The Book Series to Compete with Television

Mark Z. Danielewski is not a writer who’s afraid to take chances. House of Leaves, his magnum opus that centers around a critical analysis of a film that doesn’t exist, doesn’t just experiment with plot or structure or themes (although it certainly does that too; no, Mr. Danielewski goes to the barest bones of literature in order to get his point across. He has become famous for experimenting with typography: layering words over top of each other, putting only a few words on a page, changing colors, etc. The effects are breathtaking, inducing senses of agoraphobia or claustrophobia, depending on which one is appropriate for the text.

900 pages of this nonsense

The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May is the first new book by Danielewski that’s been released since 2006, and for good reason; this is his reinterpretation of TV as a book series.

“If House of Leaves tackles the movie, Only Revolutions music and The Fifty Year Sword the campfire story, then The Familiar will show how the novel can stalk, take down and devour the television series.”

 

The look of a man who wants to kill television

How does Mr. Danielewski plan to do that? One Rainy Day in May is, as the title indicates, volume one… of a projected 27-book-long series. These last ten years have been spent on this herculean effort, as Danielewski plans to release a new volume approximately every three months. It is worth noting that these are not small books; the first one weighs in at nearly 900 pages.

One Rainy Day in May consists of nine narratives, all set on May 10, 2014, from all over the world: Venice, Singapore, Mexico, Texas, and several around Los Angeles. The narrators are as varied as their locations. At its core, the book follows Xanther, a 12-year-old girl from L.A., who finds a small, dying creature and takes it home.

While the book is exhilarating, it must be read within the context that Danielewski explains: as a television show. Yes, this is a 900 page book, but it’s also the first of 27 (equally enormous) in a series; while stunning, this book is little more than set-up. Those 900 pages cover 9 entirely separate stories, so this book just begins to give the reader an understanding of the characters who they will, supposedly, be seeing quite a bit of over the next six years or so.

Danielewski’s plan is not conventional. Adult series tend to be extremely genre-specific (mystery, science fiction, or fantasy), and although One Rainy Day in May appears to be science-fiction, it’s difficult to pin down the genre of anything written by Danielewski. Even further, few adult series make it to 27 books, let alone in a projected 6-7 years. One book every three months sounds insane, even if they’re already written. But realistically, this seems to be the best way to do it. While Danielewski definitely has a cult following, even if he cranked them out at one per year, it’d be difficult to maintain the audience over 27 years, and with so many other books to read first, it could be hard to keep drawing in new readers. Who wants to start a series when there are already 18 900 page books you need to read first?

It’s something that only Danielewski could pull off, but he’s sure to do it better than anyone could imagine.

Images: 1, 2, 3

Sources: 1, 2

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