INTO THE FOREST by Mark Z. Danielewski


From the "The Familiar" series, volume 2
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A young girl quests for a cat. And no, it’s not Alice in Wonderland.

What is Danielewski’s (The Fifty Year Sword, 2012, etc.) latest about? Might as well ask what the Coriolis effect is about: the world spins, and air blows, and that’s the way it is, much as this oversized, overstuffed book spins and—well, furthers the story begun last spring with One Rainy Day in May. Pre-adolescent Xanther is brainy, confused, and petulant: “Mom, like I hate the supermarket?” “You do?” “Oh, uhm, I love hanging around stuff I can’t have?” Xanther, whose favorite typographic symbol is an often sarcastic but sometimes genuinely puzzled question mark, is also cat-crazy, and ailurophiliac moments abound. Cats and their kin are just some of the animals that pass through these pages. So do many human types, from LA gangsters to Asian yuppies to Turkish cops to homegrown geeks. Miley Cyrus, too, one of many figures and tropes from pop culture to turn up. Match a herky-jerky narrative and multiple protagonists with nested-parenthetical stream-of-consciousness to do Joyce proud, and you’re in tall postmodern cotton, and with literary and subliterary allusions to match, tucked away among the tangled storylines: “A single piece of paper inside, with a fiery orange paperclip holding nothing together, makes it clear Warlock is no Connelly or Nesbø.” All fine and well, though there’s some iffy syntax (“Xanther’s scream calls to life the house”) and some odd attempts at Chinglish and other dialects (“at entrance jingjing see he the damn pah chiao one”). But no worries, if you can make out clauses such as this: “sleeps the little one [like a little cloud {a blind little lamb <ever a question mark <<of a different king ((kind!))>> >}].”

Readers with an interest in the latest in literary experimentalism will thrill at Danielewski’s approach and clamor for the 25 volumes planned to follow in the Familiar series. Others, not so much.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-375-71496-2
Page count: 816pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015


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