House of Leaves
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.

House of Leaves Details

TitleHouse of Leaves
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 7th, 2000
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780385603102
Rating
GenreHorror, Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery

House of Leaves Review

  • Mickey
    January 1, 1970
    ~*~*~*UPDATE, September 2017*~*~*~ It's been nearly ten years since I wrote this review and I continue to be amazed by the response to it. I'm totally blown away by all the chords I've struck and nerves I've hit with this dumb thing over the years. I'm frankly a little embarrassed by it and I've toyed with the idea of just taking it down all together, but I think I'll leave it up because it seems to spark conversation. I would just like to reiterate that it's been ten years since I wrote this an ~*~*~*UPDATE, September 2017*~*~*~ It's been nearly ten years since I wrote this review and I continue to be amazed by the response to it. I'm totally blown away by all the chords I've struck and nerves I've hit with this dumb thing over the years. I'm frankly a little embarrassed by it and I've toyed with the idea of just taking it down all together, but I think I'll leave it up because it seems to spark conversation. I would just like to reiterate that it's been ten years since I wrote this and I don't know that it actually reflects the way I would feel about the book if I read it now, so please don't yell at me about it - I don't even know how I could possibly respond. I can't remember the book all that well and I double can't remember why I felt the way I did about it. I think there's actually a pretty good chance that I might like this if I were to read it again. I'm sorry younger me was a little brash. I'm also sorry for calling out Radiohead the way I did. I still don't care about them, but I also don't care if you do! ~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~I wish there were someway that a sigh could count as a book review.House of Leaves is a really, really damn good story. It's about a guy named Johnny Truant who finds a manuscript in a dead man's apartment. Said manuscript is entitled the Navidson Record. It's essentially a dissertation on a documentary of the same name, by and about a man named Will Navidson and his family. Navidson lives in a house that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside, sometimes only a small fraction of an inch larger, sometimes miles. After a quick bit of research Johnny figures out that the Navidson Record, and pretty much everything related to it, does not exist. Johnny becomes obsessed with the whole thing and it drives him crazy.I think it's a really great story. However, House of Leaves is the perfect definition of bullshit.You see, it's got an experimental narrative. People will tell you that it's hard to follow, but those are probably the same people who told you that the Matrix required multiple viewings to understand. The book is written by a fictional character named Zampano, he is the dead man I mentioned above in my synopsis of the story. Johnny Truant, who is more or less the books protagonist, chimes in via an introduction and constant foot notations that he's added to Zampano's work. Most of his foot notes however meander off into him rambling about things that have happened to him in his day to day life (mostly fucking a million super hot babes). It should also be noted that the Zampano character has made a retarded amount of foot notes. See, not that complicated.What really got my goat here is all the goddamn, cutesy little "look how clever I am I"/"I'm a major in art and a minor in lit" bullshit. It starts off simple enough with that kind of stuff. Every time the word "house" comes up the text is blue, no matter what language (and there are several), no matter what. That's a kind of cool little thing, I'm ok with that, but then Danielewski decides that he's going to masturbate from page 119 to page 709. There are annoying text blocking boxes in the middle of about thirty pages that contain text in them that is so clipped and cut off that you can't read it. You have to turn the page sideways and upside down continuously for hundred page stretches at a time, and these pages tend to have a small paragraph at the very best (often times only one or two words), making you flip through the pages very fast. There are footnotes all over the fucking pages making it a big pain in the ass to know what you are supposed to be reading and in what order. Then at the end he has the fucking gall to imply that there are hidden messages encoded throughout the book and you should go back and find them. It is a seriously frustrating book to read.There is no doubt that House of Leaves is extremely clever, and it's undoubtedly the most exhaustive work of fiction I have ever read. The foot notes alone, which I gather are 98% referencing material that does not really exist, are impressive. Danielewski really worked his ass off on this and it shows. I respect House of Leaves, I cannot stress how much I loved the story, but I pretty much hate the book.This book looks at you with this smug fucking smile on it's face, daring you to say that you don't like it, knowing that masses of people are going to go along with it because they don't want to look stupid. That's what this is. It's the fucking Radiohead of books. Well, House of Leaves, I am not stupid and I'm calling your bullshit. Fuck you.
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  • Jake Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    So there's a definite cult around this book, and I am one of the many who drank the Kool-Aide and never looked back. Here's a little anecdote that speaks to the possibilities of this book:I was an RA my junior and senior years of college. One year I had a good friend of mine living in my building, and upon one of her visits to my room I put The House of Leaves in her hand, telling her that she should read it. A couple of days later I was in my room, awake at some unholy hour due to my vampiric s So there's a definite cult around this book, and I am one of the many who drank the Kool-Aide and never looked back. Here's a little anecdote that speaks to the possibilities of this book:I was an RA my junior and senior years of college. One year I had a good friend of mine living in my building, and upon one of her visits to my room I put The House of Leaves in her hand, telling her that she should read it. A couple of days later I was in my room, awake at some unholy hour due to my vampiric sleep schedule, and there's a knock at my door. As an RA this is a rather unsettling experience. On the other side of that door could be a drug overdose, suicide attempt, food poisoning or any other host of problems we're warned about as RAs. So tentatively I open the door and am relieved to find that it is not some horrific medical emergency, but simply my friend. Except my friend looks haggard. Her hair is unkempt, there are bags under her eyes and she is slouched forward, breaking her usually quite nice posture. In her hand is The House of Leaves. We stand there, silently measuring each other up, and then my friend rears back and throws the book at me, then walks away. Such behavior is not terribly unusual for this friend of mine, so I make a note to ask about this later and then go back to bed.The next day I call up my friend and ask her what exactly was the deal. "I hadn't slept in two days," she said. "That damn book kept me awake. I couldn't finish it, I couldn't sleep with it in the room, I had to get rid of it. That book fucked me up." To this day she still can't bring herself to finish reading the book. And so.The book has an amazing way of crawling beneath your skin and taking root. When I read it my sleep schedule, already astoundingly bad, became even more irregular and bizarro. I started looking at things differently. The world changed. Not in any big way, but there was a definite shift, and that's the way this book works. It comes at you sideways. People who just see it as a gimmick, in my opinion, are trying to hit the book straight on when you just have to give into it. It's like music, which isn't surprising seeing as how Mark Z. Danielewski's sister is the recording artist Poe, who came up with her album Haunted in tandem with Danielewski's writing of House of Leaves. There are sections of this book I found so surprising and affecting that I had to put it down and give myself a minute to take in what I'd read and go over it in my mind. Every person I've ever met who has read this book has had something to say about it, something more personal than just "Oh yeah, I liked that," or "It's overhyped." There's a visceral reaction this book can elicit, and I find that fascinating.I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and she mentioned something David Mamet said once, something along the lines of "When you leave the theater wanting to discuss the play, that's a good play. When you leave the theater wanting to discuss your life and the world, that's art." I like that definition, and I think it applies to House of Leaves. Conversations about this book never stay on the book, they branch out into other areas and interests, they can't help but grow longer and deeper, not entirely unlike a five minute hallway.
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  • Wil Wheaton
    January 1, 1970
    If you want a really good, insightful review of House of Leaves (that I didn't write), go read this one from Aerin.If you want to read mine, here you go:House of Leaves isn't one of those tidy little things that holds your hand and wipes your bottom and tells you that you're special. It makes you work, and what you get out of it depends largely on how much work you're willing to do. House of Leaves is difficult at times, incredibly complex, occasionally pretentious, and (view spoiler)[ it doesn' If you want a really good, insightful review of House of Leaves (that I didn't write), go read this one from Aerin.If you want to read mine, here you go:House of Leaves isn't one of those tidy little things that holds your hand and wipes your bottom and tells you that you're special. It makes you work, and what you get out of it depends largely on how much work you're willing to do. House of Leaves is difficult at times, incredibly complex, occasionally pretentious, and (view spoiler)[ it doesn't neatly wrap up some of the biggest questions it raises (hide spoiler)].When I finished it, I thought I was unsatisfied with (view spoiler)[the ending (hide spoiler)], but it lived in me long after I closed the book. I could not stop thinking about the characters, the puzzles, my various theories about the nature of the story and (view spoiler)[ whether Zampano existed at all, or was just invented by Johnny Truant. (hide spoiler)]Here's the thing about House of Leaves: you can enjoy it simply as a horrifying story that could possibly be true. You could enjoy it as a love story on a number of different levels. You can enjoy it as a whole bunch of puzzles and codes and ciphers. You can enjoy it as a unique reading experience that will make you fall back in love with actual paper books.But however you choose to enjoy it, you've got to just commit to it. Let the book's reality capture you, and ride it out until you finish the book. When you're done, you'll probably find that the House has taken up some space inside you, and you'll wonder if the nightmares will actually come, assuming they haven't already.You'll go back to the beginning, and you'll reread sections large and small. You'll take a magnifying glass to the pictures and you'll spend a long time reading message boards that haven't been updated since 2004. You'll grab that copy of Poe's Haunted that you bought before you knew House of Leaves existed, and you'll listen to it again in an entirely new way.You'll discover that you live at the end of a five and a half minute hallway....Or maybe you won't. Maybe it won't live in you the way it lives in me... but it's worth your time to find out.
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  • Paul Bryant
    January 1, 1970
    It's like one of those very psychedelic albums from the late sixties, where they do all those funny stereo effects, and all that phasing or whatever it was called - all great fun but you still had to have good songs. It's about the story of the book about a film about a house, but let's not overcomplicate things. The film at the centre of it all is called "The Navidson Record", and so is the book about it. And so is the book about the book about the film - STOP doing that! Hmmm - well, the house It's like one of those very psychedelic albums from the late sixties, where they do all those funny stereo effects, and all that phasing or whatever it was called - all great fun but you still had to have good songs. It's about the story of the book about a film about a house, but let's not overcomplicate things. The film at the centre of it all is called "The Navidson Record", and so is the book about it. And so is the book about the book about the film - STOP doing that! Hmmm - well, the house story is pretty good - yes, stolen from numerous genre horror books and movies, likeNo, not that one!! This one!but it's not bad, sufficiently interesting, even a little bit creepy. (But come on, by no means edge-of-seat keeps-you-up-all-night,Come on, dear, get a grip!! (actually I didn't know there was a remastered full color edition, what the hell is that?) - so I have to wonder about the encomium from Brett Easton Ellis - he should get out more. He should meet feminists with a full Black & Decker power tool kit more...) Now the story of the house is wreathed with hundreds of footnotes - even the footnotes have footnotes, we are in David Foster Wallace country, textually speaking - and I really liked them. They're a kind of deadly straight-faced parody of various kinds of commentators, some scholarly, some not. Very funny stuff, in a solemn, unsmiling way. Many intellectual jokes. Not much knockabout. But so far so good. However, and here's the downside, the footnotes are themselves encrusted with the random autobiographical jottings of the guy who supposedly discovered the bookaboutthefilmaboutthehouse. His writings comprise story number two, the tale of Johnny Truant. And it's dire. It's cringemaking. It's lame. It's stupid. I found the events of the spooky house more believable than I did the ludicrous cavortings of Johnny Truant - gratuitous sex, drugs, tattoo parlours, and existential angst by the bucketful. Channelling all the badboys he can think of, Bukowski, and that other fellow whose name I can't think of, and the other one, you know who I mean, yeah, him, Johnny Truant is inclined to spout off into pages of incomprehensible rantings at the drop of a tab, and it's just as interesting as someone describing their most brilliant acid trip, which is to say, it's really unbelievably tiresome. Eventually I gotta say that JT and his pal Lude and his sexual fixations and his loony mother and his fights and his whole depressed, defeated and miserable schtick just serve to capsize what was otherwise an interesting and almost bold satire. Final note : like the movie 2001 which in the last part goes JUST CRAZZZEEEE so this novel when you get to the heart of the spooky-ookums house horror goes CRAAZZEEEE with all this super-lunatic typography like the pages containing just one sentence or three words written back-to-front, or pages withone sentence going up at a slant (describing our hero surmounting an incline)and - I always enjoy this stuff, Alasdair Gray does it in Lanark and Janine 1983 and way back in the 50s Alfred Bester did it in his great sf novel Tiger Tiger - and then there's the photos and poems in foreign languages et etc - so anyway, given all of THAT, this is a 400 page book posing as a 700 page book. Still big, but not as big as you think. Which may just be a neat REVERSE metaphor for the house in House of Leaves itself. Damn!
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Totally infuriating. It made me feel dumb, bored, and annoyed all at once. If I want that, I'll date my first boyfriend again.
  • Fabian
    January 1, 1970
    Hey, is it just me, or is "American Horror Story Roanoke" episodes 1-5 a mega rip off of this? Only those that have read House of Leaves can possibly know...As avant garde as any novel's got the right to be! It is all about condensing and expanding the parameters of the novel, heck, of the tangible object. It makes a case of molding the form like clay-doh; a book is stationary no more... (!!!)You open the book and a dissection, an exploration is made. You are the surgeon & all this takes is Hey, is it just me, or is "American Horror Story Roanoke" episodes 1-5 a mega rip off of this? Only those that have read House of Leaves can possibly know...As avant garde as any novel's got the right to be! It is all about condensing and expanding the parameters of the novel, heck, of the tangible object. It makes a case of molding the form like clay-doh; a book is stationary no more... (!!!)You open the book and a dissection, an exploration is made. You are the surgeon & all this takes is your time, your attention, your very personhood! Can you imagine what Borges would have made of this?"House of Leaves": A damn necessary read. This will change your life in a compelling, unexpected way. Trust.
