Tags: house of leaves

House of Leaves - Final Review


House of Leaves has been an absolute behemoth of a book, which has been both a most challenging, but rewarding read. I HAVE wondered how on earth MZD managed to get it in print, because most people wouldn't have given it house room - let alone publishers, who can be the most picky bunch at the best of times. I admire Mark Z. Danielewski's writing style and how he is able to hold these very different narratives together without spilling a drop.  It is metafiction at its very best; the font style and angles makes the reader a participator, a contract that ensures a deeper empathy with the characters, thus making HoL a very visceral experience - a perfect example of ergodic literature.

Many questions posed, many answers ambivalent, mostly the understanding is in the eye of the beholder. Steven Poole from The Guardian believes that MZD has built a 'scholarly-Gothic fiction around a non-existent film'. It is gloriously postmodern, undeniably satirical, but I would hesitate to use the horror genre; more 'terror' - where fear is internalised and thoughts are hypothesised. Unexpectedly, it is also about profound love - whether you consider it as Navidson/Karen, Zapano/Pelafina or Truant and his mother.

Clifford Lee Sargent appreciates it's bizarreness - "It is like Lewis Carroll threw everything out of the window and took a nice cocktail of crystal meth and DMT". I would hasten to add that if he did, he dragged Moby Dick, Ahab, Jonah et al with him.

Even though I am glad that I had set this challenge, I am also pleased that it is over - it has proved to me that if I can read this text, then I can pretty well read anything that is put in front of me. I would give it 4.5 stars and it will most definitely be in my all-time top 10 books.

PS - For some reason, the book as made me appreciate and understand Fiona Banner now.

House of Leaves - Approaching the End


I am approaching the end of the book, now - where it appears to be more about Truant than ever before.  Truant's font sized has changed into that of the omniscent 'editor.'  There is a bit of Breaking Through the Fourth Wall stuff going on, too; Truant addressing the readers who were hoodwinked into believing his lies. It also reminds the reader that with enough acadenic garbage hurled at them, any plot is plausible. Dreams and reality blur - a fictional music group ('Liberty Bell' - they're 'cracked', haha) has read The Navidson Report and it all slides, so you can't be sure if it is a dream/lie/hallucination etc. They even perform a cover of 5 & 1/2 Minute Hallway.

You would think that as the book concentrates less on sliding narrative and more on the fixed, then the book becomes easier to read i.e. no cross referencing, tilting the book, reading through a mirror.  But no...if anything, it becomes more painful, as Johnny suffers the realisation that things change and time moves on.

So what IS real? Has Truant actually killed the Gdansk Man and Kyrie?
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There is a sense that MZD has chucked in everything but the Belfast basin - Dante and Goethe dotted throughout, Homer's Iliad, poems from Robert Frost, WB Yeats, Ezra Pound (to name but a few). Even the Yggdrasil makes an appearance at the end.

More questions - is Zampano actually Truant's father? Is there really an ending? The cycles may have ceased for Navidson, et al., but everything a bit open-ended.

Quote of the Day
Truant's mother, dated November 7th 1982 - 'Does your new mother tuck you in at night and read you stories full of opal and jade?' (p.558).

Point of view tomorrow.

House of Leaves - Navidson's Nemesis


Last night I had stopped at p.504, because I wasn't taking much of it in, to be frank. Fragments of text are ok to decipher at two in the afternoon; not so great when you are an hour off of bedtime.  Words and bars of a song - even printed (but not bevelled) braille, which is read as follows;

'The walls are endlessly bare.  Nothing hangs on them, nothing defines them.  They are without texture.  Even to the keenest eye or most sentient fingertip, they remain unreadable.  You will never find a mark there.  No trace survives.  The walls obliterate everything.  They are permanently absolved pg all record. Oblique, forever obscure and unwritten.  Behold, the perfect pantheon of absence' (p.423).

Staring into an abyss and letting it stare back at you.

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Quote of the Day

'"I have no sense of anything other than myself"' (p.470).  Navidson making himself accountable?


Shame there isn't a Shmoop or Sparknote page to make proper sense of this - probably because it would end up twice as long as HoL and that would rather defeat the object.

House of Leaves - Karen


So, who IS Karen Green? Former model, mother to Navidsons two children.  Fear of commitment, but so desperately needy of her partner - who is possibly emotionally unavailable too.  Affairs to redefine herself, claustrophobia to keep others at bay.  Is the narrator implying that this shape-shifting house problem has manifested largely by her?

'There are only 8,160 frames in Karen's film and yet they serve as the perfect counterpoint to that infinite stretch of hallways, rooms and stairs.  The house is empty, her place is full.  The house is dark, her film glows. A growl haunts that place, her place is blessed [...] On Ash Tree Lane stands a house of darkness, cold and emptiness. In 16mm, stands a house of light, love and colour' (p.368).

