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Open Letter from Mark Z. Danielewski on the Release of THE FAMILIAR (VOLUME 1)

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  • Open Letter from Mark Z. Danielewski on the Release of THE FAMILIAR (VOLUME 1)




    Some years ago, while I was writing THE , Carl would go downstairs to the kitchen and start yowling. Sufficiently trained by this sublime creature, I would race downstairs to fill his cat bowls with food and water. A little while later, though, the yowling would start up again. Again I would race downstairs, this time to discover his cat bowl emptied, his complaint a mystery. This routine persisted for a few days. I began to fear he was ill (but his life-consuming disease was still years away) or cranky (he never was) or just talking to ghosts (. . .). It was at the end of the week that the reason slowly dawned on me. I was working constantly. Dawns merging into dusks. I had forgotten I was hungry. I was forgetting to eat. Carl was concerned. And so we returned to dining together and his yowling stopped.

    Perhaps some of you have known this experience -- where the value of your time together is marked by the quality of your companionship, and that companionship is quantified by the hole left behind when it’s gone.

    How wondrous, though, that such loyalty can so radically -- and yes it is radical -- extend beyond a playground, high school halls, Facebook. How awe-inspiring -- and yes it is that beautiful -- to understand that one word so often limited to our kind is only so caged by the stingiest minds. How its province is far more vast.

    Of course, we all know the word. One of the early ones we learned that’s not about relatives, gender, or possessions. It shares an etymological heritage with "free" as well as "to love." It is as old as the hills especially if we've learned to listen to those hills:

    Friend.

    I sometimes think that how we cultivate and honor our friendships may prove the only marker that counts when dust comes at last to claim us for itself. And not just cultivate and honor but expand upon. Have I befriended not just the satisfaction of the self but its substance too? Have I recognized that the known cadence of one language is not an excuse to ignore another? Have I also accepted that the absence of language is no excuse to refuse an act of welcome?

    For nine years, I have had the immense good fortune to live among friends who have helped me lift into existence an absurd labor of love -- is love ever really Love if it’s not a little absurd? A 27-volume novel; or at least the first third. Those friends include many I've played with, learned with, worked with, fought with, lived beside, whose paths I've haphazardly crossed, whose digital presence announced itself with a hi or a wink or a curse. Nor will I forget the many readers who stood by me over the years -- who cared passionately about a blue word ( OF LEAVES); who understood that syntax, no matter how much it promises, cannot be political if it lacks invention (ONLY REVOLUTIONS); who understand that image too has a voice (THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD); who know by heart that where non-fiction is the biography of history, literature is the autobiography of the imagination, that without strong imaginations we permanently place ourselves beyond change (because the reason we need to read what's made up is to put into practice making up for ourselves a world no longer compelled to carry out injustices and sufferings ordained by pasts and even tyrannical futures).

    And how woefully incomplete all of this would still be if I did not include those who require the most imagination, who live beyond the classification of humanity, who claim only the sky as their home, or the seas, or an old oak tree. Carl.

    Without you I could not have imagined the individuals now inhabiting my new book. So of course they are friends too, dear friends, for they are not just born from my thoughts, but reliant on yours as well, on the many I've sat down with, or read about, or just overheard, or met again and again, or never met, beyond reading, beyond imagination, capable of profound selflessness, silence, terrible violence, who are as defeated by dangerous cravings as they are victorious in their curiosity, courage, and sense of honor.

    In one way, THE comes down to a large family, as disparate in background as it is forever bound together. In another way, though, it is just about one remarkable girl, who is as much an act of fiction as she is the daughter I've never had, the daughter we together have never had, blindly befriending those who dare encounter her, but most of all befriending the remarkable creature called forth from a place beyond language, maybe even beyond life itself, the necessity we never knew we needed, and just starting to yowl.

    Not for its own needs.

    But for ours -- for we who have forgotten we're hungry.


    -- Mark Z. Danielewski
    Last edited by Hazel; 03-31-2015, 10:37 AM.

  • #2
    It's absolutely beautiful, in fact I'm almost in tears from it, but I don't know why. The language is gorgeous and speaks to my heart but for some reason I can't tell what he's trying to say. Just alert us to the new book? Announce a retirement? Has Carl died? This whole letter feels like some kind of bittersweet goodbye and thank you for something but I don't know what.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by WAYFan View Post
      It's absolutely beautiful, in fact I'm almost in tears from it, but I don't know why. The language is gorgeous and speaks to my heart but for some reason I can't tell what he's trying to say. Just alert us to the new book? Announce a retirement? Has Carl died? This whole letter feels like some kind of bittersweet goodbye and thank you for something but I don't know what.
      Carl is gone, yes. Mark posted his empty bowl on December 19, 2013.

      ​To me, this note is a hello, a rumination of how friendship brings us together and sustains us, even when we're apart. Anticipation of the series is high. For some, entering this new world Mark's created will fill a hole - to see ideas expressed, to come together on tour, to nerd out with other fans. For others, it's something new that they had no idea they were missing before. We're going to meet new friends - not just the characters in the book, but real people, from the discussion and community that the series will generate.

      This letter somehow made it to the second page of reddit. There are a few comments from people disappointed that they're not actually discussing the letter. I agree with them - maybe reddit will be good for solving puzzles, and not so much for meta discussion. I hope I'm wrong. Thanks for posting, WAYFan. If anyone has seen any meaningful reactions elsewhere, please post it! I'd love to see what other people think, especially if someone shares my brain and is able to eloquently express the same thing that I'm trying to come up with.

      http://www.reddit.com/r/books/commen..._letter_where/

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      • #4
        Yes, definitely on friendship. I think it's pretty straightforward... This I find interesting: "who understood that syntax, no matter how much it promises, cannot be political if it lacks invention (ONLY REVOLUTIONS)" Very interesting. I really should read OR again...
        My fear with The is - will it take too much time? I hope not. Well I'm not good at waiting. Also, I hope I'll find someone in real life to talk about it to!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by WAYFan View Post
          The language is gorgeous and speaks to my heart but for some reason I can't tell what he's trying to say.
          This is my guess: His work is a lock on a cage he is in (restraint or freedom depending on which way the key is turned), Carl was both a warden and cellmate, and his friends the centre of a world that he habitually ignored but allways lived for. In the world as it is now for him, the line between corporeal and incorporeal is tantilisingly indistinct, where digital forms can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with flesh & blood, the characters of his books can be considered actual family, our imaginations can give us more perfect worlds to strive for while in this one, and, perhaps, somehow, Carl is not really gone.

          Or, I don't know, maybe it's just Danielewski reaffirming that, after all these years, he's still all about that puss-puss.
          Last edited by Stencil; 04-01-2015, 06:57 AM.

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          • #6
            It's a nice letter. It makes me want to have a cat.

            (Okay, okay--it makes me want to read the book, too.)

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            • #7
              don't know exactly why, but this open/opening/openminded letter reminds me : Because without You, I am . Of ruin.
              and I love the friend... ship.
              everybody on board !

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              • #8
                extreamly excited!! This is going to be the best!

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