Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The Familiar Criticism

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The Familiar Criticism

    Hello all,

    I'm sure many of you will disagree, but I haven't been the biggest fan of anything MZD has written aside from HoL, which is my favorite book of all time. Anyway, before I take extensive journey and begin reading TF, I'd like to read some criticism from some notable critics. I'm often feeling that MZD will always be noted as "the author of HoL" and nothing more; so, I'm often apprehensive about reading his new work. I hope it doesn't seem like I am discrediting MZD because he has perpetuated literature into a new realm, which I enjoy immensely. So, in regard to this, before I read TF, I'd like to read some criticism that really puffs-up the novel. Has anyone read any good criticism on TF?

    Thanks everyone,
    Mike

  • #2
    Maybe you would find this interesting, also posted on MZD's recent FB/Twitter feeds: "The Un" (Los Angeles Review of Books)
    Such a wide-ranging, multivoiced novel invites readings from many perspectives and areas of expertise; it is perhaps best read in a group.

    Comment


    • #3
      I was in the same boat as you, Mike. And this may be anecdotal but I read The with an extremely cynical mindset but found myself loving it from the outset. Anyway, I will second DiMe's link. It is one of the most thorough and on-point takes on the book I've seen yet. An excellent read for even those who have already read the book.

      Comment


      • #4
        I didn't like this book at first, and I still have a kind of love/hate relationship with the way it's written, but I must join the chorus in regarding the LA Review of Books piece as very good indeed.

        Comment


        • #5
          This review.

          of Leaves is my favorite book. Just getting that out of the way. I devoured it hundreds of pages in a sitting when I first read it, and have reread it probably 10 times. Everything works in concert to draw the reader in: a nested hierarchy of narrators, some more reliable than others, an irresistible 'hook' in the form of the anomaly of the , characters I genuinely cared about even though the book itself told me they didn't exist, and even the crazy footnotes and text formats were there for a purpose that carried the story forward or enhanced the book's universe in some way.

          The , on the other hand, strikes me as deliberately hostile to the reader. The characters are almost completely obscured by the writing style. One chapter is written entirely in lowecase, and in some bizarre pidgin dialect peppered with un idioms. As a reader, I didn't know if I was supposed to be looking out for character names (which are frustratingly non-standard names like Alstair and Xander for no apparent reason, like every name came from some celebrity's kid) or waiting for characters to be revealed by their behavior. Instead, I finished the chapter with no idea who was being described, what age or sex they were (the author is an expert at The Ambiguous Pronoun Game!), or why I should care either way. The reader has invested a good deal of time reading maybe 100 pages, and the narrator (or narrators?) is unknown, the significance of most that has been uttered is still utterly hidden, the illustrations have nothing to do with anything being described beyond superficial connections, and nothing of consequence has actually happened.

          Another thing the author loves to do is depict characters having a conversation about things the reader has plainly never encountered before, in a way that does not reveal anything that will stay in the reader's head for later. The first time we meet Cas and Bobby is a perfect example of this. They have about two pages' worth of dialogue that drops maybe 20 names of places, people (nicknames, I guess?), projects, programming or engineering jargon, and basically tries as hard as possible to show that the author knows a little about technology (though capitalizing the "o" in "WOW" as an abbreviation for "World of Warcraft" breaks the illusion rather abruptly for me). Danielewski seems to have lost the ability to describe something in a manner that doesn't involve an ambiguous reference or some circuitous chain of metaphors that are more tiresome than they are clever.

          The trick with of Leaves was that the text was clear when it was supposed to be clear, muddled when the narrator was having some kind of episode that would justify that, and the mystery and decoding was left to the subtext--the interplay between narrators, subtle clues left in a footnote or a strikethrough. Here, the text itself is a cipher from start to finish. I want to understand who these people are and what motivates them, but Danielewski wants me to work, hard, to glean this information from what is on the page. I actually found myself looking at the first letter of each word in certain sentences to see if they spelled anything (a device employed sparingly in of Leave), because the sentences are nearly meaningless otherwise. Flourishes of formatting and font are compelling when there is a narrative foundation upon which to build layers of intricacy. But when the narrative foundation itself IS THE PUZZLE, I just don't want to read it anymore. And I certainly don't want to wait until volume 27 to figure out what the hell any of this means.
          Last edited by Ellimist; 06-25-2015, 08:29 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            "Here, the text itself is a cipher from start to finish."

            Really? I didn't see it that way, as that extremely muddled... I think movies like Mulholland Drive, or novels like , or poems like Laborintus, those are a cipher from start to finish for me. Anyway, I also think that comparing it to of Leaves is a bit unfair, especially now after one volume only...