Maybe the house signifies an absence of God/Divine Universal Presence/Whatever and that hell is not some fiery place but a black chasm of one's own making, black mirrors reflecting our misdemenours and misgivings.
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For some reason, I envision Karen to be very much like the lady on the Orbital video 'Halcyon', whiose track has a hypnotic, slightly echolaic pattern (just as Daisy did at her most traumatised). 'Halcyon' is dedicated to the Hartnolls' mother who was addicted to Halcion (triazolam) for many years. I can almost imagine Karen as this zombie figure, trying to live up to the cultural and social expectation of society, but privately caving inside.

I once wrote a story that was effectively a reworking of Echo and Narcissus, how a girl had to reclaim her own voice, rather than be an echo of other people. Daughter, sister, mother - a person made up of links to other people and in the midst, a disappearing self.  It felt cathartic.  Years later, I fed all copies through the shredder - no regrets.

I am on chapter XIX (p.418), which I suspect will be largely about Karen and her reconnaissance mission to save her former partner. I will start reading again later today.

House of Leaves: House - 3; General Public - 0


Samples of the multi dimensional walls have been taken, showing that the test tubes contain all three rock classifications. Personally, I think the house has taken the concept of metamorphic' rock to the next level. However, it appears to be a vacuum; a type of well-crafted, multi-chambered/hallwayed black hole. I HAD wondered if this was going to turn into an inside out Jumanji, but to no avail.  Occasionally, the text is plagued with xxxxx's - seemingly Truant's editing but could be reminiscent of Truant mirroring Karen's separately guilty past - both have exes abound.

Truant seeming has his own dreamlike labyrinth in the shape of a boat; 'a vessel [...] endlessly descending into dead ends, turning around to find other ways which in the end lead me only to still more dead ends' (p.403).  Yup, pal - but at least you have the luxury of waking up.  After reading various old manuscripts, Truant starts to replace 's' with 'f' - rather than amusing, I find that more irritating than trying to read upside down, with a mirror, or trying to find the reason for the minced up DIY catalogue/dialogue from a few days back.

There is a nice comparison to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Ancient Mariner', Dante and even the Bible's 'Jonah and the Whale' (as opposed to Moby Dick).  The plot thickens as Karen returns to the house. Mwa hahahahaha!
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Quote of the Day
Bearing in mind that Truant has quit all of the noxious substances, yet is in a progressively worsened state for reading the 'academic' essay, he comes across a flyer under the wiper of his car.

Wanted
50 People
We'll pay you
to lo(s)e weight!

Truant: You want to lo(s)e weight, I thought to my(s)elf, well boy do I have something for you to read.

House of Leaves - Haitus


I wasn't able to do much reading yesterday, as life tends to get in the way - but I did catch up on a few pages. The narrator concentrates on the mental state of Holloway, who seems to be stumbling like a beleagured Ahab in search of a ficticious whale - but with more disasterous circumstances all round.   One line I really liked was the following; 'the creature Holloway hunts has already began to feed on him' (p.334). 'H' alliteration - breathing, sighing voiceless fricative - like Holloway is already doomed on some level.  Effective.

Best bit that I liked was the (ficticious) interviews from the 'What Some Have Thought' by Karen Green - which is prominent people's points of view re the film.
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I believe there is a certain amount of playfulness and humour in this book, where you HAVE to participate.  At times, I felt like I wanted to scan and flip, but didn't because I wouldn't get the full experience.  I would also say that MZD is having a laugh at the expense of stuffy establishment boundaries.  Or as Steven Poole observes House of Leaves is ' a satire of academic criticism' and I am inclined to agree.

More tomorrow, when I have finished reading today.

House of Leaves - Journey to the Centre of the Book


Update

I have started p.182, just after the fact that Truant has had to go on to prescribed meds, in order to regain some sort of sanity. An interesting concpt has come up re of houses and the psychology of people. Narrow, closed houses drawn by a child who survived a German concetration camp; the theory of how doorknobs function in the psyche of 'tense' children - doorhandles mostly open, whereas key/keyholes lock. Wonder if we are back to Jung again? Hmmm.

Some interesting 'Jacob and Esau' binaries are turning up - where Zampano infers that the brothers are the net result of their upbringing; both 'paying the price for their parents' narcissism'; Navy recreating the same parental patterns with Karen, with Tom 'intervening' (p.246 & 251).

Unexpectedly for me, that went home :-/

Something I have noticed - the font for Tom's narration is not too dissimilar from Truant's own (font size a little smaller).  I wonder if in some way, JT is reflecting TN's persona?  This book makes you feel like you have locked yourself into the Nut Fun house with a Hall of Mirrors alongside.

Quote of the Day must be this;

'(Karen) must face the meaning [...] of the darkness dwelling in the depth of her house' (p.316)

Difficult as it is, I find this book absolutely gripping.
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I have finished on p.329 - which is approaching half way through.  If I suddenly disappear, for God sake send a search party in and pull me out!!!.