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  • Cloudhidden
    January 1, 1970
    Looking for a spooky book to read around Halloween I was recommended this book by several others on a message board I frequent. Quite a few people mentioned its brilliance and the fear it put in them.After reading it I could not disagree more. The story is this: a family moves into a home and begins noticing physical features of their house changing. They begin to investigate, which leads to a new doorway and hall appearing where there was not one. The husband, being a world class explorer and f Looking for a spooky book to read around Halloween I was recommended this book by several others on a message board I frequent. Quite a few people mentioned its brilliance and the fear it put in them.After reading it I could not disagree more. The story is this: a family moves into a home and begins noticing physical features of their house changing. They begin to investigate, which leads to a new doorway and hall appearing where there was not one. The husband, being a world class explorer and filmographer decides to document the new house and in doing so creates a documentary, ala "The Blair Witch Project." But the book has a couple stories within the story. It is written from the point of view of some young slacker who breaks into this dead old man's house and takes the notes for a book the old dude is writing. The book and all of these notes are his reactions to watching the documentary film.The old man's ramblings reads like a textbook, replete with tons of footnotes, fake references, poems, rantings. But we don't get to just read his reaction, or simply walk through the documentary, we have to suffer through the slacker's constant juvenile side stories and craziness.The premise is brilliant, and flipping through the book the first time, I was pumped at the prospect of the book. The effort Daniel put into this book is exhausting to say the least. This had to have taken countless hours for the detail to all of the fake references, quotes, drawings, and footnotes, but sadly at the center is a stupid story that goes no where. I was never scared, but rather annoyed. NOTHING seems to happen. And as soon as the story begins to move, we get a long winded worthless conversation from our main character. Nothing is ever explained, nor finalized. This is seriously one of the most boring, meandering, monotonous books I have read.While reading the book I found a message board dedicated to the book and its absolute greatness. It took all I had not to log in and question the taste and objectivity of these people, but if they like it, who am I to pee on them.I do not recommend this book, but if you do read it and turn out to enjoy it, please enlighten me as to what I missed as I fought falling asleep reading these boring passages.
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  • Shovelmonkey1
    January 1, 1970
    This is not for you.... Or maybe it is. House of Leaves is not an easy book to read. It will not only challenge your ability to hold a weighty tome at numerous different angles for prolonged periods of time as you endeavour to read text which is upside down, back to front and shoots vertically or diagonally up and down the page, but it will challenge your idea of what a novel is and how a novel should be presented. Normally I like to try and keep my reviews short. None of you (this is an assumpt This is not for you.... Or maybe it is. House of Leaves is not an easy book to read. It will not only challenge your ability to hold a weighty tome at numerous different angles for prolonged periods of time as you endeavour to read text which is upside down, back to front and shoots vertically or diagonally up and down the page, but it will challenge your idea of what a novel is and how a novel should be presented. Normally I like to try and keep my reviews short. None of you (this is an assumption, but a fair one I think) want to endure an Nth to the power of ∞ monologue about a book. Generally requirements from a book review are fairly short; is the book good, bad or ugly? Does it contain anything that might engage you or enhance your appreciation or understanding of the spinning ball of rock to which you are currently standing upon/lying/clinging to? Is the person writing capable of injecting a heroin shot of humour into the sinewy arm of the review in order to elicit a subdued snort of mirth? This is my criteria anyway. Each to their own. I’ll begin by summarising the story. This is not for you either. This is for me, for my own sanity and clarity of thought which has been somewhat muddied in the reading process. And by muddied I mean dirtied and sluggish with the consistency of a KFC Krushem (TM). House of Leaves is a book about a house. The house has unexpected spatial characteristics- it is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. The spatial characteristics are discovered and investigated by the owners of the house and their friends. They film these investigations. These investigations are then compiled into a series of short films called The Navidson Record. The Navidson Record becomes cult viewing and copies of ever-decreasing quality circulate amongst academics, the media and stoned students. A blind man named Zampano attempts to assess the quality and verity of The Navidson Record including the films and the vast body of white and grey literature generated by academics in order to clarify once and for all if the film was the real deal or one of the most elaborate hoaxes of the 20th century. Zampano dies before completing his magnum opus and the disordered, arbitrary scattered notes and fragments of his work are discovered by his next door neighbour, a drug-hoover named Lude. Lude calls in his friend Johnny Truant (JT). JT develops a fixation with the Navidson Record and attempts to complete and order Zampano’s life work in order to draw his own conclusions about what actually happened in the house on Ash Tree Lane. Truant himself who may or may not be the final architect of the work which forms the core of the published version of House of Leaves begins to suffer a mental breakdown. JT's story runs concurrently with the Navidson Record but is only ever presented as a series of footnotes. The result of this is unclear but one way or another, at the hands of a series of anonymous editors (-Ed) the book makes its way into circulation. Is this still for you? Maybe. The problem (interpret the use of the word problem here as being either good or bad depending on your own perspective) with House of Leaves is that while the words printed inside the pages (leaves) are telling you one thing and sending your thoughts in one direction, the actual layout, font, size and colour of the text are sending out a whole other set of messages. Which ones do you listen to? I think you’re supposed to pay attention to both but this may cause your cerebral cortex to cleave in two so this is a choice that you make early on, and at your own risk. As a work in its own right, and not just as a story or series of conjoined narratives, House of Leaves will probably mean different things to different people. I was very interested in the Navidson Record and the presentation of a multi dimensional qualitative space. You might be more interested in exactly which screws are coming loose in JT’s brain or what motivated Zampano in the first place. Much like the choices faced by the people exploring the inner corridors of the house, you will be forced to pick your own path through the book and once you have done that there is no turning back or you will have to start from scratch. Is this the end of the review? Yes. I cannot break this down further in constructive sentences and the brain dribble is now getting into the cracks between the keyboard. I can however, much like Zampano and his snippets, notes and scribbles, provide a non-linear collection of random thoughts and observations which might act like the mythical skein to help you weave your own way through this labyrinthine text... what you do when you reach the Minotaur at the centre is entirely up to you: 1. Symbols and code: Allegedly there are a lot of hidden codes within this book. These might be numerological, symbolic, visual or in any other semantic form you can think of. The internet is awash with web pages and forums dedicated to HoL and the discussion of coded meanings. Seek them if you will, but don’t expect them to actually clarify anything. One code I did pick up on was the use of random symbols, frequently those used in ground to air visual communication – these were used instead of a numeric reference system for the footnotes. Did they have any direct bearing on the text? Dunno. The one that really did baffle me was the insouciant and sneaky  symbol which appeared for no fathomable reason at the bottom right-hand of page 97. 2. Capitalisation: Adjectives with capital letters where no capital letters are required by the dictates of English Grammar. Similarly deliberate mis-spellings. Go figure. 3. Inversion: Inverting of main text and footnotes so that the main text becomes a foot note and vice versa. Is this symbolic of the main text becoming a sub text for something greater? 4. Colour: The significance of the word house highlighted in blue wherever it is mentioned. This remains true for the cover, footnotes, end notes, index, appendices and publication information. Blue can confer the idea of calmness, a natural environment or stability. It can also confer the notion of authority and power. It is a primary colour and therefore is at the root of many other colours and could be interpreted as a starting point. It can represent sky and water, two elements which are necessary to human survival. But blue can also mean depression and coldness. So what does it mean in the context of House of Leaves? Everything, nothing, something. I can offer no conclusions here and it is never explained. 5. Displacement of objects. At one point Karen Navidson's children tell her that all of her Feng Shui artefacts have vanished from the house. I'm not a believer in Feng Shui but I also believe that anyone who believes that a crystal bullfrog or a well placed water spout can cancel out the possible malevolent evil of a room with more dimensions than a 3D hologram is possibly a little crackers anyway. Note, if you will that the exact list of missing objects in the exact same order is recited in the interview with Hunter S. Thompson on p363. He used them as missiles rather than sticking to their traditional Feng Shui purpose. What does this all mean? No idea. Objects are disappearing through the house and moving into different spaces within the book. Go figure. I could go on. And I will probably more than you would like , but for now this will have to suffice as I need to pop out and get some crazy glue with which to stick my cloven grey matter back together.
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  • Caz (littlebookowl)
    January 1, 1970
    4.5/5 stars!I plan to do a video review of this soon, so look forward to that :)
  • April
    January 1, 1970
    "This is not for you."*this will not follow the kind of reviews I usually do, so be prepared for a conglomerate of quotes, self-taken photos and annoying html text. Also this is quite long.All right so not only was I completely mind-blown by this book, I was also overjoyed with the fact that I actually had an excuse to use my page markers! (I had orange for quotes, pink for ideas/concepts/points in story, green for layout/codes and yellow for footnotes and references as I'm sure you all wanted t "This is not for you."*this will not follow the kind of reviews I usually do, so be prepared for a conglomerate of quotes, self-taken photos and annoying html text. Also this is quite long.All right so not only was I completely mind-blown by this book, I was also overjoyed with the fact that I actually had an excuse to use my page markers! (I had orange for quotes, pink for ideas/concepts/points in story, green for layout/codes and yellow for footnotes and references as I'm sure you all wanted to know). Of course in this book it was completely relevant to do so, as I'm not sure where I'd be now without them. First off,I am haunted by this book. “˙ɯɐǝɹɔs uǝʌǝ oʇ ǝɯıʇ ǝʌɐɥ ʇ’uoʍ noʎ – ʞooq sıɥʇ ɟo pıɹ ƃuıʇʇǝƃ ǝq plnoɥs llǝɥ sɐ ǝɹns noʎ – sɯɹɐ ɹnoʎ dn ƃuıƃuılɟ ǝq ʇsɐǝl ʎɹǝʌ ǝɥʇ ʇɐ plnoɥs noʎ 'ƃuıuunɹ ǝq plnoɥs noʎ 'ƃuıʌoɯ ǝq plnoɥs noʎ ʇɐɥʇ ssǝɔoɹd uǝʌǝ oʇ ǝɯıʇ ǝʌɐɥ noʎ ǝɹoɟǝq ǝsnɐɔǝq 'ɹǝʇʇɐɯ ʇ’usǝop lıɐʇǝp ɹɐlnɔıʇɹɐd ʇɐɥʇ 'ʎɹɹoʍ ʇ’uop '¿slıɐu ʎǝɥʇ ǝɹɐ ɹo ɥʇǝǝʇ s’ʇı ɥʇıʍ ɹɐlnƃnɾ ɹnoʎ qɐʇs llıʍ ʇı sǝɯıʇ ʎuɐɯ ʍoɥ 'noʎ ʇıɥ ɐuuoƃ s’ʇı pɹɐɥ ʍoɥ 'uǝddɐɥ llıʍ ʇı ʇsɐɟ ʍoɥ ǝuıƃɐɯı oʇ ʎɹʇ ǝlɐɥxǝ oʇ ʇɹɐʇs noʎ sɐ ǝɯıʇ sıɥʇ ʎluO ˙ǝuo ɹǝdǝǝp uǝʌǝ puɐ ǝʞɐʇ pɐǝɥɐ oפ ˙ɥʇɐǝɹq dǝǝp ɐ ǝʞɐʇ ʍoN ˙ǝɹǝɥ sǝʎǝ ɹnoʎ dǝǝʞ ˙ʞool ʇ’uop ʇnq ˙ʇuǝɯoɯ sıɥʇ ʇɐ ʇɥƃıɹ ˙sı ʇı ǝɹǝɥʍ s’ʇɐɥ┴ ˙punos ʇnoɥʇıʍ sʇǝʞɔod ǝsoɥʇ puıℲ ˙ǝɔuǝlıs sɐ ʇı ɹɐǝɥ ʎluo uɐɔ noʎ ʇɐɥʇ ʇɔɐɟ uı ʇǝınb os 'noʎ uo uı ƃuısolɔ ʎlʇǝınb sı ƃuıɥʇǝɯos 'ʇı ǝǝs ʇ’uɐɔ noʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʇɥƃıɹ ʇnq 'noʎ ɟo ʇuoɹɟ uı uǝʌǝ ǝqʎɐɯ 'noʎ ɟo ǝpıs ǝɥʇ oʇ ǝqʎɐɯ 'noʎ puıɥǝq ǝqʎɐɯ 'uoısıʌ lɐɹǝɥdıɹǝd ɹnoʎ puoʎǝq ʇsnɾ ǝuıƃɐɯı ʍoN ˙ǝƃɐd sıɥʇ ɟo ɹǝʇǝɯıɹǝd ǝɥʇ ʇsɐd ɹǝpuɐʍ sǝʎǝ ɹnoʎ ʇǝl ʇ’uop op noʎ ɹǝʌǝʇɐɥʍ puɐ 'spɹoʍ ǝsǝɥʇ uo snɔoɟ :sıɥʇ ʎɹʇ ɐǝpı ɹǝʇʇǝq ɐ ʇǝƃ o┴”I'm not going to try and explain the plot, nor am I going to try to explain the story because that is something you simply cannot do in full length or detail. I will only say that if you detest unanswered questions, the beginning quote is right: this is not for you. To put this in very basic terms, the plot surrounds a man named Johnny Truant (or is that his name? Is he real? Is what he's telling us true? Wait no I won't get into that) a seemingly normal, attractive young man working at a tattoo parlour. He serves as one part of the dual-narrative of this story. He is basically informed of the passing of a blind man called Zampanò who lives in the same apartment building as his friend Lude. Following this, he comes across a trunk of Zampanò's notes and papers about a movie called The Navidson Record, a documentary about a family moving into a peculiar house on Ash Tree Lane. After moving in, Navidson's family discover a hallway that has suddenly appeared and seems to defy the laws of physics (it's bigger on the inside). See? Not that confusing. Except this Navidson record is told in extreme detail by Zampanò -- a blind man, remember -- who includes tons upon tons of individual interpretations, theories and all sorts provided by various critics serving as the intellectual perspective of this gradually terrifying documentary. It shows all sorts of characters grips on reality turn tenuous and details their gradual descent into madness with sometimes dire consequences. Except for one thing: the movie doesn't exist. And I don't just mean in a fictitious manner (i.e it's a book, Sherlock) it doesn't exist in the story itself. Johnny even says that these critics and celebrities (such as King, Kubrick, Rice...) have never spoke with Zampanò and none have ever heard of such a document. Supposedly an extravagant amount of evidence exists (footnotes. footnotes. footnotes) that suggests it's a hoax when in fact it was never filmed to begin with. The specificity for me enhanced the psychologically disturbing question I was asking myself throughout reading HOL: what is real and what isn't? [XXXXXXXXXXXalwaysXXXXXXXXXX]House of Leaves is like BOOKCEPTION. A book within a book wiThin a book and so on. It needs patience, I'll admit. For some people tHe readIng Style (exotic text, jumBled notes, 3446989465854 fOOtnotes, kooKy passage order, etc) Will become agItating. I personaLLy didn't find it necessarily diffiCult to read, just a little annoying Having to turn it Around to read upside dowN as well as diaGonally (an excEssive amount of times, too, oh Yes). That bOok was atrocioUsly heavy!This book is all sorts of twists and turns. There are codes you can decipher, heaps upon heaps of symbolisms accompanied by an unending sense of unknowing; you are left almost bleeding for answers and trust me you are not going to find them. It's a labyrinth (and labyrinth is a word you will come across or consider many times when you read this book); once you begin, you cannot fathom an escape..epacse na mohtaf tonnac uoy ,nigeb uoy ecno ;)koob siht daer uoy nehw semit ynam redisnoc ro ssorca emoc lliw uoy drow a si htnirybal dna( htnirybal a s'tI .meht dnif ot gniog ton era uoy em tsurt dna srewsna rof gnideelb tfel tsomla era uoy ;gniwonknu fo esnes gnidnenu tsomla na yb deinapmocca smsilobmys fo spaeh nopu spaeh ,rehpiced nac uoy sedoc era erehT .snrut dna stsiwt fo stros lla si koob sihTDue to the books ambiguity, a forum dedicated especially for discussing and sharing opinions has existed online since around 2000 or 2001. It's the House of Leaves category in MZD's forums. Subsequently after completing HOL I signed up for it easily because although I would love to share the (albeit minimal) amount of codes I actually did manage to decipher here on GR, I wouldn't want to spoil anything for people about to read it first-hand. I have so many questions and the most frustrating thing was not being able to discuss the book with anyone. There are endless slices of info I can dish out, i.e I could sit here and list the most terrifying moments (Ftaires! Always. Echo.) but they would mean nothing to someone who hasn't read the book for themselves. So I feel the forum is the right place for that talk. “You might try then, as I did, to find a sky so full of stars it will blind you again. Only no sky can blind you now. Even with all that iridescent magic up there, your eye will no longer linger on the light, it will no longer trace constellations. You'll care only about the darkness and you'll watch it for hours, for days, maybe even for years, trying in vain to believe you're some kind of indispensable, universe-appointed sentinel, as if just by looking you could actually keep it all at bay. It will get so bad you'll be afraid to look away, you'll be afraid to sleep.Then no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comforts of your own home, you'll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You'll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you'll turn, unable to resist, though try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you've got not to face the thing you most dread, what is now, what will be, what has always come before, the creature you truly are, the creature we all are, buried in the nameless black of a name.And then the nightmares will begin.” I will sum up this book by simply saying: "known some call is air am."".ɯɐɹǝ sıןɐnb ɯns uou" I am not what I used to be.
