Title

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

Subject Area

Literary Criticism

Abstract

"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?" (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 unconventionally on the page that some pages have to be read upside down and some in a mirror. Exemplifying what Espen Aarseth calls ergodic literature, his fiction 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.

Brief Bio Note

Alex E. Blazer is an Associate Professor of English at Georgia College & State University, where he teaches contemporary American literature, film, and literary criticism. He has presented three conference papers at SECCLL: on Bret Easton Ellis, the The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Don DeLillo and Ben Fountain’s war novels. He has published articles on Paul Auster, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and The Matrix Trilogy as well as a book on the relationship between contemporary American poetry and literary theory.

Keywords

Danielewski, Ergodic literature, Postmodernism, Textuality, Reading process, Cats in literature, Contemporary American novel

Location

Coastal Georgia Center

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

4-7-2016 9:20 AM

End Date

4-7-2016 9:40 AM

Embargo

11-8-2015

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Apr 7th, 9:20 AM Apr 7th, 9:40 AM

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

Coastal Georgia Center

"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?" (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 unconventionally on the page that some pages have to be read upside down and some in a mirror. Exemplifying what Espen Aarseth calls ergodic literature, his fiction 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.