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An attempt at a rough sketch of TF's surrounding meta story.

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  • An attempt at a rough sketch of TF's surrounding meta story.

    I tried to post this on the facebook group, but for some reason it tripped some kind of security and now facebook has temporarily disabled my account, for security reasons. I assume Facebook wants me to know that it reciprocates how I fell about it.

    Could you guide Xanther through a moment of crises with a clever thought? Could you, by writing a couple eloquent sentences convince Luther the value of mercy? Could your words of support give Jingjing the strength to resist the hungers of addiction? Could your expressions of empathy give Shnork comfort in his grief? Could your Advice put Astairs mind at ease? Could your pleas make Isorandno stay his hand? Could your suggestions put Ozgur on the path towards discovery's that would have otherwise passed him by? Could your words of praise convince Anwar he is every bit the father he fears he isn't? Could your warnings be the difference between Cas's capture and her freedom?

    In defiance of common sense the answers to these questions just might be yes.
    The matter of why and how is a bit of a long and winding road but if you'll stick with me all the way through this you just might find yourself agreeing with me.
    So the first step of my little tour is CRASP, or Circle Round A Stone Publications to be formal. You'll find their name at the beginning of every volume of The , and you may be aware that you can also find them in Of Leaves as the publishers of the semi-mythical first edition. While there is much that will need to be said about CRASP, for the moment whats important is to recognize how, with their appearance in TF we can see how CRASP serves as the mortar for a monumental construction MZD has seemingly spent his entire career crafting. But staring at the mortar between the bricks will tell you very little about the nature of the building your looking at unless you step back to take in the larger shape of the construct.
    Lets step back then and look at the scaffolding of this edifice. That scaffolding has a name and its name is VEM. VEM that mysterious force insidiously present in all four of MZD's novels to say nothing of his smaller short stories. A force unbound by any singular perspective, or even by time and space. Until the reoccurrence of CRASP though, there was only the suspicion that VEM suggested each novel was part of a larger whole. A larger Meta-Narrative that asks us to not just engage with any one work, but a collection of them. But it dosent quite stop there because the cornerstone, the central pillar, of this narrative lies almost entirely outside of the narratives present in the novels.
    The clues to this can be found right from the start in Of Leaves. Right on the cover where Zampano is given credit for his primary role in the creation of HOL, which is echoed again when we see CRASP for the first time. Another clue can be found in the form of MZD's name spread as a hidden acrostic across HOL's footnotes.Yet another clue lurks at the very back of HOL where a repository named for MZD's father is credited with supplying the Editors with a reel of Exploration#4. Like CRASP more will need to be said of MZD's father in due time, but first a final example of MZD's presence within his own narratives. In TFv4 during one of Ozgurs chapters there is a not that subtle moment where Ozgur sees MZD in the Blue Whale. However as I said these are only clues to suggest that we should consider MZD's role within the stories he has crafted. In order to find the central pillar of this nebulous and towering Meta narrative you need to look to the personal mythology MZD seems to have carefully spun for us over the course of years of interviews and interactions with his audience.

    That mythology has grown more and more expansive as the years have passed but it begins with RedWood. This ominous specter who is slowly coming to the forefront over the course of TF, who haunted HOL's edges, is one of the engines that drivee MZD's work. At this point its likely you know or are at least aware of the story of this story,a story written in a fugue while traveling to see an estranged and dying father about a Tiger who is not a Tiger, a fathers cold rejection and dismissal that drove his son to tear the story to pieces, a sisters rescue and revival of that story, how that act convinced a young writer not to abandon his craft and instead create something new.
    Its a tale that warms and breaks ones heart, and is often cited as an impetus to create HOL.
    However MZD didn't stop telling us his stories about himself there. consider another inspiration for HOL MZD has given us, a box of assorted papers, audio tapes and film left to his children by MZD's father. Both MZD and Poe cite this strange box as an inspiration for HOL and Haunted respectively. That box will come up again later on but first let me point out a few other ways MZD has integrated his fiction into the stories he tells us about himself. Mentions about meeting a pair of sixteen year old lovers in his interviews about OR, the story of him having a chance encounter with a stranger named RedWood at burning man, an encounter that reaffirmed his belief TF was a task he was capable of undertaking, and those examples are simply some of the most egrigious and obvious.
    If we then accept, just provisionally, that MZD is suggesting the existence of some larger narrative in which he himself is included, where can we look to in order to glean some further clues as to what exactly is going on in that narrative?

