The Familiar, Around the World in 80 Days

The Familiar

I re-injured my arm in the most ridiculous way possible. You remember a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which is 700 pages on nice quality paper, making it quite heavy. I followed that up immediately with his book The Familiar (part 1 of a reputed 27 volumes), which was I think 900 pages long, also on very nice paper. I don't know if a normal person would strain their arm reading two heavy books in a row but that's what I managed to do. As a result I'm dictating this on my phone so if it has some odd errors please bear with me.

Was The Familiar worth an injury that makes me wince every time I move my arm? Probably not. But it was an interesting read and of course filled with the typographical stunts that Mr. Danielewski is famous for. Told from nine different perspectives, each of whom have their own particular font, there are several storylines that I assume will meet at some point in the next 26 books. Ostensibly it's the story of a rainy day in which a little girl is going to get a service animal to help her with her epilepsy, which is quite severe. But of course, given the author, it's much more complicated than that.

The Familiar is significantly more enjoyable than House of Leaves, but it wasn't as intriguing, in that it didn't leave me with a million questions and it wasn't still on my mind a week after I finished it. With House of Leaves, like Stranger Things, I'm still wondering about certain things and finding connections to other literature that I'm reading. Not connections on purpose, more like I'm reading a horror story that takes place in a haunted house that appears to twist and slip between dimensions, and it reminds me of the house on Ash Lane.

Unfortunately I could not find an excerpt. :(

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Around the World in 80 Days

I just finished this last night and was surprised at how easy it was to read. I'm used to contemporary novels being much more easy, breezy than older novels, which can be kind of stilted. And it is, but not much. It was more of a fun book that I remember, as I tried to read it when I was a kid and didn't get very far. It is the story of Phileas Fogg (for some reason I remember his name as Phineas) who makes a bet with his club members that he can go around the world in less than 80 days. He bets 20,000 pounds, which is a significant sum at the time. (It it's not a bad sum today either.)

Phileas is the definition of the stick in the mud, fastidious bachelor. He literally runs his life with such clockwork precision that you could set your watch by him. So for him to pick up stakes and rush around the world is completely out of character. Phileas himself is a bit of an enigma and we really never get to know him very much. We only know him by the way the people around him are interacting with him. I particularly enjoyed his French valet, Jean Passepartout, who is a passionate, intelligent, conscientious fellow who interestingly has kind of a circus or carnival background.

The two of them are being chased by a detective named Fix, who is convinced that Phileas stole a whole bunch of money from a very staid bank and is only pretending to go around the world so that he can escape with his ill-gotten goods. If trying to get around the world in 80 days when steam ships were the fastest boats available and high speed trains hadn't been invented yet, isn't hard enough, there are plenty of other obstacles that come up. Definitely a fun read but maybe not for very young children. I think I was like 7 when I tried to read it. You probably don't have to wait, you know, 45 years like I did to try to read it again; it should be interesting for anybody older than nine or 10.

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Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is actually an ad; a video of men's synchronized swimming made by Chubbies Shorts, which is quite cute.