Friday, December 16, 2011

Danielewski's animal turn

During a recent, and truly epic bout of procrastination/writers block, I decided to try to figure out what the writer Mark Z. Danielewski is up to these days. He's the author whose debut novel, House of Leaves, is one of my favorites. I once, only half-jokingly, called it my favorite translation of Heidegger's Being and Time. It seems he in the process of writing a 27-volume novel entitled The Familiar, which is about a 12 year old girl who discovers a kitten. The first five volumes seem to be completed. Familiars are, of course, the pets (often evil spirits or demons in the guise of an animal) of witches and sorcerers and the like. These days, the most common image of a familiar is the black cat. All of this goes back to my recent post on animals and witches.

So, during all of this, I also discovered this mp3 of a lecture that Danielewski gave in Cologne, Germany Sept. 30th, 2010. In it Danielewski tells a very sad story (I might have teared up near the end) about cats, death, dying, growing odd, and all sorts of other things. As a novelist, he has a weird relationship with philosophy, which so obviously informs his work and discussion (here are some of the people whose work he cited in the talk: Bruno Latour, Graham Harman, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin), and I am not sure I would say his work on animals was original. But it was moving, smart, perhaps at time original, certainly worth the listen. It is long, and at times meanders. But I found it deeply satisfying and powerfully melancholic on some very fundamental level.