If you’re not familiar with House of Leaves, then you basically need to know it’s a book about a critical review written by a blind man of a film that doesn’t exist, transcribed by a man who found the notes in a trunk in an abandoned apartment. The film is about a man whose house has within it, a pitch black labyrinth he then sets off to explore with colleagues and friends.
In The Familiar, Volume Five: Redwood, MZD delivers one of the most direct, action-thrust entries so far in the living novel. Spanning the course of less than 24 hours, the first half of the book adopts the Rashomon technique of story-telling, letting several overlapping characters fill in the hazy spots of the surreal and supernatural events unfurling.
The Familiar is a singular literary moment in the making that I am not so sure is getting the attention it deserves, so I’ll use my tiny little voice on this remote corner of the internet to profess to you its power. Before I speak directly about Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May, I’ll mention a bit about the series as a whole: I’ve said in other reviews of Vols. 3 & 4 (found on Goodreads) that The Familiar isn’t just a novel in serial, but the development of a whole mythology on par with the classics, codified in our unique 21st century world.
I'm pretty interested lately in the intersection of genre and literary fiction because there's a burgeoning space for it. Literary writers giving great treatment to genre tropes, images, aesthetics, themes, motifs--the work of China Miévilleand Mark Z Danielewski's The Familiar series would be the best examples of contemporary writers doing it now. There's a rich history of it, and genre can be great and informative when done beautifully.