The class blog for a section of Literature and the Contemporary, a literature and writing class offered at the University of Pittsburgh.
While I was sitting at my desk at work on the phone, my friend and co-worker looked over the cubicle wall that we share, seen our book, and asked if I had ever read House of Leaves before. When I shook my head and asked why, he stated that that book will forever change my notion of perception and will just blow my mind away. He reminisced that every time he walks pass a door or a closet, he still wonders what’s just behind that door. After going through the first reading, I have to say that I’m in whole hearted agreement. This book is one of the most unique books that I had ever read. It is like a cross between Paranormal Activity and Amityville Horror and at the same time, nothing like them. It is like a book, within a book, within a book on acid, wrapped in an encyclopedia like guide through the insanity. It’s crazy. I also like how our previous readings echo (like the story of Echo and Narcissus) throughout the story as well. You have homages to Beowulf on page 21 and 30 and also our recent text on Borges on page 42. On page 21, the narrator talks about someone eventually challenging the house like Beowulf challenged Grendel, “It is no great coincidence then that eventually someone with a camera and a zest for the dangerous would show up at this Mead Hall and confront the terror at the door.” Also in reference to the numerous failed attempts to slaughter Grendel, on page 30 it describes the failure to solve the mystery of the ¼”, “No matter how hard he tries—and Navidson tries six consecutive times in six consecutive segments—he cannot slaughter that tiny sliver of space.” So is that to reference rest on the Sabbath (the 7th day)? Finally we see the text from Truant on page 42 providing a, what I think is a very good synopsis of the difference of Menard’s Quixote and Cervantes’ Quixote.
This novel was unlike any that i have ever read before, and it took me a bit in order to figure out that the editors/footnoters were in fact characters conjured by danielewski. After reading the assigned pages I even tried to look up the films which are described throughout the texts, but while i found homemade renditions, it was to no avail. And i admit i was disappointed, for while truants character seems the least believable, the Navidson story almost seems like a true research essay, even though im pretty sure most if not all of the cited journals are fake. Anyway, a major theme in the novel is color, blue being the most obvious. Every house is blue, regardless of whether it is included in a compound word (ex: whorehouse, pg 13). And while every text house is blue, blue is written throughout the text many times. Such examples include (but are not limited to) 45: blue cave/care in the sky, 49: blue little patio, 52: out of the blue/blue sweatshirt, 54: blue streak, 58: blue hand mirror, 88: blue eyes...etc. I'm unsure as to exactly what blue is supposed to represent as of yet, but I'm sure it will unfold in the remaining text. My theory currently is that it has something to do with power. unknown power, an entity, or a madness perhaps. I take this from the letters to johnny in appendix 2 when she speaks of her dreaming of him as a blue water god (592) and then when a blue X appears over the director (625). In addition, when truant speaks of the girl's blue eyes on 88, he speaks of them as "inhuman" and especially about the inhumanness of the house, maybe it has something to do with such things. Secondly purple is another color word. it appears when truant spills the inks in the tattoo parlor, his mothers nails when she strangles him, and when his mother asks for a suitcase(70, 630, 640) however she doesnt ask for a "purple" suitcase, she asks for a lilac, amethyst or heliotrope one, which are all basically the same purple. Again, i have a theory that maybe purple has something to do with a grander theme, but right now my guess it has more to do with johnnys mother than with something concerning the navidson family because it hasn't appeared (to me) in that story.Another thing that i noticed in this novel was mentions to previous texts we had read in class, mentions of "Mead Halls" and old English is referring to beowulf (21, 595) and to Borges stories of Quixote & Pierre Mengard (42). There seem to be other allusions, but to ones I have not read the texts of and therefore cannot connect with. I'm sure some appear in mrs lievre's french, latin, spanish, or whatever languages she's using. As for the editors, truant first struck me as unreal on page 27. maybe i should have realized before then, maybe i have too much hope & trust in honesty. never the less when he wrote "should of" instead of "should have" i knew he was not a real commentator. who would publish someone who was not grammatically correct unless it was purposeful. this changed my whole view of the story and then i realized the little side notes that truant were incorporating were not only trying to expand on the story but to also tell their own stories. i think danielewski does this in order to make the original story seem more real, the whole three story combination more real, and to get through to the reader these different messages (such as that one through the colors) that could otherwise not be accomplished without the backdrop.