    Well it seems to me that the answer lies in a collection of short stories by one Jorge Luis Borges titled "Labyrinths". But before I get into exactly why, lets go back to CRASP, MZD's father and that mysterious box I mentioned before. If as I have suggested MZD plays a role within his own stories then what can we extrapolate about his role in HOL? Well first off we can assume HOL is a found document, there are a few things to tip us off that this is the case. But the simplest and clearest is Zampano's name on the cover. The question then is where, within the context of this fiction, could MZD have come across HOL. One answer that presents itself is the mysterious box i keep bringing up, left by his father, an answer with pleasing resonance with Jhonny's own experience and HOl's larger themes of legacy and fathers. Of course if it stopped there these possibilities would be little more than an interesting thought experiment, until you begin to account for the role of CRASP.
    CRASP who are responsible for the first, but not the second edition of HOL. A fact from witch we can glean a few important clues. First that MZD's father was associated with CRASP, not too far fetched for a man who spent large parts of his life involved in various forms of artistic criticism. The second is that for some reason MZD was unable to reach out to or find any trace of CRASP, this is more unusual, more than unusual because even after MZD distributed the first edition online and amongst his friends and associates, CRASP doesn't seem to have come forward. Now we can assume this wasnt because they didnt exist, their presence in TF attests to that, which implies what? A secret group of academics preoccupied with the creation of works of scholarship on the impossible? ridiculous at first blush, but that is in fact exactly what I'm suggesting. Why am I suggesting this?

    Tlon Uqbar, Orbis tertius. The very first story in Borges Labyrinth collection, Included on Pantheon's suggested reading list for HOL .As a quick aside it should be noted many other stories in the collection call MZD to mind,but this one says the most about what I'm talking about right now. The aspect of the story I want to draw your attention to is the titular group Orbis Tertius. A secret group of academics who take on the task of creating another world through fiction. This group quickly realizes that the task will take many generations and adopts the tradition of a master handing their work along to an apprentice, which mirrors Z to JT,TD to MZD and Cas to Realic.
    Getting to the meat of the issue lets focus on the results of this groups efforts. Tlon and Uqbar started leaking in to the real world, and kept leaking until they began to overtake reality.
    It is implied they started this link by slipping fictional information into legitimate resources, or simply producing entire fictional manuscripts. Once again we can see this structure in HOL,TF, Clip4,TFYS,OR and All The Lights of midnight, with an almost impossible document featuring in all six(that document in the case of TF,OR and TFYS being the books themselves as VEM is credited in OR and TFYS(Though TFYS does imply that there was a orignal transcript, which might also qualify.) and CRASP in TF.).

    Lets stop for a moment and just address how ridiculous this whole ream of speculation is. Its pretty ridiculous. Because what I appear to be implying is that Meta-MZD joined a secret society concerned with the manipulation of reality via fiction in some fashion. which, yeah when you say it like that, but I think the text might support it.

    So what in the text even come close to supporting this? The War between H.O.L.Y and D.A.R.K is an excellent place to show how a group like this makes sense in the context of MZD's work. So here are a few things we can be somewhat sure of about the war, H.O.L.Y. has found a way to bypass the end of the Verse by creating a new one(whether a cycle, or an endless stream of unchanging iterations.), To make this trick work though they had to significantly narrow the Verses possible expressions, D.A.R.K who is diametrically opposed to H.O.L.Y. was able to persist in HOLYs new Verse, DARK wants to undue HOLYs work and seems to think it has a shot at doing so.
    What that tells us is that The Verse is malleable. Malleability also implies someone who will want to change it or make something from it, and someone who wants it to stay the same. Detectives of Truth and Truth and their quarry. CRASP as an Orbis tertius like group seems less completely off the wall in those lights.Which side of that fight they are on though is less clear, but the tactic of releasing books about real(remember in this layer of narrative Jhonny,Zampano,MZD,Xanther and Sam and Hailey are all equaly real.) events and stories and pretending they are fiction could be seen as a move to suppress those real events to support the system, or as an subversive attempt to bypass such suppression. The Orbist's and Galvadyne echo this nicely.

    These are the kind of implications that arise when you accept that MZD and his body of fiction exist inside his body of fiction. You can find more sign posts, Cas and bobby being called Sam and Hailey, Phineas, the "fans" helping Cas and bobby and the wanna-Xanth cosplayers all come to mind without too much effort.
    This all make it not unlikely to think, when VEM is credited in MZD's next two novels it suggests allowance to resources and Circle Round The Stone being at the front of TF suggests induction.