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  • Stephen M
    January 1, 1970
    I think this just about sums it up:
  • Kevin Kelsey
    January 1, 1970
    Posted at Heradas“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”If you’ve ever wanted to read a novel about a group of editors who have re-compiled a second edition of a book, that was originally found (and edited) by a slowly mentally unraveling tattoo artist apprentice junkie, and was origina Posted at Heradas“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”If you’ve ever wanted to read a novel about a group of editors who have re-compiled a second edition of a book, that was originally found (and edited) by a slowly mentally unraveling tattoo artist apprentice junkie, and was originally written in a mixed media form by his junkie friend’s neighbor (found when he died under mysterious circumstances), that is a written description, history and analysis of a “found footage” documentary (that doesn’t exist) about a family inhabiting and exploring a house that is (much, much) larger on the inside than the outside, and is told in such a nonlinear and disorienting fashion to the point of inducing trepidation, extreme boredom, claustrophobia, anxiety, and general unease, then I’ve got some great news for you! House of Leaves is all of these things and tells all of these stories. It’s also kind of fun if you’re into weird mental puzzles.I enjoyed it. Going into it, it was hard to deny the thematic similarities it shares with Infinite Jest, but as it progressed it started to diverge quite a bit from the direction I expected it to travel toward. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain any of the amazingly beautiful prose or “new sincerity” of David Foster Wallace’s writing, but it has other qualities that make it very interesting. Mainly, the form of the novel mirrors the story. When characters are crawling through ever shrinking passageways, the margins on the outside edges of the text start to crawl inward. When characters are falling into ever deepening chasms, the text will angle or fall down the page, etc. It’s a very visual novel, and in that way I don’t think it could ever be an eBook. It’s a piece of art that is reliant on the exact physical specifications of the book containing it.“He knows his voice will never heat this world”Would I ever read it again? Nah, I don’t think there’s really much of a point. The story itself is overly soap operatic, the prose is good but it’s nothing amazing. The amount of cruft in this book is just mind-bogglingly excessive, and without the amazing prose or story to make that cruft serve a point, it’s just sort of there to make the experience disorienting, which I get is part of the form mirroring the story, but still, it’s the illusion of complexity rather than complexity itself. There are puzzles encoded into it that would probably be kind of fun to suss out, but I can pretty much guarantee that they aren’t going to provide some sort of satisfying answer to any questions left lingering. Reading it was an experience that I’m glad I had, and I have to admire the dedication and exacting nature it must’ve taken to bring something like this to life -- it definitely rewards attention to detail -- but, having read it, I have no desire to read it again.
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  • Dan Porter
    January 1, 1970
    I finished House of Leaves. A synopsis of the book - if such a thing were actually possible - might go something like this: This is the story of the assembly by one man, of the notes of another man, written on random bits of paper into a review of a movie - actually a documentary film - and the scholarly research spawned by the film. The film is about a house owned by the photojournalist who created the documentary. Or is it the house that owns him...and his family? Writing a review of this book I finished House of Leaves. A synopsis of the book - if such a thing were actually possible - might go something like this: This is the story of the assembly by one man, of the notes of another man, written on random bits of paper into a review of a movie - actually a documentary film - and the scholarly research spawned by the film. The film is about a house owned by the photojournalist who created the documentary. Or is it the house that owns him...and his family? Writing a review of this book at this point would be difficult at best, because there's so much there. Fortunately, as I was reading the book, I added comments about it on Goodreads. I've assembled those notes here, along with a couple of messages to a friend who had read the book and loved it.I got through the intro Sunday night, but only the first chapter last night. I already know I'm going to like this a lot. After the few pages I've read, there are so many questions I want answers to. I always like writing that has no wasted or useless words - what I call dense writing because of its "density" on the page - and this definitely falls into that category. I also get the impression this is one of those books where you need to read every word between the front and back covers...footnotes, chapter epigraphs, maybe even the review excerpts and publication information.Made it through the second chapter last night. Not really into the crazy part yet but I can sense it coming. I can see already this won't be a quick read but that's okay because I want it to last as long as possible. I see what you meant about extra bookmarks. Four-page footnotes that get totally off the subject make it hard to remember what was being discussed by the time you get to the end of them, but for some reason that just feels right in this book. After my comment about reading every word between the covers I went back and read the review clips and the publication info. Nothing out of the ordinary on the reviews. In my edition, "house" is printed in blue everywhere it appears even if it's only part of a word like household. Since the publisher is Random House, every House is in blue. I really like the way that you can tell whether Zampano or Truant is "writing" just by their different styles. One of the reviewers compared Danielewski to a combination of Pynchon, Joyce, and King. I don't see any Joyce in there so far and I've only read one Stephen King book but I definitely see some similarities to Pynchon. I'd say he's in a class with Pynchon, Woolf, and Eco. Strange class but I get the feeling he may be kind of a strange guy...which is good because, in my experience, most of the best literature comes from strange people. I can foresee some nights coming up where I start reading and the next thing I know it's 1 or 2 in the morning.Although footnotes having their own footnotes is interesting, it's going to take me a while to get used to tracking them and then getting back to the narrative. After reading Truant's account of his "feeling" at the tattoo parlor, I kept sensing movement across the room out of the corner of my eye. I would never have guessed that a description of books falling off a bookshelf could give me a shiver down my spine that spread to my whole body or that thinking of that description a couple of hours later would cause another shiver. Saying that this is a great book doesn't seem like quite enough.So, in Chapter V - the "Echoes" or "_allways" chapter - Zampano has a two-and-a-half page footnote consisting of names of photographers who are supposedly examples of those who show "an extremely original manner" relative to their subjects. When I read Truant's footnote to this footnote, in which he points out that the list of photographers is entirely random, I thought, "Of course! The man's blind!! What does he know of photographs - or films for that matter?" Now I'm hoping that somewhere in this labyrinth I'll find how Zampano became blind and that it will turn out to be a result of, and occur during, the time of his research on The Navidson Record.I notice here that I'm discussing this as if it were non-fiction. A good sign for how well the book is written because that's what it's trying to portray. Possibly a bad sign for my sanity.Toward the end of Chapter V, an editor's footnote tells us that one who wants to better understand Johnny Truant's past would do well to read his father's obituary and his mother's correspondence during the time she was institutionalized. So off I go to Appendix II. (Jess - I now have two bookmarks permanently in the book and one that comes and goes as needed.) The obit is brief. The correspondence covers sixty-seven pages. You can see the progression of his mother's illness in her correspondence. You can also see how her letters could adversely affect a young boy. I also just realized that the fact that the letters are here in the Appendix means that Johnny received all of them even if he wasn't very consistent in replying to them. The glimpses of Johnny's life during this time are also pretty revealing relative to his personality and behavior during the time he was caught up in Zampono's scribblings but you have to question the reliability of those glimpses because they're filtered through his mother's illness. I was reading through her letters, watching her slow but steady, Poe-like, descent into insanity when I came to the May 8, 1987 letter. I thought the book had been transformed into my copy of Ulysses. I was suddenly reading three pages of randomly-strung-together words with punctuation thrown in here and there. About halfway through the second page - it was late and my brain was tired - I remembered that, in her previous letter, she told Johnny she would have to write her next letter in code, so I dug out pen and paper and found that the steady decline was back on track, albeit at a little steeper angle now. I think there may be something to the capital letters in the middle of words randomly scattered through the letter but, if so, I haven't figured out what yet. The last book I read that was this interactive was Pat the Bunny.And now I see that my comments on this book are sounding more and more like Truant's footnotes. Oh well, back to the labyrinth.I had a status comment from Mandy the other day in which she asked if I was able to follow the book so far. I answered that "it's not really hard to follow because it's structured so well." Ha! That'll teach me to get cocky. Started Chapter VI late last night (I've got to start reading this thing during the day when my mind is a little more functional) and was pretty well lost within the first few pages. The chapter starts with footnotes to the chapter epigraphs and those footnotes have footnotes. The actual narrative of the chapter starts somewhere on the second or third page. There are footnotes that reference not only each other but footnotes in previous and subsequent chapters. I think there may be Zampano footnotes that reference Truant footnotes and Zampano never knew Truant...at least there's every indication so far that he didn't, but who knows what the future-past may hold. There are long passages - and their related footnotes - that are lined through rather than simply deleted. There are footnotes in sidebar format - left page right side up and right page upside down but two different footnotes - that go on for pages and pages and pages, making you turn corner after corner after corner in search of the end. There are footnotes in boxes in the middle of the page like you're standing on a sidewalk looking at a sign painted on a store window. You turn the page and exactly opposite the footnote on the page you just read is a box with the same footnote but it's backwards as if you've gone through the door and are now looking at the sign from inside the store. The chapter is somewhere in the 40-50 page range. Around the fourteenth page I remembered Mandy's question and my answer and I thought, "I don't see how anyone's ever supposed to follow this," followed immediately by a palm slap to the forehead. You see, Chapter VI is about labyrinths...the structure, history, nature, philosophical meaning, and so forth of labyrinths in general as well as the fact that the house both is and is in a labyrinth...but the best thing about Chapter VI - the labyrinth chapter - is that it is itself a labyrinth in which it is fully intended that the reader get lost. Is this an amazing book or what?I'm beginning to wonder if Johnny's sexual exploits (escapades?) - while interesting in themselves - aren't similar in nature to his frequent visions (delusions?) of his own destruction...possibly even just different forms of destruction.So...last night I decided to restart the labyrinth chapter to see if I could make any more sense out of it. The first thing I noticed is that it's not Chapter VI as I indicated a couple of comments ago. It's actually Chapter IX. One of the Chapter IX footnotes referenced a Chapter VI footnote, so apparently I went back that way and became temporarily (temporally?) lost. In the process of trying to locate, in the Appendices, a Truant reference to some Zampano writing about Natasha I came across a list of potential chapter titles that Zampano had considered. At first, I was a little gratified to find that the titles were the same as what I had thought of for some of the chapters. Then I became a little concerned that the titles were the same as what I had thought of for some of the chapters. Oh, well. While re-reading the "store window" footnote - which lists every kind of housing fixture imaginable by way of stressing the absolute absence of anything but walls, floors, a shitload of stairs, and maybe some ceilings in the labyrinth - I kept picturing Zampano wandering through a Lowes or Home Depot, aisle by aisle, writing down the name of every product on every shelf. I made it back pretty much to the same place I'd stopped at the night before - kind of like travelling through the maze in a circle - and even though I'd covered the same ground and was still pretty much lost I felt better about that and at least knew one way not to try again...hopefully.Last night I read the chapter in which the house goes berserk. Don't remember the number and have no idea what I would call it, but it reminded me why I prefer my horror in written rather than cinematic form. In horror movies, the predominant means of scaring the audience is by startling them with a sudden action or image and a large part of the scare is a reaction to the reactions of the rest of the audience. A given scene that would "scare" an audience might therefor have no effect at all on an individual watching alone. A writer of good horror stories, on the other hand, knows that in order to scare his reader - or listeners in the case of stories told or read to a group - he has to engage the "fear center" of the reader's imagination. We all are capable of imagining far scarier things than anyone can ever put on film and Danielewski is very, very good at just pricking our "fear center" often enough to keep the imagination going and the skin crawling. If The Navidson Record film actually existed I'm sure it would be frightening, but I doubt that it would come close to being as scary as the written description of it. I think I may have just realized the answer to the oft-asked question of why I so seldom watch movies...books are so much better at engaging my imagination."'Staires! We have found staires!'" A fairly innocuous few words...until you put them in the context of the preceding four hundred and some-odd pages. Put them in that context and they'll make the skin on the back of your head crawl and the hair there stand on end...every time they pop into your head for days and days. And they will pop into your head over and over again...maybe for the rest of your life. Therein lies Danielewski's genius. He's so patient in building up structures that he has every intention of knocking over. And when he does knock them over, he does it with such simple, innocent words and events that it scares the crap out of you. And yet, you keep right on reading because you can do nothing less.I finished House of Leaves. More accurately, I finished my first reading of House of Leaves. I'm not sure this is a book that you can ever really finish...or that it will ever be finished with you.
