The Familiar (Volume 1)
Being a massive fan of House of Leaves, I knew what to expect from The Familiar. At least, I thought I did.
Varying fonts? Check. Typographies and layouts that have you rotating the considerably heavy book around 360 degrees? Check. Story? Well, yes and no is the answer to that.
The Familiar has multiple stories all seemingly centred around the rainy day in May. Each tale is distinguished by having different fonts and different coloured page tabs but we learn only a little from each narrative before it changes to another. This interruption of flow is plainly not an unusual technique but it felt like there was nothing to latch onto. Nothing concrete to enable you to follow and keep up with each story. When I returned to a certain character, I had trouble remembering what had happened to them last and where we were up to. The use of dialect and accent for the different dialogues doesn’t help either in developing an understanding of each storyline. To be honest, it just made it hard work.
It doesn’t appear that there is any connection between the stories, although I suspect that their narratives will converge at some point in the future – but is it worth putting the time and energy in?
The most engaging story, I found, is about Xanther. It’s perhaps the most ‘normal’ of the stories and avoids the most distracting or heavy-going effects, except for the excessive parentheses… The pay-off in this story comes towards the end with her discovery of the kitten.
It was this that made me consider buying volume 2, as I did have an urge to find out what happened next with the cat and a simmering curiosity to see how all the narratives come together but, at the end of the day, I won’t be buying it. Obviously, this probably reflects worse on me than Mark Z. Danielewski and I have a grudging admiration for those who, not only continue with the series, but also enjoy it!
I don’t mind a challenging read but this was next level material and I had to admit defeat. That said, if I can find volume 2 at the library, I would give it a chance. Gotta find out about this mysterious kitten!