This should definitely be an interesting read. The word that best describes how I felt reading the first 96+ pages is Uncomfortable. the swift changes between stories/POVs/characters was hard to get used to at first and at first left me uneasy. I wasn't even entirely sure if I was reading the novel correctly.I couldn't help but think back to several of the Borges' readings as I maneuvered through this reading. Borges' mentioned the idea of a "labyrinth" in many of stories, and that was the first thing that came to mind. Danielewski's use of imagery is amazing and I found the infiniteness of the hallway & the terror from the unknown felt by Navidson to be nerve wracking. Also the reference to texts, scholars, and essays that do not exist in The Navidson Record is similar to Borges' style of writing ficitious "scholarly" articles. The endnotes & references helped to give some degree of "believability" to the story as well as provide insight into characters & situations. i.e. Karen's childhood & battle with chronic anxiety and claustrophobia.
I really enjoyed this weeks reading of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I thought that just from the very beginning it was an interesting, compelling, and a thought prevoking novel. Also, I found that this book could have never endning lessons tied around it and with it: Meaning, that the constant footnotes (to other books, thoughts, or definetions) seemed to allow for so much more to be learned alongside or after the story. Moreover, I enjoyed just the overall style of writiing: I prefered Traunts more relaxed style over the Navidson Record (the writing of Zampano). At first, when Traunt inturupted the Navidson Record, a few pages in(when talking about the hot water and a shower),I thought that his story to the girls and Lude in the bar was just completely pointless and I became a little frustrated. But then, I realized that the Novel House of Leaves could be easliy related to this idea of planning to take a hot shower: you expect something (like hot water or a certain moral of a story), but you do not recieve it. So therefore, when I thought that there was no point of the story I came to realize something more. A meaning - a cold meaning.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski was very creepy book to read in general.I thought it was especially creepy in that every house in word were all in blue throughout the book, but made me to focus more to the story. I think a lot of the elements in the book related to many elements of Borges' fiction, Garden of Forking Path. For example, little footnotes throughout the reading reminded me of an incomplete book in Garden of Forking Path, and the whole book in general was like a big maze, which reminded me of the labyrinth that Tsun's ancestor wanted to establish before he died. Also talking about the Navidson Record in an scholarly essay in general reminded me of Borges writing as well.
This week’s reading was very original. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book put together like this. Still, the most resounding thing that occurred to me was that the family was having all these problems with the house, so why didn’t they just move it. The way I see it, Navidson and Karen would still be together and the kids would not have been neglected. Having said that, I think that Karen is certifiably crazy. I hate her character. She just seems so annoying. She wants this domestic life yet she is unfaithful to her husband multiple times and threatens to leave him every time he does something she doesn’t like. I like to strangle people like that for fun…My second point is a bit more constructive. I can see a very stark parallel between Navidson and Truant. Both Navidson and Truant are adventurers in different ways. Though I can’t explain why Truant reacts to Zampano’s writings as he does. The only thing I can think of is there is a connection between Navidson and Truant to the point where Truant feels all of the upsetting things that Navidson does. There individual experiences with, for lack of a better term, insanity is very similar. This is part of Truant’s narration, “Only this time as you start to exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it’s gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?”(27) Now here is part of Navidson’s reaction when explores the room, “Navidson swiftly turns around. Much to his horror, he can no longer see the arch let alone the wall. He was walked beyond the range of his light…Obviously he is afraid. And then quite abruptly he steps to the right through a low passageway and discovers…a tiny silhouette standing in the doorway, tugging her daddy home with a cry.”(68) Both these experiences seem to be hallucinations. Truant’s is obviously one because he tells us as much and Navidson’s vision is cleared with the appearance of Daisy. I would suggest that as Navidson becomes more obsessed with the room, Truant becomes unstable. Truant instability might be explained by his past but I think the better connection is his involvement with Zampano’s work. Reading a story should not make you so upset that you physically lash out and have violent hallucination. In general throughout the whole reading I was trying to figure out what the room was. I guess that is everyone’s reaction but the things that happened did not scare me. Rather, I was trying to come up with a logical explanation as to why those things were happening. I think it will be very interesting to read the next part.