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  • Henry Avila
    January 1, 1970
    If I may borrow ( steal from Dickens), it was the hardest book I've ever read, it was the easiest, it was the most enlightening, it was the most obscure, it brought daylight to the world, it brought in the darkness of the night.. Reading the upside- down words, trying to decipher the silly footnotes, and the crossed- out comments, making sense of the narrative, both of them on the same page, well you get my drift, some will be frustrated, the rest amused; good luck...All the above is true...Hous If I may borrow ( steal from Dickens), it was the hardest book I've ever read, it was the easiest, it was the most enlightening, it was the most obscure, it brought daylight to the world, it brought in the darkness of the night.. Reading the upside- down words, trying to decipher the silly footnotes, and the crossed- out comments, making sense of the narrative, both of them on the same page, well you get my drift, some will be frustrated, the rest amused; good luck...All the above is true...House of Leaves, love or hate you will not forget...Johnny Truant, in his early 20's, works at a tattoo parlor, a drifter, junkie, plagued by bad, horrendous dreams, waking up dripping wet in bed, very afraid, maybe inheriting a family curse, he needs the drugs to function. Mr. Truant has many problems, seeing things not there, is one but he will soon get more. Still his stripper girlfriend is loyal and thought six years older, quite lovely. Nevertheless he has a roving eye and finds plenty of women, they like the attractive man. An insane mother who has recently given up the ghost; at the age of four she tried to strangle the boy, saved by his gentle, late father, ( a former pilot who had been grounded because of health) his wife was placed in an institution for life. Alone, a foster parent who assaulted the boy, the marks on his face did not prevent, in reality encouraged him to fight and lose to older boys...Going from home to home, job to job, arriving finally as an adult in Los Angeles. His best friend Lude, just Lude and nothing more, brings him to a dilapidated apartment, an old, blind man died there, Zampano, left behind countless manuscripts, purportedly a true tale of a house that has bigger inside dimensions than outside, an expanding evil, halls, numerous empty rooms, a staircase of enormous size, descending, mile after mile to infinity ?... Strange noises heard, and unstable walls. They grow and shrink, terrifying a family of four, living there, Will Navidson, a famous photojournalist and his girlfriend another celebrity, former fashion model Karen Green, with their two children, Daisy 5 and Chad 8. Will Navidson, is a brave man, wants to explore the building, not a wise idea . The house on Ash Tree Lane, in the Virginian suburbs, away from the bustling city of New York. The big question is this...fiction or non-fiction, some believe others do not, a documentary film is made, The Navidson Record, causing a cult following to develop . Articles are written in magazines debating it, college professors discuss the merits of the case, the pictures are unclear, so is the truth...hoax or authentic ? The author has talent but gimmicks and fads quickly fade , one- trick ponies don't last long...
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  • Aloha
    January 1, 1970
    ...Then no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comforts of your own home, you'll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You'll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you'll turn, unable to resist, though try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you've got not to face the ...Then no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comforts of your own home, you'll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You'll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you'll turn, unable to resist, though try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you've got not to face the thing you most dread, what is now, what will be, what has always come before, the creature you truly are, the creature we all are, buried in the nameless black of a name. And then the nightmares will begin. --Johnny Truant October 31, 1998 Hollywood, CA I heard of this book through the Horror Aficionados forum. It sounded intriguing because most people in the forum cannot finish this book and thought it was odd. When I first ventured into the book, I thought it was about a haunted house. When I finished the book, I discovered that it was entirely about something else. To me, it is about the journey through the labyrinth of our psyche, and encountering and befriending our Jungian shadow to come through to the other side. Befriending our shadow involves forgiveness and love.The beautiful maze of a book follows two major paths, that of the tattoo artist Johnny Truant and The Navidson Report. The Navidson Report is a documentary film detailed in a manuscript by Zampano, a deceased blind man. Johnny Truant procured the manuscript when his friend Lude called him to view Zampano’s apartment, “nailed shut and sealed with caulking...to retain the various emanations of his things and himself.” The academic manuscript contained notes about a film called The Navidson Report. The Navidson Report is a documentary done by a prize winning filmmaker, Will Navidson, of the strange events within the House on Ash Tree Lane. Navidson originally intended it to be captured cherished moments of his family’s life in the countryside. It became disorienting moments of horrifying explorations in mysterious hallways that appear and disappear, changing position and dimension.Johnny became obsessed with the manuscript and writes his own notes and addendum in an impressionistic style, journaling his downward spiral into insanity, with a formless Minotaur monster pursuing him. Zampano’s manuscript reveals his own obsession and death perhaps at the hand of the formless monster emanating from the foreboding house. Since the book itself is actually Zampano’s manuscript modified by Johnny, and footnoted by the editors, we are then led to a confusing labyrinth of narrations, weaving from Johnny’s to Zampano’s with editors’ footnotes. Since this book is a conundrum, I’ll break it down to important references in the book.The House on Ash Tree Lane:The inhabitants of the house, Will Navidson and his partner Karen Green moved into the house on Ash Tree Lane in a Virginia countryside in order to repair their crumbling relationship strained by his frequent travels for his work as a film documentarist, and her infidelities. Although not married, Karen and Will are devoted to each other. Waiting for Will to come home, Karen has a frequent look of longing with every passing car. Will lovingly records details of Karen's hair on an old hairbrush. The move to the countryside was also due to Will feeling burned out from his job of documenting war. Will is haunted by "Delial", a film capture that made his career but caused a deep conflict between his journalist's impartial documentarian code and the reality of being a participating human being. Each also has personal childhood demons. Will was traumatized by abandonment and instability, making visual documentation a stable passion he can rely on. Karen has disabling claustrophobia possibly from being molested by her stepfather and confined to a well.According to Zampano, Will only mounted Hi-8s inside the house. Thus, any events outside of the house is recounted personally. The House on Ash Tree Lane was introduced via the written documentation about the “Five and a Half Minute Hallway” within the Navidson Record film.The family came back from a wedding after 4 days to discover that the house has been spatially violated. The inner space of the house has changed significantly. They immediately called on friends and expeditionists to help investigate the oddity of the measured inner space being bigger than the outer space of the house. The dark, ashen-gray hallway that moves and expands, magnifies what was buried in the inhabitant's psyche. Karen lost her sex drive after encountering the claustrophobic hallway and Will became driven to explore and document. Each member who came in contact with the hallway became more of who they deeply are. The house, oddly, became the echo/reflection of the labyrinth of their individual minds, with the offshoots of empty rooms resembling the hidden dimensions.Synchronously, Johnny began to imagine his own hallway of a nameless monster, as he slowly loses his mind, gets deeper into drugs, and has mindless sexcapades.Space:Space is handled in varying and unconventional ways. Space is labyrinthine and three-dimensional in perception, actively involving the reader in its maze. There is more to spacing than the obvious theme of the odd spacing of the house in which its inside space is larger than the outside space, and the emanations of the empty hallways. Space is via varying personal perspectives, from our real world to the innermost world of the book. The space of the perspectives is of a space enclosing a space, enclosing a space, like a Russian nesting doll. We are forced to mentally shift from the content of the book to the real life facts about the book, in and out of the nesting doll. The two worlds sometime interchange. The book was reputed to be circulated in pieces on the internet, with the first edition incomplete. Since pieces of the book became popular, this forced MZD to finish the book. The actual book, as we know it, is the 2nd edition. This history of the book moves into the story with Johnny observing that his story was circulated around via the internet and gained legendary status. In The Navidson Report, Will was forced to burn pages of the House of Leaves book in order to see in the hallway. MZD's sister Poe, came out with the album Haunted, which reflects the content of the book. Vice versa, the lyrics in her album and mention of her were in the book.Space is reflected in the agoraphobia and claustrophobia of the characters. Will’s need to be free to pursue his interest, Karen’s claustrophobia, and the push/pull in their relationship. Karen is dependent on Will, yet does not want to marry. Will loves his family, yet cannot stop leaving for his job. Pelafina loves Johnny in a way that strangles him, literally and metaphorically. Space is graphically represented in the book as almost every page is broken up between Zampano’s manuscript, Johnny’s journaling and notes, and the anonymous editors’ notes. In some passages, the words are confined in boxes, columns, upside down, mirror reflections, or alone on the page. The more disorienting the events within the Navidson report, the more disorienting the arrangements of words. The repeated use of [ ] in Holloway's story repeats the claustrophobia of the hallway, with the empty space varying between the brackets. Space echoes.Echo:Emptiness creates the “eeriness” and “otherworldliness” of the echo. The echo is a degraded repetition. As they are exploring the rooms behind the door that appeared out of nowhere, they are confronted by a repetition of rooms with no window or details of a regular room. They are only empty rooms echoing and off shooting from each other.An echo is also a reflection. Bats use acoustic light to “see.” The bat creates a frequency from the larynx. The echo reflected back to the bat is read via the bat’s auditory cortex, which enables it to “see.” The house is the empty vessel that reflects and echoes the inhabitant’s thoughts and feelings.We are never really directly exposed to the house. Zampano and Johnny were never directly exposed to the house. We and they are only exposed to the house via the echoes, echoes from the legend of the film that never existed and interviews regarding the house, some of which does not exist. Yet this house was capable of inducing terror. It caused Zampano’s obsession and demise. It caused Johnny’s mental dissolution.Echoes are reflections that affects the perspectives of the mind.Perspectives:Within the book itself, there is the Editors' perspectives, encompassing Johnny's perspective, encompassing Zampano's perspective, encompassing Navidson's perspective, encompassing the house and its inhabitants. In total, counting us, the people, who had encountered or heard tales of the real "leaves" circulating via the internet and Poe's music, more than just within the book, it would be - us, MZD, Editors, Johnny, Zampano, Navidson, House and its inhabitants. This is a total of 7 perspectives.Not only is it merely perspectives, but how the perspectives move within the physical and psychological space. Physically, the contents of the book move as leaves via the internet, to the book we're holding, and finally in Navidson's hands as he burned the House of Leaves book to be able to read. Psychologically, the point of view is constantly shifting and sometimes merging. There's the "us" perspective as we're reading the book, listening to Poe's music, as I did, and knowing about the legend within the internet, our movement within the book is dependent on our history, with the reaction from frustration to obsession with the book. There's the movement, frequently, from the Editors and Johnny all the way to the House and its inhabitants. The shift in perspective is so frequent that disorientation results, following the path of Johnny's own mental state, and finally, to his insane mother. We, the readers, are forced to participate in the disorientation and instability of the mental state. Thus, the physical and psychological space is unrelentingly circular and cyclical, instead of being within the comfortable confines of a linear narrative.The labyrinthine and disorienting structure of the book affects us directly, imitating Navidson’s film style, cinema vérité. In that style, everything that distracts from the directness of the subject is removed, making it as real as possible. We are not told of the confusion, but are confused by the arrangement of the book, its chaotic content reflecting the events within the book.Labyrinth:Not only is the book itself laid out like a labyrinth, but references to the labyrinth and mazes are peppered throughout the book.The Navidson Record is described as “meandering from one celluloid cell to the next”, as if not knowing what is behind the next corner. As we turn the corner, we see a different path, similar to walking in a maze, never sure what will come next. No one can comprehend “the entire maze and so therefore can never offer a definitive answer. Navidson’s house seems a perfect example. Due to the wall-shifts and extraordinary size, any way out remains singular and applicable only to those on that path at that particular time. All solutions then are necessarily personal.” Such is the individual path of each of the characters as we follow them on their personal journey that they must traverse and solve alone. Navidson, the impartial journalist, reacts to the labyrinth in a calm and curious manner. His filming of the house shows his sense of aesthetic and steadfastness even through the fearful events. The film records made by other members of the inhabitants are skewed by the events and are not as precise in its accounting. Each reader, also, came out with varying reactions and interpretations to the House of Leaves.The mysterious hallway itself is a labyrinth that constantly shifts and change, with more empty hallways appearing out of nowhere. Some things in the hallway exists for all, such as the “Infinite Corridor, the Anteroom, the Great Hall, and the Spiral Staircase, but the size and layout changes for the individual, along with other patterning of the rooms.Mythology:The blind Zampano is like Homer, the blind Greek poet famous for recounting tales of the trials and tribulations of heroes. Zampano’s notes on the Minotaur were crossed out by him as if crossing out any references to the mythological creature would erase the unseen beast terrorizing him. The references to the labyrinth and the Minotaur in the book came from the Greek mythology of Theseus, the king of Athens, and the Minotaur, a human/bull offspring confined to the labyrinth due to its need to eat man for sustenance. In Zampano’s notes, there was a reference to a book on torture, particularly in regard to the brazen bull. The brazen bull is a hollow brass bull made to roast a man inside its cavity. It had placements of tubes and stops that amplifies the victim’s screams to sound like the bellowing of a bull. The Minotaur has multiple symbolism. Not only does it represent a fearful creature keeping guard over the labyrinth of the mind, but as Jung’s shadow that can only be tamed by acceptance. Zampano’s crossed out passage states that King Minos’ paternal love grows for the Minotaur as his understanding for his son grows. After the Minotaur’s destruction by Theseus, the king’s tears were not tears of relief at being rid of a monster, but tears of sorrow for one he loves.Will, Karen and Johnny all had to traverse the labyrinth to overcome the figurative Minotaur, and embrace and accept the shadow in order to come out to the other side. Zampano, who ultimately did not accept his shadow, as evidenced by his crossing out of all passages relating to the Minotaur, died.A passage in Homer’s Iliad appeared in the book in several languages, probably due to the fact that it is one of the most translated texts. It refers to the clanging of the troops, with criers urging them, “Quiet! Quiet! Attention! Hear our captains!” This, along with Navidson’s steady and experienced camera hand, is symbolic of the need to maintain a warrior’s calm in the face of obstacles in order to adequately access the situation to overcome difficulties.Growl:The ominous sound of the growl is significant throughout the book. Besides the growl that signifies the unseen Minotaur, the sound of the torture victim in the brazen bull, and the din of confused troops, Johnny’s journal contains passages on the growl:"However, as I write this down--some kind of calm returning--l do begin to recall something else, only perceive it perhaps?...the way my father had growled, roared really, though not a roar, when he'd beheld my burning arms, an ear shattering, nearly inhuman shout, unleashed to protect me, to stop her and cover me, which I realize now I have not remembered. That age, when I was four, is dark to me. Still, the sound is too vivid to just pawn off on the decibels of my imagination. The way it plays in my head like some terrifying and wholly familiar song. Over and over again in a continuous loop, every repetition offering up this certain knowledge: I must have heard it--or something like it--not then but later, though when?"When his mother tried to strangle Johnny because she wants to end his misery out of love, it said:"...your father suddenly arrived and roared in intervention, a battering blast of complete nonsense, but a word just the same and full of love, too, powerful enough in fact to halt the action of another love, break its hold, even knock me back and so free you from me, myself and my infinite wish."The growl came from the house as it changed form and structure, and from the unseen monster in the imagination of some of the house’s inhabitants. It also appeared in Johnny’s imagination as he was in the hallway of the tattoo parlor where he worked. Leaves and Ashes:The title, The House of Leaves, is significant to the book. Leaves are things people left behind, mementos, memories of themselves. Zampano left his writing, Navidson wanted Karen's hair that's on her brush, and Truant's mom left one sole thing to him along with her letters. Navidson’s career is about recorded memories. The book itself first made its appearance as leaves circulating through the internet.The leaves also bring to mind of the ash tree, of the House on Ash Tree Lane. Ashes are remnants left behind, a symbol of sorrow. The pervading atmosphere of the book is memories and remnants of sorrow, ending in the sorrow reflected in Pelafina’s letters to her son.A Deeply Felt Love Story:...Be sure I looked up at her eyes Happy and proud; at last I knewPorphyria worshipped me; surprise Made my heart swell, and still it grew While I debated what to do.That moment she was mine, mine, fair, Perfectly pure and good: I foundA thing to do, and all her hair In one long yellow string I wound Three times her little throat around,And strangled her. No pain felt she; I am quite sure she felt no pain...-Porphyria’s Lover by Robert BrowningThis disorienting labyrinth leads us to the gold mine of the poignant love letters of Pelafina Heather Lievre to her child prodigy son, Johnny. This complex love story is at once agoraphobic and claustrophobic. Pelafina is confined at the Whalestoe Institute for the insane. We discovered in her letter incidences of suffocating love combined with questionable accidents, which Johnny and Pelafina declared were accidents. Johnny was haunted by an act that Pelafina committed out of her love for him, an incident he denied as a mother’s gentle wiping of her son’s tears before they take her away. Johnny made his journey through the maze caused by his complex love relationship with his mother. Additionally, Karen and Navidson overcame their obstacles and nightmare of the House in a parallel love story.This fascinating and original book plays with three-dimensional perception that extends from our world with the Haunted album based on the book by the author’s sister Poe and the legend of “leaves” of the book circulating throughout the internet, and into the core story of the odd house and its inhabitants. It cannot be categorized as purely postmodern, horror, romance or general fiction. It cannot even be categorized as purely literature, but under a type of literature called ergodic literature. Ergodic literature demands that the reader participates actively in the book, beyond the traditional linear reading of the text. The perspectives are spatial instead of linear, moving like a Russian nesting doll with a story nesting within a story within a story. It is a literary visual art. You cannot remove either the visual arrangement or the literary part without losing the full content of the book. The pictorial arrangements of the words and spacing are meant to add meaning to the story. The complicated journey into the manuscript goes to the innermost nesting doll of the House and its occupants, and out to us, the reader, as we are either annoyed or obsessed with solving the puzzle of this postmodern, beyond postmodern labyrinth. In the end, this book is about love and forgiveness overcoming the darkness in the labyrinth of our minds.