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by TBHalo View Post
              "Here, the text itself is a cipher from start to finish."

              Really? I didn't see it that way, as that extremely muddled... I think movies like Mulholland Drive, or novels like , or poems like Laborintus, those are a cipher from start to finish for me. Anyway, I also think that comparing it to of Leaves is a bit unfair, especially now after one volume only...

              I think Mulholland Drive was cryptic at times, but I never had to rewind it to figure out which characters were speaking to whom, or where they were located in relation to one another (like, physically, where in the room they were), or what was the subject of a sentence that has been going on for six minutes now. All of which were things I found myself needing to do for the first half of The . I still can't quite grasp the sequence of events in one of the Isandorno chapters. I feel like the author was relying on forums like this one to fill in the blanks a bit, which in retrospect may be a stroke of crowd-sourcing genius on his part and not a flaw. Full disclosure, I'm the one who wrote the Amazon review. I'm working on an update now that I've reread the book while already knowing which parts were significant to the story and which were (for now) just stylistic flourishes.

              EDIT: As for the HoL comparison, I made it partly to show that I'm not one of those readers who just doesn't "get" MZD. There are plenty of reviews out there from people who think he's basically a hack who gets by on gimmicks over substance. I don't hold that view. The only other thing I'll say is that if an 800+ page book needs to be given the benefit of another 26 volumes before it can be legitimately compared to other books of similar length, maybe it's spreading itself a little too thin.
              Last edited by crumbledFingers; 06-26-2015, 06:33 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Oh ok, now I understand better what you meant to say. I think the problem is I understand well enough what happens but I don't understand why or the relations. I also believe that it's spreading a bit too much, not in page count but in time, especially if it's got to resemble a tv series.
                My concern is volume two: will it partially get clearer or accumulate more and more questions? (I can't wait to read it either way!)

                I also think we should dive a bit deeper in the theme of epilepsy/drugs. Isandorno is cryptic but I don't remember seeing one of these two elements (that are/may be on other chapters). I can't wait to finish my exams and have the time to read it again after all of these forum discussions.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The second read was much more satisfying than the first, thanks in no small part to this forum (and some of your posts in particular!).

                  Okay, so if the book is supposed to be a "pilot episode" of sorts, then it makes sense that some character arcs can be ignored or passed-over-for-now while still preserving the main thrust of the story. In later "episodes" their threads will come to fruition and their previous experiences (hopefully) recapped to catch readers up. But the problem I still have with this comparison is that a pilot episode of a TV series does not take hours of detective work to understand what was happening and why. Most series, anyway.

                  Actually, it's funny that you mentioned Mulholland Dr. because David Lynch filmed that movie under the assumption that it would be the pilot episode for a TV series. Something changed and he didn't get the series, so he had to come up with a way to resolve all of the plot points in 45 minutes or so! Given those constraints, I still think he pulled it off remarkably well, but you can tell in some places that certain scenes were meant to introduce characters that would have larger roles in later "episodes." Perhaps Volume One is MZD's Mulholland Dr., in which case I can only hope Pantheon lets him do the whole series.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by crumbledFingers View Post
                    Actually, it's funny that you mentioned Mulholland Dr. because David Lynch filmed that movie under the assumption that it would be the pilot episode for a TV series. Something changed and he didn't get the series, so he had to come up with a way to resolve all of the plot points in 45 minutes or so! Given those constraints, I still think he pulled it off remarkably well, but you can tell in some places that certain scenes were meant to introduce characters that would have larger roles in later "episodes." Perhaps Volume One is MZD's Mulholland Dr., in which case I can only hope Pantheon lets him do the whole series.
                    Exactly. I believe that Mulholland Dr. could have been a real masterpiece if conceived as a movie from the beginning... Anyway about The he said:

                    If it doesn’t sell, then it dies. This is one of those things that depends on the reader. As much as Michiko Clark [Pantheon’s publicity director] supports me, and as much as I love the people at Pantheon, this requires readers. It is too expensive to finance and takes too many human hours, if the readers don’t show up. By the time we get to Volumes 3 and 4, and there are only a few thousand readers, then it won’t continue. Like Xanther has this cat in her hands at the end of the book, the book is like the cat in people’s hands.
                    So let's cross fingers!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The episodic nature of this series is fascinating in its own right and I don't see many reviews commenting upon it. They all mention that this is the first in a 27 volume series but fail to recognize the intentionality of Danielewski's vision. It is a direct sequelae of modern media ingestion. Like all series, if the audience does not engage, there is no series.

                      Comment

                      Working...
                      X