Is a 27-Volume Novel Issued Quarterly a Periodical?

Mark Z. Danielewski, best known for House of Leaves (a novel it’s hard not to feel ambivalent about) plans to start publishing a 27-volume novel titled “The Familiar,” with a new volume appearing every three months.  One is reminded of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage or even the Faerie Queene or the Canterbury Tales, not so much due to their length or ambition as to their author’s failures to finish them.  I guess MZD will be in good company if he fails.  I suspect the actual inspiration for the project is not literary but televisual, as the Times story on the project also suggests.  The rise of the new TV serials, like The Wire and Mad Men, which unfold at the pace of a novel–definitely the loose and baggy kind–and which are increasingly watched in the way novels are read–intensely over short periods of time on DVD or Netflix rather than on broadcast TV–was bound to start having an influence back on the novel.  Hard to imagine MZD is the guy to do this, but it will be interesting to see how it goes, especially whether periodic publication will have an impact on the way it’s priced, bought, and read.

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One response to “Is a 27-Volume Novel Issued Quarterly a Periodical?

  1. I’ll follow this with considerable interest. Next semester I’ll be teaching Danielewski’s (somewhat Joyce-inspired) Only Revolutions as part of a graduate course on Modernism and New Media. If The Wire is Dickens for the television age, maybe The Familiar will be closer to modernism remediated.

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