Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English & Rhetoric

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061

alex.blazer@gcsu.edu

alexeblazer.com

 

Sooooooooo Real, Sooooooooo Much Trouble: The Familiar
Tormenting Textuality of Mark Z. Danielewski

Besides, was there any doubt she’d leap from the car? When what she imagined was answered by what now had to be sooooooooo real? And when what was real turned out to bo in sooooooooo much trouble? (Mark Z. Danielewski, The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May, 480)

Mark Z. Danielewski’s postmodern fiction is famously difficult to read because, following Roland Barthes’s post-structuralist critical conceptual shift from contained and definitive literary work to the open-ended and indeterminate writing text, it exists as an endless play of signifiers across a field of textuality containing not only multiple contradictorily nested narrative frames, unreliable narrators, and footnotes to fictional academic and documentary sources but also multiple fonts and words arranged so concretely and figuratively on the page that some pages have to be read upside down and some in a mirror. Exemplifying what Espen J. Aarseth calls ergodic literature, it requires “nontrivial effort...to allow the reader to traverse the text.” This paper first explores the anguish of reading (and planning to read) Danielewski’s nine narrator, each with her own font, 880 page introduction to a planned 27-volume story about a girl who rescues a kitten suffering in a storm drain in a rainstorm called The Familiar, Volume 1: A Rainy Day in May (2015) and then meditates upon how the elusive, non-represented mewing of the afflicted kitten that haunts each interwoven narrative thread serves as a metaphor for the relationship between reality and representation, between truth and textuality, in the novel. The Familiar drowns the reader in language yet, paradoxically, it is precisely this suffocating immersion that animates the reading process, the reader’s traversal of the text and search for meaning.

 

This abstract summarizes my presentation,"Sooooooooo Real, Sooooooooo Much Trouble: The Familiar
Tormenting Textuality of Mark Z. Danielewski
." Southeast Coastal Conference on Languages & Literatures. Coastal Georgia Center, Savannah, GA. 7 Apr. 2016.

 

Keywords: Danielewski, ergodic literature, postmodernism, textuality, reading process, cats in literature, contemporary American novel