    Well it follows that if writer exists in the fiction, then the reader might too.
    Readers cats are in the back of TF, readers suggested various flora, fauna and automobiles for OR, VEM is given credit for one of the pictures in TF on the forum. Just as MZD has wrapped this larger narrative around himself, it seems hes wrapped it aaround his readers as well.
    This suggests something more to MZD's insistence on TF requiring an audience, and an active participatory one at that. When MZD says TF requires an audience is he really just saying that if they dont sell enough he wont get money to make more of them? for starters that is how publishing books works, but beyond that myriad tools exist to get a project like TF funded exist. That suggests the audience has a role in TF's story beyond financing it.

    That's my attempt at trying to sketch out the metanarrative strung throughout MZD's stories. A rampant torrent of speculation and guesses, wherein I had not the decency to source even a single one of my statements. My reward to you for enduring this far is this bit of speculation, its possible the readers, our discussions,our support, could cause direct outcomes in the fiction. How? when? Ill leave that to better minds, all this was my attempt at a what.

    Think I'm right? Think I'm wrong? think its possible I've disappeared up my own ass?

  • #2
    Amazing post! Glad to see that mind of your chewing through these texts! So my question would be are you saying all this is fictional, or is MZD part of a Borgian cult trying to change reality with fiction? I'd post more but this box always times out and I lose my post


    • #3
      Good point, while I often sound like I'm toeing the line of functional mental health, everything I'm suggesting here takes place at the fictional level. So I am not suggesting MZD runs with some kind of, as you said, Borgian cult, though to be fair I don't know what he does with his weekends.
      I do think MZD believes fiction can have a profound affect on our lives, but through the individual, not through metaphysical fuckery.

      I probably should have been more clear on that. I may be eccentric but I'm not quite unhinged.


      • #4
        But it'd be pretty fuckin cool if he was in a Borgian cult though!

        I get where you coming from your are referring to the fictional MZD that appears in the books.


        • #5
          So I have a question, do you think this is a Meta Narrative that was planned since HoL or is it something that emerged from the storm drain MZD's mind? like the cat with powers to bind, and powers to destroy.

          I love the meta Narrative idea but I lean toward it being emergent than planned from the beginning, but I put nothing past MZD


          • #6
            That is a really good question and I don't know if I have an answer that will do it justice.

            The way I see it largely depends on how one chooses to frame their engagement with MZD's work. My perusal of discussion about these books suggests there are basically two schools of thought on this matter. One claims that MZD can only be interpreted by treating every aspect of his work as carefully chosen and deliberately constructed, mistakes are not present in that any apparent mistake is in fact a deliberate choice. The other school suggests that its all a masterclass in post modern fuckery, that any meaning or structure is projected by the reader onto a framework constructed with the explicit intent of provoking exactly that reaction.

            If you adhere to the second sphere of thought then any meta narrative must be entirely emergent, being continuously assembled, with the readers theory crafting and discussions giving MZD the tools to create the appearance of a larger structure while being just a few steps ahead of the readers the whole time. If you prefer the first approach then it is implied that MZD's entire corpus is a carefully laid out path leading to a narrative that's been planed from the beginning.
            Personally I draw considerably more enjoyment from engaging with MZD's works under the first school of thought(and for me enjoyment is the primary impetuses for my attempts at a deeper engagement with these texts) and it seems that most other people who feels drawn to these discussions feel similarly. So once that decision is made by the reader, then whether MZD actually planed his works to these kind of extents is almost immaterial.

            The actual reality(for whatever a nebulous term like reality is even worth.) in my opinion lies closer to the first school, with the obvious caveat that as a fallible human being MZD has obviously made a few mistakes here and there. Likewise any grand plans have likely undergone numerous revisions and re-imaginings, all while incorporating emergent themes and ideas.
            But I really do think that the presence of the meta narrative I am trying to sound out here was intentional and that it has been fostered and developed with forethought. Most of what i am suggesting is implied to a certain extant by consistent themes that have been present since HOL. take this quote that honestly should have been included in my original post;

            "One can imagine a group of Documentary Detectives whose sole purpose is to uphold Truth & Truth by guaranteeing to the the authenticity of all works. Their seal of approval would create a sense of public faith which could only be maintained if said Documentary Detectives were as fierce as pit bulls and as scrupulous as saints. Of course this is more the kind of thing a novelist or playwright would deal with, and as I am pointedly not a novelist or playwright, I will leave that task to someone else" HOL pg.144 footnote 187