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  • Char
    January 1, 1970
    House of Leaves is an experience. I've decided not to go into the plot, because it, (they?) really can't be fully explained in such a limited venue as a book review. Depending on how you look at it, there could actually be 5 different plots going on, perhaps more, and again: limited venue. After mulling it over for a few days, I find that I'm comfortable saying the following: 1. The portions of the story dealing with the house itself were my favorites. I think these sections were truly scary-amo House of Leaves is an experience. I've decided not to go into the plot, because it, (they?) really can't be fully explained in such a limited venue as a book review. Depending on how you look at it, there could actually be 5 different plots going on, perhaps more, and again: limited venue. After mulling it over for a few days, I find that I'm comfortable saying the following: 1. The portions of the story dealing with the house itself were my favorites. I think these sections were truly scary-among the scariest I've ever read. I've seen other reviewers say they weren't that scary and I've been thinking about why that is. All I can come up with is I guess it depends on what scares you most. If it's a guy with an ax or a ski mask, or maybe Hannibal Lecter, then perhaps this wouldn't be that scary to you. However, if you're afraid of the big, black, empty and what might be hiding in it, then you will most likely be scared and/or disturbed by this book.2. If you're looking for an immediate pay off as far as scares, this book is the wrong place to look. The building atmosphere, the use (sometimes excessive?) of foreshadowing, plot lines suddenly left hanging while other lines are pursued are just some of the techniques used to keep the reader off balance. This is like the long term con, not 3 Card Monty. 3. If you think you're going to come out of a first reading knowing everything there is to know about House of Leaves, I just want to tell you- you're not. There is SO much going on here, it's crazy. Mythology, song lyrics, poems, quotes, codes and themes all combine to create this unique story. I'm not sure it's even possible to "get" everything you're supposed to "get" on a single reading. Maybe it is and I'm just dumb? It's definitely possible. ;)I don't know what else to say, so I'll wrap it up. I recommend this book highly, solely for the experience of reading it. The varied plot lines may or may not appeal to you as I've mentioned, but the experience of reading this book itself is not to be missed. What books have you read that could be called an experience? If the answer is none, you need to read this book!
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  • J.S.
    January 1, 1970
    More than anything, House of Leaves is pretentious. It does things against the grain just because they haven't been done before, not because they're necessarily good ideas. The book seems to take pride in trying its damnedest to give you a headache, and then expects you to like it (unless Danielewski is a sociopath, and wants people to suffer while reading this, in which case I've misinterpreted).House of Leaves gives off the impression of a modern art experiment, daring you to say it's pointles More than anything, House of Leaves is pretentious. It does things against the grain just because they haven't been done before, not because they're necessarily good ideas. The book seems to take pride in trying its damnedest to give you a headache, and then expects you to like it (unless Danielewski is a sociopath, and wants people to suffer while reading this, in which case I've misinterpreted).House of Leaves gives off the impression of a modern art experiment, daring you to say it's pointless even as it flips the sentences sideways and has one word per page for a whole paragraph. Not to mention the convoluted narrative, which can be described in more detail by someone who liked the book. However, I will say this: it's interesting to note how I stopped caring about the core of the story as soon as its sorta-narrator explains that it never happened (which he does right in the beginning, so this isn't a spoiler). Even though I know it didn't happen, because it's fiction, I became apathetic about the story of a family moving into a house with impossible interior dimensions because even the other characters in the book said it wasn't real. I don't know if that counts for or against House of Leaves, since it tells me something about the way I read books on the one hand, and it also invalidated most of the plot on the other.One of the three sorta-narrators uses an absurd amount of foreign languages and obscure quotes (also possibly fake) to drag the story down even further, and to top it off, there's the first guy who frequently interrupts with random stories about his sex life. Maybe Danielewski wants us to envy the tattoo artist that lives like a rock star, or maybe he wants to convince us that he's not a square by breaking up all the academic nonsense that makes up about half the book, but either way it feels forced and unnecessary. By the way, as far as I can tell, there's no explanation for why this fake story of a Twilight Zone house is driving the tattoo artist, Johnny, slowly insane. Admittedly, I didn't finish the book, but I haven't found an explanation elsewhere, and it's probably another one of those things that the author left so deliberately obtuse that scholars and intellectuals can argue about it for the rest of time.If that sounds like fun to you, then get the book, by all means. For me, all of Danielewski's attempts at being different and artsy were just irritating. When I get a book, I want to read it, not juggle it around because the sideways words are supposed to represent the characters walking up the walls or something. By the way, did you notice how I underlined house and bolded book every time in this review? I'm not going to tell you why - hell, I don't even know myself - but there's bound to be someone out there who thinks it's a deep artistic message. It worked in House of Leaves.
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  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    January 1, 1970
    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/3.5 StarsAre you looking for a book with a plotline a little something like this???? If so, House of Leaves might be right up your alley.The simple synopsis (and the only one you're going to get from me) is this is the story of Will, Karen, and their dream home, told through various narrators. I read House of Leaves before I started "writing" (a/k/a imaging) reviews. I don't make a habit of going back and posting something for a previo Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/3.5 StarsAre you looking for a book with a plotline a little something like this???? If so, House of Leaves might be right up your alley.The simple synopsis (and the only one you're going to get from me) is this is the story of Will, Karen, and their dream home, told through various narrators. I read House of Leaves before I started "writing" (a/k/a imaging) reviews. I don't make a habit of going back and posting something for a previously read novel, but occasionally I make an exception. House of Leaves is a book that deserves a review - mainly to justify the 3.5 Star rating.To begin, reading this book is a daunting task. If anyone ever tries to tell you that House of Leaves was such an "easy read" you should immediately never talk to them again because they are huge liars. I'm not going to bullshit you. I mean, just look at a sample of what you're expected to wade through . . . Simple, right? Yeah, notsamuch. Looky here . . . Wait, it gets even worse better . . . The worst part is after all of the flipping and turning around of the book and wading through gazillions of footnotes and endnotes and probably banging your head against the wall more than once, you might be like me and find yourself left feeling a bit unfulfilled (or find that you found half of the story to be worthy of 5 Stars while the other half ranked a 2.5, at best). However, I think House of Leaves is one of those books that EVERYONE should attempt and I wish it would pop up on more of those "100 Books to Read Before You Croak" lists. It's very rare that I have this type of reaction to a "scary" (kinda? sometimes???) story . . . But that house. Good godamighty that house!
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  • Maciek
    January 1, 1970
    Everything has been said but not everyone has said it yet. - Rep. Morris Udall at the 1988 Democratic convention I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality. - James Joyce in a reply reply for a request for a plan of Ulysses The thoroughly well-informed man--that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a Everything has been said but not everyone has said it yet. - Rep. Morris Udall at the 1988 Democratic convention I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality. - James Joyce in a reply reply for a request for a plan of Ulysses The thoroughly well-informed man--that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value. - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian GrayReading House of Leaves reminded me of an essay I've read by David Foster Wallace, who was quoting someone on the output of the ever prolific John Updike (may both rest in peace): "Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?". This is a reaction one might have when first exposed to House of Leaves (of course sans the "son of a bitch" part). This is Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel, and he devoted 10 years (that's like 10 whole years!) to write it - and like so many first novels it is full of what the author wanted to show off about his knowledge: House of Leaves is the book which will jump up to you and scream in your face, "look at me! Hey, would you look at me? Do you have an X number of hours to spare to decode me, boy?". Many might find that they do not wish to spare the hours required by this tome; to them the book issues a warning right at its beginning, stating that "this is not for you.". However, as we know such warnings are like catnip for curious cats - I mean, seriously, who would have stopped reading right there? Have we all forgotten about all these horror movies where protagonists go exactly where they should not go, ignoring all the warning sings, because they want to "check things out"? I see what you did there, House of Leaves. The story is this: A man named Will Navidson moves with his family into a new home on Ash Tree Lane, somewhere in Virginia (just next to West Virginia where they set all these hilbilly horror movies). Navidson, a recognized photographer (a documentarist of war) is accompanied by his wife, Karen - a former fashion model - and two children, Daisy and Chad. Some stress has been plaguing the family of the Navidsons, so they decide to change environment in hope of restoring family dynamics (Remember The Shining? Remember how it ended?). Only when they move in they discover that the house has changed: it appears bigger on the inside than the outside, by a fraction of an inch. But that's not it! Soon a mysterious new hallway appears. What does Navidson do? Take the kids and run out of this scary house like normal people do? No, of course they stay - I mean, if they didn't we wouldn't exactly have much to read about. Like a good horror protagonist, Navidson does exactly what the genre demands of him.He goes exploring. now, that can possibly go wrong...or can it?While this might not sound like the most original or compelling thing on the planet, you have to understand that House of Leaves is all about the execution as opposed to content. Althought the novel has everything and the kitchen sink in it, it's all about how these things are put together.See, House of Leaves is a narrative which does absolutely everything to be as unconventional as possible - the story of Navidson, his family and explorations of the house are not narrated by him or the traditional third person omniscient narrator - that would be much, much too simple. The narrative is reminiscent of a Russian matryoshka doll: all we know about Navidson comes from The Navidson Record, which is the name of the documentary film Navidson has made about the house, consisting of the tapes he filmed there. Now, since we are dealing with a recorded narrative, there must be somebody who put it together for us - and there is. We never get to see the actual Navidson Record - what we get is an academic analysis of it, made by a man named Zampano. Zampano did an impressive amount of research and created a definite analysis of The Navidson Record - analyzing every scene in great detail, offering every possible interpretation, and making footnotes, lots and lots and lots and lots of footnotes. Another reviewer called the amount of footnotes in this book "retarded" and I can't really disagree. Even footnotes have footnotes. So, this Zampano feller must be really proud of what possibly is his life's worh, right?Well, he can't really be - he's dead. What he wrote about The Navidson Record is discovered in his apartment by a man named Johnny Truant who was out of housing and out of luck, and with nothing better to do went to see the dead man's apartment. Here's the kicker - Truant knows that the decribed film cannot possibly exist, as he finds not even a mention of it anywhere outside Zampano's notes - and Zampano could not even see the film; he was "blind as a bat". Zampano himself described the Record in his analysis as having been classified as a hoax by most experts. Nevertheless, Johnny is drawn to Zampano's analysis and begins filling the blanks he left behind - a process which starts messing with his head (that and all the drugs he does). Johhny also inserts lenghty footnotes into the text, footnoting Zampano's footnotes and producing his own - many of which are unrelated to The Navidson Record (or are they?) and are concerned mostly with his cruising around L.A. and reminiscences of trips around the world, working junk jobs and sexual relations with at least a thousand hot babes. Now, although Johnny is the closest of what this book has to a protagonist, he is not the narrator either - the whole text has been put together by anonymous Editors, of whom we know nothing, and who claim to have never even seen or met Johnny - all matters concerning the text have been discussed via correspondence or in rare instances on the telephone. Thank God all of these at least have their own font!Can it get any better? Yes, it can. The important aspect of this novel is how the text is arranged on the page. Well, at least that's what we're supposed to think when we're reading it. At first the text appears like any other academic journal, but as it progresses...footnotes appear upside down, words are posed to reflect what's occuring in the narrative (you know, when someone climbs the text is in the upper portion of the page, when someone goes down it's in the lower portion, when there's little space it's all crammed up, when there's lots