texas, a recovering addict in Singapore summoned by a powerful but desperate billionaire, a programmer near Silicon Beach whose game engine just might augur far more than he suspects, and at the very heart a 12-year-old girl who one rainy day in May sets out from Echo Park to get a dog only to find something else . . . something that will not only alter her life but threaten the world we all think we know and the future we take for granted.… (more)

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