As I read House of Leaves I realized that this was different from any book that I had ever read. Throughout the book there are many footnotes. Some of these footnotes even have footnotes for themselves. This is very interesting and confusing at the same time. One of the more confusing aspects of this book is that some of the footnotes reference books that do not exist. Im not sure why an author would reference imaginary books but this is present in House of Leaves.
House of Leaves is not a standard novel in that it the format and structure are unique. It has unusual page layouts and styles, making it a different read. One thing that stands out is that it contains a lot of different footnotes and some pages containing only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to show the events in the story. This reading can be compared to Borge's fictional writing and being very abstract. The central narrative of House of Leaves is concerned with the unknowable and its effect upon society.
In House of Leaves one of the story lines that intrigued me the most, besides the main plot, was that of Karen and Navidson's relationship. Although the book states that they are both equally happy not being legally married, it seems that there is always a sense of jealousy and worry between the two of them. The most explicit example of Navidson's jealousy is seen on page 83 when Holloway touches Karen while talking to her. It is interesting to see how even though their relationship seems to be falling apart (which just so happens to be the main reason for the move to Virginia in the first place) the aspects of a new relationship are evident, such as jealousy and the intensity of their love when they aren't fighting.Also the significance of the color blue throughout this novel has yet to come clear for me. I have noticed at various times throughout the novel Danielewski goes out of his way to describe some objects as blue (i.e. the mirror that Karen looked into every day as a teenager), along with the way the word house is in blue ink any time it appears in the novel. I'm interested to see if this is explored later in the novel.
When reading House of Leaves it was hard for me to get my bearings. There seem to be multiple plots going on within the larger context of an overarching story about loss of sanity. It reminded me a lot of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Like this story there are many footnotes that can go on for pages and are stories in of themselves. I can already see the connection to Borge’s Ficciones in that this story is much like a labyrinth that must be deciphered. Much as I enjoyed decrypting Wallace’s 1079 page epic I look forward to seeing how this novel unwinds. The unconventional style in which this book is written makes it a very ambitious undertaking for Mark Z. Danielewski and places him among the ranks of these two famous authors.
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House of Leaves has the feel of different people sort of attempting to weave webs, which left me unable to gain a level of comfort with any one narrative. In addition, it is setup in an unconventional way, with the page layouts varying. The footnotes which seem to be fictional in a similar way to what Borges does with regard to using quotes from "history" to display his personal viewpoints about Shakespeare. Also, I am fascinated at the way Truant's imagination causes him to lose his grip on reality. I think this is also similar to Borges, in that Truant chooses Zampano's version over what is going on around him.
This book is interesting and I am ready to delve into it and try and understand it. Although I'v ready 96 pages, I haven't quite totally wrapped my head around it however. The footnotes can be pages at a time and it is confusing to separate between the story and the footnotes. I also see that there is a connection with blue in this story, but I'm not quite sure what that connection is. Why doesn't this family move out? There is obviously some parallel universe or phantom or entity trying to tell this family something, we just have no clues as to what it is yet. The fact there we have met over 4 narrators all adding their own opinions into this story, it is hard to follow one and find the true main character. I can't wait to figure this story out and find out what happens at the end of the Navidson Record