            The reliability and trustworthiness of history is a focal point for almost everything MZD has written, that combined with the constant presence of VEM, goes a long way towards suggesting the presence of these Documentary Detectives.
            Ultimately it comes down to one question I suppose, why is MZD's name present in HOL's narrative? If you are satisfied with the explanation that it simply serves to highlight HOL's many subversion of the concept of authorship, then all of my theory crafting is likely to seem unnecessary. If like myself you think its unfair to MZD to assume that HOL cant accomplish all that's ascribed to it and have an internally consistent narrative, then the presence of some kind of meta narrative is almost required.
            so in closing I think its planed to an extent, but MZD isnt Dr.Doom there are limits to his ability to craft and implement that plan, which means that there must be some emergent aspects. But why not engage with it as a immaculate master plan? its just more fun that way.

            (wow that was rambly and incoherent even for me, I should get some sleep.)


            • #7
              Wow! What a great answer! It's more fun the first way for sure and you make a great point that I hadn't considered. I always considered the whole “authorial intent is just one view” to weaken the position of the author, but I never even considered that it also opens up new and vast vistas of meta-storytelling and novelist as Demiurge. I like this take alot! Even if redwood and VEM weren't planned from, say 1991, it is much, much more interesting as a reader to engage with the text as if they were. The only drawback I see with this approach is time. This could easily spiral into maps and yarn on the wall territory. But if you have the time it is much more fulfilling to trawl through the text and see what you can pull up.

              So even if the printing errors are due to poor quality control at some Chinese printing press, it's way cooler to consider specialized print runs, subtle eBook/book differences to denote the emergence of destabilizing glitches within the program the Narcons are running on to generate this world. You talked me into it!

              I'm on board.


              • #8
                There's a nice term from literary criticism called implied author. This is the author that is implied, suggested by the text itself, not the actual physical being existing and breathing and explaining what he meant in interviews (thankfully MZD rarely explains anything). So I'm pretty sure the implied author of Danielewski-verse is in Borgian cult (not to mention a frequent participant of Dark Arches Zoo Evening).


                • #9
                  Well that's just a useful Link. So thanks for that.
                  Narrattology kept popping up when I was looking into biosemeiotics, but I never really got around to looking into it.

                  Having recitified that somewhat, what with looking through the site(and a bunch of the links there, and the links on those sites and so on and so on.) I'm kicking myself for taking so long.
                  Though I wonder about the impilied author thing. Because while it does a pretty good job of describing what we are talking about here, the wiki is pretty insistent that the implied author can't be present in the text, though to be fair that entire wiki can be read as a list of things MZD is deliberately undermining or subverting.

                  But more directly relavent to the topic at hand, is the concept of possible world's. The terminology seems useful for discussing both TF's meta-story and the Borgian cult I seem to be implying.

                  Except I'm wondering if I haven't misinterpreted what this theoretical group is trying to accomplish, or maybe the how of the what rather.
                  Over in HOL subforum there's an awesome post that suggests MZD has created a kind of Proto intelligence through HOL's construction. So keeping that idea in mind when I look at TF I wonder if TF hasn't(or isn't rather) done the same thing, only this time through the interaction of readers and the incorporation of our discourse, and thus a further layer of self reference, which takes it a step further.
                  Which sounds crazy except the idea of narrative as the seat of conciousnes seems to keep popping up in TF and in my reaserch around it. I'm still mulling this stuff over but I wonder if it might not be a start to suggesting that TF doesn't take place in a simulation as many have suggested.
                  Unless I'm horribly wrong of course.


                  • #10
                    'Well it seems to me that the answer lies in a collection of short stories by one Jorge Luis Borges titled "Labyrinths"'

                    In City at the End of Time, the very end of time sends something back to the beginning of time, while the cosmos is haunted by entropy and an ultimate predator known as the Typhon. Cats kill this thing... In HOL there's a reference to a "friend in Seattle" or something, I wonder if that could've been Greg Bear, if Danielewski knows Bear at all? Anyway, Borges is an inspiration for CatEoT so, yeah.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jsimmsphx View Post
                      Amazing post! Glad to see that mind of your chewing through these texts! So my question would be are you saying all this is fictional, or is MZD part of a Borgian cult trying to change reality with fiction? I'd post more but this box always times out and I lose my post

                      Man do I second that amazing post...I think you're on to something there...I've always wondered what CRASP's function was...every book is connected eg Cas and Bobby being called Sam and Hailey etc...I've copied and pasted your post into my collection of analyses on The ...hope you don't mind

                      We, the readers, are literally part of the story...simply put.
                      Last edited by Trent Truant; 06-07-2019, 07:42 AM.