of space it's all spread out, etc, etc, etc.). And is House of Leaves the book which will make you use the mirror to decipher it? Oh yes. Oh yes, dear reader, you are holding that book.XKCD, a popular webcomic, does a pretty accurate impression of th structure of House of Leaves - with pancakes. Here's how it looks like.There is a fair amount of humor in House of Leaves. Danielewski really hams it up here: the whole book is a fictional analysis of a fictional document which is a fictional study of a fictional film. But that is not all. Danielewski hams it even further, making the only expert on the non-existent film blind (and dead), and gives the task of analyzing his work to the most unreliable of all characters, Johnny Truant, a Bret Easton Ellis-ish character whose junkie lifestyle is such that half the time he is not sure he is even there (get it? Truant?). The footnotes? Oh God, the footnotes. Footnotes in this book often have their own footnotes (often concerning material appearing hundreds of pages later) and are a giant sandbox for Danielewski to play in. Most of the material he cites...does not exist (is this even a surprise by now?) and he goes ham with being creative with that. The Feng Shui Guide to The Navidson Record is cited when describing the house's interior, and a dismissal of something as crap is quoted from an article titled..."Crap", from New Perspectives Quarterly. There's a ton of examples like these in the text, and I am completely sure that D's grocery list is there, too. He has his fun with those who read these scrupulously - at one point Zampano footnotes an abysmally long list of names, which goes on for absolutely forever...to which Johnny Truant supplies his own footnote and states that the list is entirely random and made just for the kick of it. At another point Zampano claims that the Weiner Brothers cut a whole sequence from the theatrical release of The Navidson Record because it was too self-referential...but don't worry, you'll get it in a DVD release! And this is in a book where half of it is a commentary on the other half. Near the end Johnny starts wondering that maybe he too does not exist, which drives the poor boy nuts - along with the readers. If there was a troll of the year award when this book was published, mr. D should definitely have won it. His aesthetic is that of excess; with all its immense superabundance of all things it is reminiscent of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films, especially the first one - GoldenEye - where Brosnan engages in an unforgettable tank chase through St. Petersburg, undoubtedly the finest moment in the Bond franchise and arguably one of the finest scenes in contemporary cinema. The moment where he hits that statue and drives with it on top of the tank alone made it worthy of at least two Oscars.Also, House of Leaves has a section with fake interviews with real people about The Navidson Record which is flat out funny and very well written, as the author manages to capture the personas of his interviewees: Hunter S. Thompson begins by stating that "it was a bad morning", Steve Wozniak is jolly and Stephen King wants to see the house. There's even America's most famous literature critic, Harold Bloom, who calls the interviewer "dear child" and quotes at lenght from his famous work The Anxiety of Influence (which is another joke inside a joke - Bloom's book is about the relationship poets have with their predecessors - it is a source of anxiety and troubles their originality - pretty spot on for a book which is a commentary on a commentary. More on it later).Some readers wrote that this is the scariest book that they have ever read. Comparisons have been made between House of Leaves and The Blair Witch Project. Remember that movie? It's the one with a group of students who get lost somewhere in the woods of Maryland and can't find a way out. Of course they are in the woods because they're investigating a local legend of the Blair Witch - so lots of creepy stuff happens in that forest. Blair Witch has singlehandedly resurrected the genre of film known as the "found footage" - the viewer knows that these students have disappeared in these woods, and all that has been found of them is this video. The studios spend millions promoting it with the emphasis on the thin barrier betweeen reality and fiction, making many people wonder - is it real or not? Blair Witch has essentially brough back such filmmaking into the mainstream, allowing for movies such as Paranormal Activity to achieve success and become franchises; it has also aged quite badly, as now most kids with camcorders and Adobe programs can essentially film if again. Film lots of woods; rustle the leaves a lot; wait for the night to fall and make some scary noises. Voila! You've got your own movie. This approach did breed some interesting offspring, such as the intriguing YouTube series Marble Hornets - creepy and addictive!House of Leaves takes the Blair Witch approach with the Navidson Record, but the constant footnotes and interruptions make it impossible to lose track of the fact that you're reading an analysis of an analysis of a film. It's like watching The Blair Witch Project with audio commentary, when the director and cast describe their experiences on set as the movie plays along. Imagine watching this suspenseful scene, where the heroine is all alone in a tent in these dark and creepy woods - at night - and she hears these creepy noises outside the tent which are getting nearer and nearer...and then you hear the crew speak: "so yeah, Hank was just running around this here tent to create the suspense, and then out of nowhere came this big moose which bit him right in the ass! Boy, you should have heard him yell. We had to cut the audio and redub it in the studio. Hank: yeah, I almost lost my balls." This is a pretty accurate feeling you get when you're reading House of Leaves - it never relaxes its grip on you, never fully allowing its reader to forget that they arereading and letting them start experiencing. You could say that Danielewski's is the biggest enemy of his own text: his analytical approach often kills the tension, as the reader is constantly aware that he/she is being toyed with. Many readers will feel that they are not experiencing the descent into madness; it's the writer who drives them mad with his big, if repetitive, bag of tricks. But then, he is doing it consciously, and it works; it detracts the reader from noticing his weaknesses - The Navidson Record is really a pretty blank mish-mash of horror influences: shades of Poe's classic tales; A Descent into the Maelström is the one which immediately comes to mind, and of course Lovecraft; the whole book screams his name. Of more contemporary authors and their works Shirley Jackson and Stephen King come to mind: The Haunting of Hill House and The Shining can be seen as possible influences, particularly the latter with its genius loci/troubled family theme, and is perhaps its most famous example. Zampano's analysis of The Navidson Record - which is an analysis of a nonexistent work - reminded me of Stanisław Lem's two volumes of similar topic. In Imaginary Magnitude (1973) he collected introductions for nonexistent books; A Perfect Vacuum (1971) is a collection of reviews and criticism of nonexistent works of literature. In Provocation (1984) and Library of the 21st Century (1986) are both collections of reviews of books which do not exist. Lovecraft (to whom this book oves an obviously great debt) invented whole universes and mythos, and Necronomicon is an account of their existence.Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut's famous satire quotes heavily from The Books of Bokonon, a sacred text of Bokononism. In The Blind Assasin, Margaret Atwood also employs a fictional text of the same name, which plays a crucial role. Jorge Luis Borges wrote of nonexistent works in his fiction: a good example is his short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. In 1988, Jerzy Kosinski wrote The Hermit of 69th Street, a fictional novel which is largely composed of quotations from real texts or utterances, all of which are sourced and credited to their respective authors - in no way a small feat, and it does make House of Leaves look a bit pale when you realize that mr. D is simply making up the vast majority of his referrences as he goes on.Johnny Truant is awfully like a Brat Pack protagonist, straight out of novels by Bret Ellis or Jay McInerey. Of all the women Johnny interacts with, Danielewski has to commit the biggest cliche and make him be most devoted to a stripper - a whore with the heart of gold. A lot of this novel can be seen as autobiographical - Danielewski traveled to Paris, therefore Johnny has lived in Paris and traveled around Europe; sources are quoted in German and not always translated, and also in Latin and other languages; one can only imagine what the author must have felt when he was discovering LitCrit 101 and browsing academic journals. And he does include all that he can possibly think of: at the end of the novel the reader will find poetry (most of which is pretty bland) which is claimed to have been written in various European cities (dates are given, too) and illustrations/photographs. At the very end, the reader discovers a section devoted to Johnny's mother - letters she sent him from a mental hospital, sort of a reversed Flowers for Algernon. The damn thing even has an index! Ona can imagine Danielewski sitting in his chair, back to the reader, petting his cat and laughing devilishly, hiding behind his post-modern armor. You thought it was funny? Well, you don't know my art. What, you didn't thought it was funny? Well, shame on you, you missed my joke! He has cornered all the corners. He holds all the guns in a Mexican standoff. He cannot lose; he always wins. He's the Steven Seagal of writers.Unlike Seagal's films (especially the latter ones), House of Leaves definitely shows the author's talent and devotion to the project. His sister also contributed - she's called Poe and her album is titled Haunted, drawing inspiration from this novel. Danielewski's work is opaque just enough; it's not translucent, making the reader see right through it, but allowing too see one's reflection; much of how this work will be read and understood depends on its reader, if not all of it. Some will see the most horrifying book of their lives; others will be bored; others will be genuinely interested, and some might even be fascinated. Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it even matter? Although House of Leaves does sound better than it actually is (but then what does not?) it still fulfills an important task: it provokes an emotional and intellectual response in the reader, making him think about literature, art, and life in general. Few of those who will read this book all the way through will be indifferent towards it. To talk about it, one has to expand and go beyond the book itself, towards one's outside knowledge and interests. Just like the book is not containted in itself, and is composed of quotations, other accounts and records. It is an excellent platform for discussion on influence, interpretation and meaning, and literary and structutal tradition. To think about what it means to track allusions in a novel. Literature as an art and history depends on us being able to do something with these allusions, have something to say about them - how we, as readers, make sense of them when we're looking at the evolution of the art form. This is why studies of literature consist also of historical and cultural studies, and students read from a historical range of works which represent major historical periods and movements, and have to learn, acknowledge and understand the literary tradition. Novels depend on novels written before them; this one is just a bit more virtuosic representation of this fact. And the funniest thing I left right for the end - because of its crazy layout the book is smaller on the inside than it appears from the outside. Get it? Hats off!Meanwhile, you can check out the nice and condensed version and analysis at the same time: Torching LeavesThis is a long review.I declare that I have oficially ran out of words that Goodrea----
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  • Nathan
    January 1, 1970
    One of the reviews I read of this book compared it positively (bewilderingly) to The Blair Witch Project. I agree, only I thought The Blair Witch project was primarily a ninety-minute gimmick, and not particularly engaging, at that. I should probably admit that I only made it 3/4ths of the way through House of Leaves before realizing that my skull appears larger from the inside than it does from outside. Every person I know who has a brain currently, previously, or aspires to one day have a brai One of the reviews I read of this book compared it positively (bewilderingly) to The Blair Witch Project. I agree, only I thought The Blair Witch project was primarily a ninety-minute gimmick, and not particularly engaging, at that. I should probably admit that I only made it 3/4ths of the way through House of Leaves before realizing that my skull appears larger from the inside than it does from outside. Every person I know who has a brain currently, previously, or aspires to one day have a brain, who has read this book, swears by it. Perhaps in the final 4th of the book the wizard was revealed, I just gave up too early, and everyone else was in on some giant joke I didn't get. Maybe I saw the previews too many times and all the tricks were spoiled. I should have seen it in the theater instead of on video. I dunno. I recognize that I am the only person in the world to feel this way, but I just plain did not like this book much. Pretentious garbage for people who want to like literature more than they actually like it.NC
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  • Dan Schwent
    January 1, 1970
    So, I liked House of Leaves but wouldn't call it great or brilliant. I liked the concept of a cache of papers found detailing a possibly ficticious film about a house with impossible dimensions and the maze of mind bogglingly large size in its closet. It was interesting but at its core it was a thin story propped up by gimmicks and pretentious nonsense. I understand that the informational footnotes were supposed to make it seem more real and the rambling narrator's footnotes were supposed to sho So, I liked House of Leaves but wouldn't call it great or brilliant. I liked the concept of a cache of papers found detailing a possibly ficticious film about a house with impossible dimensions and the maze of mind bogglingly large size in its closet. It was interesting but at its core it was a thin story propped up by gimmicks and pretentious nonsense. I understand that the informational footnotes were supposed to make it seem more real and the rambling narrator's footnotes were supposed to show his descent into madness while he compiled the work but the whole thing felt like the author was saying "Look at me! I'm ever so clever!" Strip away the gimmicks and you have a haunted house that's a little thin.
