House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski
Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth -- musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies -- the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2017-05-14
Hmm. I've been "currently reading" this book for almost a year! It's interesting, but very challenging. Think: Ulysses for the 21st century. :-p
Reviewed: 2016-06-02
Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind
-Zampanò

Book reached for greatness. Book failed. I enjoyed it immensely up until the last couple of chapters, where it stumbled back into the safe and almost trite, but if you're going to open with the old 'abandon all hope, ye who enter here' (with a less common translation, even), best stick the landing. This book has some big, beautiful things in it, but it does not stick the landing. This is, however, the sort of puzzle box I love, and I will be back.

Since there are already nearly 72,000 ratings, and currently 6,708 reviews of this thing on Goodreads, I'm not going to go very deep into the weeds here. Rather, I am just going to list out some observations.

* This is not a horror story, but it is a story that loves to play with horror tropes. It is instead an extended meditation on life, death, narcissism, and whether love is possible in the face of those three things. (In this sense, the book largely succeeds.)

*Were I forced, I would say this belongs somewhere with the New Weird stuff, as genre goes. I am bad at genre games, though.

*There is pretension, oh yes. Also, gimmicks abound. The fourth wall will be broken in multiple directions. And it practically jumps up and down and screams about how smart it is in a few places. But the book does not deserve its reputation as a difficult read, unless you have trouble flipping the hefty tome around in the directions required to read it. When read straight through (reading footnotes and references to appendices as they are mentioned in the main text), the two/three parallel stories are pretty straightforward. This is an impressively literary book, and will be enjoyed more by people who have already read a lot of other things, but I don't see any reason to be extreme on reading prerequisites. But then, I hate it when authors underestimate their readership.

* In a way, this book is like a [b:Ready Player One|9969571|Ready Player One|Ernest Cline|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1406383612s/9969571.jpg|14863741] for the nineties. Like everyone else who read this book and was alive in 1999, I cannot help but see a lot of The Blair Witch Project in The Navidson Record. The interactivity of the reading itself is not unlike playing Myst. Multiple references to The X-Files, various and sundry books and movies, and appearances by various celebrities make this a fun read.

*Oddly enough, I recently read another epistolic work based on film clips in [b:The Supernatural Enhancements|18782854|The Supernatural Enhancements|Edgar Cantero|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1391307741s/18782854.jpg|26522334]. It’s interesting to me because the film clips provided a real sense of immediacy and danger in that book. Here, the film is distanced as much as possible: Zampanò constantly breaks in with his literary blatherings, Johnny sometimes interrupts to remind us that the film isn’t real (and constantly interrupts to catch us all up on his sex life), and the Editors occasionally interrupt to remind us that Johnny isn’t all that trustworthy. It’s a very different approach, and one that ultimately served to sever much of the emotional tension for me, unfortunately.

*How do you resolve the Red King paradox? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. The unreliable narrator/whose-story-is-this chicanery is a poor excuse for actually following through on all the many promises the main narrative makes and breaks. I actually think the book would have been better as a straight read. It is determined to be anything but that.

*This is a very male book, and I'm not talking about Johnny’s endless sexcapades. The male gaze in this book is walloping powerful. In his headlong rush to describe every kind of archetypal mother/lover myth, Danielewski does not seem to have ever stopped to ask himself how a sane, healthy woman would react to any of his archetypes. Lacking that understanding, he fails to raise any of his women characters to equal footing. The women are unable to hold up their half of the sky, and with that, the book fails. The love story/ies at the center of the thing just won't hold. Chauvinism, it’s bad for you. QED.

*Chad and Daisy are the most important characters in this book, and they get next to no attention, and no resolution. Book fail.

*I found that I loved Johnny, even as his constant sex bored me. I loved the place the book almost went with him. I loved the idea of the haunting at the close of his story, but that is cold comfort for the failure of the myth that was abandoned at the end.

* This is on the 1001 books list, and I find it bizarre. There is not anything particularly original here, and the story does not deliver on its promises as literature. The references are never fully tied together. Boxall’s folks seem to have trouble evaluating genre reads.

*Out of all the myths that are covered here, I find the equation of Jonah and Pelafina most interesting and least explored in the text.

*Can a photographer ever really be a narcissist?

*You've no idea how badly I want to put a David Bowie picture in here.

*I guess I'll go with Escher's House of Stairs instead, since Zampanò liked it.



Reviewed 1/27/2016
Reviewed: 2015-07-06
(Untitled Fragment)
Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind. (page 563)
Reviewed: 2015-05-14
I DID IT! I somehow got through this book despite being scared as fuck to read it at night, but i pulled through and DID IT!

House of Leaves is a total mind fuck. It several stories in one. The main one being around Karen Green & Will Navidson moving into a house that is bigger inside than it is outside. It causes additional strain on their marriage and they are documenting the strange addition to their house as Navidson and a team of men go explore the darkness. Except this is actually a movie, that isn’t real and created by an older blind man, Zampanò in his book that is analyzing the Navidson movie. He does into great detail to make the movie seem like it actually existed, he uses a mixture of real sources and made up ones (including fake interviews with Stephen King) to pull this off. Except Zampano is dead and his work got into the hands of Johnny Truant who decides to edit and add his own notes about his life and his findings. His life spins out of control and he’s wondering if its happening because of the book. Confusing right? But it’s not! The notations and fonts really keep you on track of what is happening to who. I don’t think there was a moment where I was confused.

The book is fucking scary, but it’s also about relationships, the main one being the relationship between Karen Green and Will Navidson (husband & wife), the strain before the house, the additional problems because of the house and then eventually clarity that leads to repairing their bond. The other focus is on what the hell is going in the house, why is there this never ending room that expands and shrinks, multiple theories are thrown out there, but then you remember this is a novel about a novel about a fake movie that is being edited and the editor is also wondering is this somehow a real house and movie and is it making him crazy. He is not a reliable character at all and that just adds to it. Ultimately the ending is up in the air, the reader is left to make their own conclusions about Navidson’s house and Johnny (which is actually expected given some of the things said about the hallway, some people have to know and become obsess, while others can walk away from it and not care they don’t know the reason for it).

No doubt House of Leaves is intimidating, it is a long book and sounds complicated, but the layout of the book actually makes it shorter (many pages only have a few words), a good 200 or so pages are not part of the plot, but made up of index, exhibits and 2 appendixes. As for complicated, as I said I never felt confused about what was going on and was able to keep track. Mark Z. Danielewski is just a fantastic writer I guess, because I cannot believe he wrote something so in depth that was still easy to follow. It sucks you in, it plays with your mind and spits you out. Just amazing.
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