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    “Thus despite rational objections, technology’s failure is overrun by the onslaught of myth.” – pg. 335This quote that I have taken completely out of context is probably the best one sentence summary of this book that is possible within the fractured confines of human communication, thus I will resort to the grocery list format.‘House of Leaves’ is a masterpiece of metafiction, told in “documentary” style. I will attempt to unravel the layers of storytelling here, there are very possibly even mo “Thus despite rational objections, technology’s failure is overrun by the onslaught of myth.” – pg. 335This quote that I have taken completely out of context is probably the best one sentence summary of this book that is possible within the fractured confines of human communication, thus I will resort to the grocery list format.‘House of Leaves’ is a masterpiece of metafiction, told in “documentary” style. I will attempt to unravel the layers of storytelling here, there are very possibly even more than these. I am reminded of a chain-smoking Economics professor who always began solving some god-awful equation with the words “Watch me go…”.First layer: The house itself, as it is the centerpiece of the story and possibly a living entity. The house apparently has the ability to reconfigure itself. One feels rather than hears a roar sweep through the house and suddenly a dark hallway stands where there was previously a wall. Hmm…not so weird, maybe…earthquakes, termites…walls sometimes disappear…this sort of thing happens. That is until the hallway is explored and it is realized that it extends beyond the physical dimensions of the house. Second layer: The Navidson family. They have taken up residence in the house and Will Navidson, patriarch and professional photographer, begins to document the weirdness using photographs and videotape. This evidence finds its way onto the Internet and the endless public speculation begins. Third layer: Zampano. An old, blind guy who begins collecting various researched fragments of “the house on Ash Tree Lane” for a possible book on the subject. These fragments make up the first draft of the book that I am currently reviewing.Fourth layer: Johnny Truant. After Zampano’s death, a fellow by the name of Lude moves into his vacated apartment and is about to trash the fragments before being stopped by his buddy Johnny. Johnny takes the fragments home, gets slightly obsessed, and begins editing them into what is to become the printed version of ‘House of Leaves’. As a personal aside, to be such drugged-out messes, damn Lude and Johnny are popular with the ladies…Phew…still with me? Obviously anyone who is turned off by anything that is not a straight forward narrative novel with traditional plotlines and character development should probably go ahead and hit the “back” button on their browser now. We won’t think any less of you…The four layers of the story begin to interweave with the whole like a DNA strand, or like snakes knocking boots…or something. While the character development differs from that of the traditional narrative, Danielewski tells the reader all of the info that is required to make these folks come out of the page and walk around the room by themselves. This is often done through unorthodox methods, such as reprints of psychological studies, but it proves effective. What is almost as amazing as the book itself is the peripheral mythology that seems to have sprung up around this book. When I first started reading ‘House of Leaves’, more than one GR buddy passed along interesting stories surrounding other readers explorations into this book. These include such things as mild anxiety until the book no longer resided at the reader’s domicile, the compulsion to stay up for two days straight without sleep until the book had been completed, and even dropping out of society and wondering the desert for a couple of weeks after completing the book. Wow. The only things that I have to report were a couple of creeped out moments late at night and the fact that this book will probably be swirling around in my head for quite some time. Perhaps that’s how it starts, and I’m about to experience an involuntary desert getaway in the next few days…So why the strong reaction by certain readers to this book? When I think of other off-kilter books I don’t remember hearing anything about them causing dramatic changes in the behavior of a reader post-book. Did anyone intentionally smash up their car after reading Ballard’s ‘Crash’? Did anyone start using heroin after Burroughs' ‘Naked Lunch’? OK, that last one probably did happen, but that guy was already on academic probation and we all saw it coming. Here are a few still percolating thoughts on why this book produces such a strong reaction.1) Separation of fact and fiction: ‘House of Leaves’ is presented as a fully researched factual document. It is safe to assume that all of the citations are fabricated (heyyyy…I thought that I invented that trick back in college…), but occasionally a familiar name shows up such as Derrida, Borges, or even Camille Paglia. Is it better to assume that someone named Esther Newhost never actually penned “Music as Place in The Navidson Record” in 1996, or should we go to the library and have a meltdown when we possibly find it? 2) The reader is made aware of the frailties of the reader: The information contained in this book is so vast, a reader would have to have post-Master’s degree levels of knowledge in architecture, art, history, and several other topics to fully comprehend everything that is being described in order to make a rational separation of fact vs. fiction.3) Footnotes: Personally, I run into issues with books that have copious amounts of footnotes. Do you stop and read the footnote at each point that it is inserted in the main text? Do you read all of them at the end of the page and try to remember what they referred to in the main text? Hell, I still have no clue. When the footnotes span across multiple pages, I’m really in big trouble then. While many of the footnotes in this book refer to the citations mentioned above, others are notes that are inserted by Johnny Truant. These notes allow for his personal story to really stretch out and breathe.4) Typographic hijinks: At least two different fonts were used within this book. Things get really weird during the explorations through the house. Paragraphs start to shift in different directions, and sometimes single sentences are spread out over multiple pages. While I was both intrigued and aggravated by this at various times, I can think of at least one instance where the effect was amazing. Damn, I hope the typesetter was paid very well for this book. …snoitces niatrec rof ydnah rorrim a evah: tnih a s’ereHEssentially, all of these add up to knocking a reader’s mind off of the well-worn path that it has been trained to settle into while reading since early childhood. As the neurons start to misfire, new ways of reading start to emerge and these open up the possibilities for that over the top emotional reaction.Read this book. It will make your brain anatomy like bad ass truck.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    It is difficult for me to coherently and succinctly express my overwhelming hatred for this book - not just dislike, but absolute, overpowering disgust - but the sheer thought that people continue to naively read this and somehow leave with the impression they had just completed a masterpiece was too haunting, too shocking for me to continue sitting passively. To read House of Leaves is to witness a microcosm of the downfall of society: any semblance of truth and meaning is abandoned and replace It is difficult for me to coherently and succinctly express my overwhelming hatred for this book - not just dislike, but absolute, overpowering disgust - but the sheer thought that people continue to naively read this and somehow leave with the impression they had just completed a masterpiece was too haunting, too shocking for me to continue sitting passively. To read House of Leaves is to witness a microcosm of the downfall of society: any semblance of truth and meaning is abandoned and replaced with monotonous, faux-intellectual nonsense; pathetic attempts at literary pyrotechnics become no more impressive than watching one's reflection in a funhouse mirror. The plot, at first glance, seems intriguing: a family moves into a house only to discover a room that defies all rules of logic; it seems to expand infinitely, and untold horrors lie within. This in itself could be a fascinating book - not necessarily a literary masterpiece, but at least an entertaining diversion. Instead of taking a straightforward approach, however, Danielewski chooses to tell the story in a dry, academic style, in which the aforementioned plot appears in a Blair Witch-esque film and a long essay is written about it, then wrap that underwhelming story in not one, but two superfluous narratives. The opening narrative is the tale of Johnny Truant, a misanthrope who lives a rather unremarkable life and exists mostly to try and convince you of the novel's terrifying qualities: he goes on and on about how encountering the essay altered his life forever. In the meantime he does drugs and has sexual experiences that are probably supposed to come off as shocking and provocative, but are instead sort of pathetic - his descriptions of some woman's deft hands entering his anus and stimulating his prostate are laughable, not only due to the over-the-top writing but also to show how ultimately bland Danielewski is in what he perceives to be edgy or different.All the different narratives exist in footnotes, and oftentimes Danielewski adds wholly unnecessary footnotes purely to engage in some self-indulgent "trick", akin to a kindergartener doing a cartwheel: the first letter of each footnote will spell out his name, the last letter of each footnote will spell out his name, etc. They are in no way integral to the plot and serve more as some disturbing exhibitionist trick to show how clever he is rather than to perform a legitimate literary function. The pages on which Danielewski tries to "experiment" with typographic formatting really prove nothing new whatsoever; his attempts at innovation were probably more likely a sad scheme at attempting to convince naive readers to his brilliance. There is nothing in the novel that has not been touched upon before in works like William Gass's The Tunnel and even Sterne's Tristam Shandy. The section in the middle of the novel during which the pages are segmented in four look intriguing until it becomes clear that two of those segments are dedicated to a) a list of documentaries that adds nothing to the novel and b) a list of directors of aforementioned documentaries that adds nothing to novel... except for, of course, another chance for Danielewski to show us how great he is at spelling his name. On other pages he only includes a few words per page or cramps the text into a corner in order to create a sense of agoraphobia or claustrophobia, but it serves no real purpose. A true good writer would be able to weave in these experimental elements while maintaining an actual ability to write well, but here, Danielewski leans on them entirely. Instead of enhancing his points, they are his sole means of achieving what he wants to say. What Danielewski has created is no literary masterpiece, merely a laughable attempt at disguising his dry and unexciting writing into something else entirely, which has been contorted beyond any enjoyable means by its creator's own self-indulgence.I'll conclude on a lighter note: a good novel should have intercourse with its reader. Especially in a lengthy novel, like this one, authors should be aware that readers are making long term relationship with their novels, and should be reassured that this long term relationship is a worthy one. Had Danielewski executed House of Leaves properly, it would have been a nice quickie - not necessarily memorable by any means, but at least enjoyable. By taking the approach he did, Danielewski created what could be the most unpleasant long term relationship imaginable. This novel never has the decency to suck you in, enrapture you - it would be as though a lover's only sexual contact with you were to sit in front of you and masturbate while forbidding you to do anything similar, then, right before finishing, zipping up and declaring he wasn't in the mood. That's what this novel is: a disturbing masturbatory narcissistic ode to one's reflection without any meaning or resolution, without anything worth saying. I have witnessed people praising this novel as the future of literature, as the next step of the evolution of the novel. The thought of a hack writer like Danielewski receiving such praise fills me with an unshakable nausea, and I have - I kid you not - prayed that this novels cult following is actually an elaborate inside joke meant only to drive those not "in" on it - like myself - insane. But if those who praise this novel are serious, this will be the death of art. This will be the death of truth and meaning. If people legitimately believe this is where literature is going? If people believe the "innovations" present here are worth their time, that a daring writer need do nothing more than find a creative way to spell his name, to obfuscate his narrative beyond recognition and do so in such a manner that drains it of any meaning or capability to be enjoyed?I fear for the future of humanity.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    An Academic Analysis of "House of Leaves" by Mark DanielewskiThis book, written in 2000, makes it onto many notable 'must read horror' lists [1 - Publisher’s Weekly Reading Scared, 2010, ranker.com List of Scariest Novels 2015, Guardian’s Holy Shit, did I just read that? 2006) and has been on my TBR for many moons, and what better time to read said genre but October?There are those who tout the brilliant ambitions of this 700-something page tome [2 - Wil Wheaton, Goodreads review 2012, "Hipsters An Academic Analysis of "House of Leaves" by Mark DanielewskiThis book, written in 2000, makes it onto many notable 'must read horror' lists [1 - Publisher’s Weekly Reading Scared, 2010, ranker.com List of Scariest Novels 2015, Guardian’s Holy Shit, did I just read that? 2006) and has been on my TBR for many moons, and what better time to read said genre but October?There are those who tout the brilliant ambitions of this 700-something page tome [2 - Wil Wheaton, Goodreads review 2012, "Hipsters, Hipsters, Everywhere", pages 127-211, 2011] in which a family inhabits a house that spontaneously develops hallways and closets, and loses them too, resulting in madness and death. However, I, like Dr. Sigmund Fizzlewizzle who denounces it as "a bunch of malarky" [3 - in the opening of his world famous speech at Reykjavik in 1999, known cosily in academic circles as He’s Had Enough and He’s Not Taking it Any More] found it too bizarre, too pretentious and too overly laden with footnotes to care. Whenever I was drawn into the story within a story within a story, I was doused with a 50 page pseudo-academic rambling, which had the same effect as a "monstrous bucket of ice water on a tiny little struggling flame" [4 - Chapter 7, "Ways to Ruin Your Novel" by I. P. Knightly, 2001]. At one point, there is a section that is written in code, solvable for the diligent reader if they take the time to note every first letter of each word, but I really couldn’t be arsed to figure THAT one out. However, Danielewski gives readers permission to read his book as they see fit: "The way I figure it, if there’s something you find irksome - go ahead and skip it. I couldn’t care less how you read any of this.” [5 - somewhere in the pages of "House of Leaves"] Alrighty then. So, with his permission, I did start to skip, especially the parts that were crossed out, blanked out because of "fire damage" to the text, or parts where any 's' is replaced with an 'f' (actually, that was kind of funny).This book gets major points for "incessant, dogged originality" [6 - "Grade School Teachers Almanac - Ways to Stay Positive", page 3, 1995] and also "moments of breakneck writing" [7 - "Too Fast, Too Furious", intro, Nupart Jhunisdakazcriddle, 1994], requiring "a hell of a lot of work" [8 - "Reading should be FUN", John Updike, 1962], as well as an amusing reference to Donna Tartt that made me smile…. but ultimately "failed in every way to inspire horror" [9 - see: this review] in this reader.
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  • JSou
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this last night. At about 1:30 in the morning. Honestly, I have no idea how to even begin a review for this book. I kind of have the same panicky feeling I had when people would see me reading and ask what this book was about. I started blurting out incomplete sentences and even stammering all the while. I knew there was no way I could convey the brilliance of this book in just a couple light-conversational sentences. I think that might be the same case here, so my apologies in advanc I finished this last night. At about 1:30 in the morning. Honestly, I have no idea how to even begin a review for this book. I kind of have the same panicky feeling I had when people would see me reading and ask what this book was about. I started blurting out incomplete sentences and even stammering all the while. I knew there was no way I could convey the brilliance of this book in just a couple light-conversational sentences. I think that might be the same case here, so my apologies in advance. Okay, I've been sitting here for awhile trying to get my thoughts together, and I realized I'll have to get the book out and go over the insane amount of notes I took while reading this to make any sense. And while I've gotten pretty good at pretending to work while I'm actually playing around on Goodreads, I'm not that good...yet. I think I went through an entire thing of Post-Its, that are now sticking out of the book every which way covered with crazy quotes and questions. (Here, I'll sneak a pic for a visual aid) I don't think I've ever gotten so involved in a story before. Frantically taking notes, decoding a 3 page letter, and getting out of bed at midnight last night to play a sequence of notes on the piano...it really made me identify with Johnny's obsession. This book really isn't one of those supernatural/gory/monster horror novels, but more of a oh-my-god-I'm-losing-my-mind horror, which to me is one of the scariest things of all.
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  • Mona
    January 1, 1970
    A Long, Strange TripTable Showing Reward/Effort Ratio for Some “Difficult” and Long Novels (Some, not all, Postmodern)Weird Book“House of Leaves” is one weird book. And I’ve read many a strange book, but this one is up there with some of the strangest.It’s technically a novel, but cross bred with a lot of other genres. I'm also at a disadvantage because I'm reviewing the book nearly two weeks after I've read it (I don't like to do this, because my memory of details is usually best right after re A Long, Strange TripTable Showing Reward/Effort Ratio for Some “Difficult” and Long Novels (Some, not all, Postmodern)Weird Book“House of Leaves” is one weird book. And I’ve read many a strange book, but this one is up there with some of the strangest.It’s technically a novel, but cross bred with a lot of other genres. I'm also at a disadvantage because I'm reviewing the book nearly two weeks after I've read it (I don't like to do this, because my memory of details is usually best right after reading a novel). But I had no choice as my computer was out of commission for nearly a month.Read Physical BookUnusally for me, I read the actual physical book (via the wonders of inter-library loan). There are no audio versions and I couldn't find a digital one. Besides, with all the visual stuff here---blank pages, upside down type, collages, illustrations, etc., this is clearly a book where you need to see it in front of you "in the flesh". Mixed MediaTo get some idea about "House of Leaves", cross Hunter Thompson’s stuff (say, “Hell’s Angels” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) with “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Blair Witch Project”, throw in a few psychoanalytic journals for good measure, Marshall McLuhan ("the medium is the message"), a bunch of literary criticism, a few diaries/stories from different viewpoints, some strange poetry, including a bunch of poetry concrete (Poetry Concrete Wiki), a grainy documentary film, an epistolary novel consisting of a bunch of letters; a number of lists, lots of footnotes, and various collages, photos, artworks and illustrations, and you might begin to get a feel for it.MetaOh, it’s very meta. There are lots of layers of meta. You have Johnny Truant’s comments/footnotes (and parenthetically his story, which is told in his footnotes) on Zampano’s book about Will Navidson’s film, “The Navidson Report”. There are also the occasional (and sometimes exasperated) comments by the editor on Truant’s work.In addition, there are the comments (mostly in Zampano's footnotes) of various academics, shrinks, and critics pertaining to "The Navidson Report".What Some Have ThoughtThere is also a partial transcript of the film made by Karen Green, Navidson’s partner, entitled “What Some Have Thought”. This film includes interviews with various folks, such as a psychiatrist, a structural engineer, a computer scientist, Camille Paglia, the feminist critic, novelists Anne Rice and Stephen King, critic Harold Bloom, Steve Wozniak, Jacques Derrida, Hunter Thompson himself :), etc. These are quite humorous at times. (And I'm not sure if all of these people actually exist, although most do). Everyone hits on poor Karen (she is an ex fashion model), including Paglia. Bloom comes across pretentious, the shrink ends with "More importantly Karen, what does it mean to you?" King says, "You didn't make this up, did you?" and so forth.The House and The Navidson ReportThe tale at the heart of all of these layers is the story of the house owned by Karen Green in Virginia. This is the eponymous “House of Leaves” of the title. In an attempt to save their failing relationship, Karen, her partner, Pulitzer prize winning photographer, Will Navidson, and their two children, Chad and Daisy, move into the house. But the house, which has a mind of its own, starts exhibiting all kinds of weird behavior, including the appearance and disappearance. of various bizarre rooms, hallways, and staircases. Navidson enlists the help of some others, including Billy Reston, a buddy who is a disabled professor of engineering in a wheelchair; Tom Navidson, his estranged twin brother; Holloway Roberts, an experienced explorer, along with two of Holloway's employees, Kirby “Wax” Hook and Jed Leeder. When Holloway’s small party runs into trouble after a week exploring the interior of the house, Navidson mounts a rescue mission which includes himself, his brother, and Billy Reston, with Karen assisting at the radios. There are a number of deaths, near deaths, and injuries in this entire process. Meanwhile, Will Navidson films the entire thing, resulting in the film, “The Navidson Report”. ZampanoMeanwhile, the one-named Zampano, a blind old man, who lives in a tiny squalid apartment in L.A., dies. It’s unclear whether Zampano’s death was entirely natural. Johnny Truant, who at the time works at a tattoo shop, discovers in Zampano’s apartment, Zampano’s life work: a book about Navidson’s film, “The Navidson Record”. Johnny TruantJohnny Truant becomes obsessed with piecing together the sections of the book in a coherent way, translating various segments that are in foreign languages, etc. Johnny Truant’s copious footnotes also contain his own story, which is quite complicated and includes a father--Donnie-- killed in a trucking accident when Truant was a child and a mother who’s been institutionalized for years at the Attic Whalestoe Institute. (One of the book's many appendices, II.E, contain "The Three Attic Whalestoe Institute Letters" written to Johnny by his mother, Pelafina Heather Lievre. Pelafina idolizes Johnny and elevates him to god-like status). Johnny's obsession with Zampano’s book slowly takes over Johnny’s life. The fear engendered by the whole thing seeps into Johnny rendering him paranoid and agoraphobic, unable to even leave his apartment to go to work. (He loses his job, of course). Johnny becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator as his mental health deteriorates. (He even wonders--not without reason--if he's inherited his mother's mental illness). Although most of his observations seem realistic, there are those here and there, which are questionable (including the notes on Zampano's stuff which "Ed."--the editor, presumably, irritably flags as inaccurate or dubious. Some of these lapses are inadvertently humorous, as when Johnny--in footnote 162 on page 127, makes fun of Zampano's ironic comment on Holloway leaving Jed to care for the wounded Wax. Zampano calls this, "Une solution politique honorable". Johnny's comment entirely misses Zampano's irony, as well as the fact that Europeans are typically fluent in multiple languages. Johnny's footnote laments, ' "An honorable political solution"--and as usual, pretentious as all fuck. Why French? Why not English. It also doesn't make much sense. Nothing about Holloway's choice or Jed's request seems even remotely political'. Another example are footnotes 242 through 244 on page 252. Truant says Zampano's got the wrong verse from Genesis, then the editor says that Truant has also got the wrong verse! The book is filled with these layers of commentary upon commentary, much of it ironic or making fun of academia .) There is also the whole tedious list of Johnny's sexual exploits and one night stands, which I began to wonder if Johnny had made up entirely, until he reports that one of his lovers, Heather (interesting correspondance to his mother's name) was on the radio talking about him, although of course he could have made this up too. There's a whole episode in the footnotes where he goes and stays with doctor friends who nurse him back to health, and then claims he has no such friends (and then contradicts himself about this later). Johnny repudiates the Zampano book project, and even leaves LA to hit the road, but the book seems to have taken on a life of its own.Curiosities and Unanswered QuestionsThere are all kinds of curiosities and unanswered questions. Why is there a groove in the floor where Zampano died? Why did Zampano cross out all of his multiple references to the Minotaur? (Presumably Karen's House is the Labyrinth, but who or what is the Minotaur?) Is Zampano Johnny Truant's father (as he claims somewhere) or is this just metaphorical? Is Johnny a fictional invention of Zampano (seems unlikely, but who knows?) On the other hand, did Johnny invent Zampano (entirely possible). In any case there is an uncanny resemblance between the two. The Pelican poems in Appendix II.B (presumably written when Johnny was touring Europe with only a Pelican pen in his pocket, well before he even met Zampano) bear a curious resemblance to Zampano's writings. TheoriesThere are all kinds of theories out there. Some claim Zampano is Navidson (I doubt this) or that Pelafina wrote "House of Leaves" (I doubt this too). Female CharactersOne reviewer calls the book pretentious and misogynistic. It is true that the female characters are not the greatest. Most are male sexual fantasies rather than actual characters. (Makes me appreciate Seveneves all the more, for its rarity, three dimensional female characters written by a male author). The best female character is Karen. She is, of course, a beautiful ex-fashion model. She is also crippled by anxiety and depression and utterly dependent on Navidson. She does grow stronger towards the end of the book, when she creates her own films and becomes more independent. The other women are the lunatic (although also highly intelligent) Pelafina (Johnny's mother), and various whores, strippers, and promiscuous one night stands of Johnny or his buddy Lude (sounds like "Lewd" but aso sounds like "Lude" as in the drug Quaaluude or Methaqualone, a muscle relaxant). There are also Zampano's multiple female care givers and readers, many of whom become Johnny's one time sexual partners. ConclusionI could go on and on about this book (many have). It probably needs multiple readings and many have written essays, dissertations, or even books about it.But I'll be (relatively) brief. It's fascinating and enigmatic and definitely worth at least one read, if not more.
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  • Wayne Barrett
    January 1, 1970
    My first introduction to House of Leaves was a list of top Horror books in which, along with a few others, I promptly added to my trusty cell phone book list. On my next trip to the book store I came across the book and, as is my habit, I carried it, along with an armload of others, to a nearby chair and started to skim my selections.When I got to House of Leaves I skimmed through the pages and immediately thought, Oh, hell no..If you haven't already, skim through the book the next time you see My first introduction to House of Leaves was a list of top Horror books in which, along with a few others, I promptly added to my trusty cell phone book list. On my next trip to the book store I came across the book and, as is my habit, I carried it, along with an armload of others, to a nearby chair and started to skim my selections.When I got to House of Leaves I skimmed through the pages and immediately thought, Oh, hell no..If you haven't already, skim through the book the next time you see it and you'll understand my reaction. Well, you know the old cliche about curiosity killing the cat. It seemed like every time I went to the book store I would run into House of Leaves and it was like coming upon an accident and telling yourself you are not going to slow down and look but are unable to help yourself. I started checking out reviews again and finally decided I had to read it. And now that I have, I am reminded of another cliche I often see on Goodreads. "What the Fuck did I just read?"I am reminded of the movie, Blair Witch Project, for the reason that, like the movie, House of Leaves is presented as an actual cache of writings that has been discovered and released in a book form. Sorry if I burst any bubbles but the story is a work of fiction; a very jumbled, mind fucking, yet entertaining, work of fiction. Actually, for someone like me who would probably be diagnosed with ADD, someone who reads 10 pages of 1 book, then switches and reads 20 pages from another, then watches 15 minutes of one of my multitude of recorded DVR shows, then scrolls through Goodreads, then reads... ohh, look, a quarter! What was I saying? Oh, yeah, House of Leaves. Well, it turns out because of the way the book is formatted, it was a perfect read for me... well, almost perfect... considering I had to stand on my head several times to read the damn thing. And now that I think about it, I should have just turned the damn book upside down! It would have saved me a kink in my neck. There were times when I had to read it side to side, upside down, diagonal, and inside out. And further help to the ADD in ME was the fact that this was a story within a story with footnotes within footnotes. (I'm enjoying this review, and no folks, I'm not on acid... not yet.)The heart of the overall story is about a house that... well, I don't want to give away too much, but it just ain't right. There are some moments that make the book being a great horror, understandable. And other than the family who owns the house and live through an experience that would twist the the most stable of minds, there is another dark hallway of mystery concerning a young man who found the manuscript in a truck hidden away in an apartment he rented. On the outside, House of Leaves is intimidating in its mass, but considering there are pages after pages within that contain a single word or sentence, the book is really not nearly as massive as it seems. For a book that brought a O, hell no. reaction from me when I first encountered it, I now think that in time I would like to read it again. Now that I have seen the madness, the twists, and know the story, I would be interested to give it another go. I'm not going to bother recommending this book to anyone. Take what I have said with a grain of salt, and make your own decision whether to want to dive in to this one. And remember, you can just turn the book upside down... you don't have to stand on your head.
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  • MJ Nicholls
    January 1, 1970
    Everyone’s favourite stovepipe-hatted feline-loving formal innovator arrived in 2000AD with this quiet little novella starring Stretchy Font Man, Captain Kerning and Bendy Page Gurl. Since then he has published a version of Finnegans Wake you have to “drive” and a book of blank space. I read the whole thing minus the last 30pp or so of the ‘Whalestoe Letters’—a tedious ripoffering from ‘Diary of a Madman’ with the typography Gogol would have used had he been granted access to Doubleday’s photoco Everyone’s favourite stovepipe-hatted feline-loving formal innovator arrived in 2000AD with this quiet little novella starring Stretchy Font Man, Captain Kerning and Bendy Page Gurl. Since then he has published a version of Finnegans Wake you have to “drive” and a book of blank space. I read the whole thing minus the last 30pp or so of the ‘Whalestoe Letters’—a tedious ripoffering from ‘Diary of a Madman’ with the typography Gogol would have used had he been granted access to Doubleday’s photocopiers—and was mildly impressed. I couldn’t resist seeing how Zorro had used his visual effects to service the story, and certainly, these page-bending moments are responsible for the most powerful moments in the text. Otherwise, the excessive footnotes and cute metacommentaries from Truant are tolerable, but since they only serve to buffer the horror story, it all seems a glorious waste of time—a costly, risky, showy, noisy, messy, sticky waste of time, unlikely to blow the minds of ages sixteen and up. Four stars until I hit the yawny appendix material . . . overstays its welcome, so slips down to three.*Previously: The “Getting Even” ReviewDear _____I received last week a letter refusing representation by your agency, based on the excerpt of my novel Dennis & the Dictaphone. Permit me to explain some of the intricacies of my work in case my intentions were unclear. Firstly, this is an “audiovisual novel”—portions of the text are dictated to the reader (left blank on the page), while other portions are dictated by the reader, forcing the reader to complete various sections for his/herself (using their own pens or computers). The audio effect would be achieved by the inclusion of small audiophonic devices in the text (as in birthday cards, etc). Also, with each book a free Dictaphone would be issued, containing another novel co-written by five anonymous writers and read by five anonymous actors. The reader’s task is to trace which portions of the novel are written by myself and therefore form an extension of D&tD—the second half has been left blank for this purpose. It is so also unclear from the excerpt I sent that, from p400 onward, most of this novel is written in anagrams, forcing the reader to rearrange the words to decrypt their meanings in the original Greek. I also want to make clear the intricacies in the typography of my novel. Every letter Y after page 67 should flash yellow, every letter V should turn from purple to black. I also want to achieve a “lava lamp” effect on page 628, where a kaleidoscope of colours moves across the text in an ocular swirl. This is achievable with some strategic backlighting on the preceding page. I have received written encouragements from both Jeremy Irons and David Markson (the latter made when he was alive) to publish this text, so I believe it expedient on your side to take another look at the MS. Let’s see if we can make this work.Respectfully,Mark “Zorro” Danielewski
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  • Raeleen Lemay
    January 1, 1970
    Oh wow. I will write up a review when I have a chance to sleep on this.
  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I’m sitting here trying to review this book, and I’m coming up with nothing. I’ve been thinking about it off and on all day. At this point I’m tempted to just link to Tadpole’s excellent review and call it a day, but I really feel as though I should say something. After all, I loved this book, and I’ve never read anything like it. It’s a heavily annotated version of a heavily annotated version of a “factual” record about a family who moves into a house in Virginia where something isn’t quite rig I’m sitting here trying to review this book, and I’m coming up with nothing. I’ve been thinking about it off and on all day. At this point I’m tempted to just link to Tadpole’s excellent review and call it a day, but I really feel as though I should say something. After all, I loved this book, and I’ve never read anything like it. It’s a heavily annotated version of a heavily annotated version of a “factual” record about a family who moves into a house in Virginia where something isn’t quite right. For some reason, the house expands and contracts, but only on the inside.***three hours later***Christ. My review is going to suck. If you want to read a good review, click here:http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....If you want to read my review, please continue.When I first started reading House of Leaves, I had nightmares of being trapped inside of creepy houses. I thought if the dreams kept up I would have to stop reading the book, but they stopped after two nights.I don’t know about you, Goodreader, but when I was a kid, movies about possessed houses or haunted houses scared me shitless. My grandmother used to knit these beautiful multi-colored blankets, and I’d toss them over my head and watch scary movies through the holes. I'd watch all manner of horror movies, but the house movies scared me the most. I guess because of all places, we're supposed to feel safe in our homes.***one hour later***Does anyone know what I’m talking about when I say the silence was loud? It’s when your surroundings are so damn quiet it almost sounds like white noise. You can’t hear any cars going by, any people talking or walking, any animals or insects. You strain to hear anything, but all you can hear is the silence.Anyway, that’s what I felt like when I’d read this labyrinthine novel late into the night. I’d get creeped the hell out and scared to walk down the hall to go to the bathroom (TMI, sorry). I’d be afraid to sleep because I didn’t want the house dreams to return.The creep factor is even higher when a lot of the book is left up to the reader’s imagination, which it was. For much of the novel, you know there was a house, and you know something terrible happened in the house, but you don’t find out what it was right away.***half an hour later***Let’s just say it is rare that I react out loud to a book. I did with this one. I gasped a couple of times and said “Oh my god” a couple of times. Many times I suddenly became aware I was clutching the book.I can’t write any more other than to say this book was amazing and my review isn’t doing it the justice it deserves. I promise I’ll write a better one when I return from my sojourn in the Gobi Desert.
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