Saturday, April 16, 2011

Freedom of the reader

The passage on page 42 Danielewski quotes Miguel de Cervantes from his work in Don Quixote. He provides us with two passages that seemingly look to be identical. Dealing to interpretation has been a common theme we, as the readers, have dealt with when reading House of Leaves. Danielewski has allowed for us to realize we cannot always live off the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” On page 42 we see this style again with Danielewski. He does as Borges using two exactly the same passages calling a different meaning.

When I was reading the passage on page 42 I found myself rereading and rereading trying to find a distinction I could put my finger on of the two passages. After the two passages Johnny’s reaction seemed similar to mine. He chose to attack the phrase “exquisite variation,” wondering how two quotes that can be exactly the same and yet be described as a variation. I believe the variation Danielewski is finding is in the interpretation. Finding a variation in what the passages will mean to someone can vary.

In a footnote on page 42 you read, “Suffice it to say Menard’s nuances are so fine they are nearly undetectable, though talk with the Framer and you will immediately see how haunted they are by sorrow, accusation and sarcasm.” Then on page 94 Borges says, after writing the same passages as Danielewski, “Historical truth, for Menard, is not “what happened;” it is what we believe happened.” Are Menard nuances are fine in a way he is simple minded? I found it interesting when Danielewski capitalized the word Framer, as if that is a name. A comparison of Menard and the Framer, from a believable person in Menard, yet a Framer who is described on a level on different ends of the spectrum. Described as being filled with sorrow, accusation and sarcasm. I found a framer in three words is describing mostly all people. Sorrow and sarcasm are interesting to describe an individual, sadness and grief but also irony and mocking. My interpretation of the two identical passages in House of Leaves is similar to the description of the Framer. When searching for a meaning of the two passages, I believe it’s the delivery in which the passage is given.

Following the two passages Johnny gives an interesting reaction that I felt I could relate too. His first attack on “exquisite variation,” he seems angry. The feeling of frustration with finding a distinction between the two seems to come over him. After a quick fight for a meaning, he seems to search for his discrepancy. “I just kept reading both pieces over and over again, trying to detect at least one differing accent or letter, wanting to detect at least one differing accent or letter, getting desperate in that pursuit, only to repeatedly discover perfect similitude, though how can that be, right?” says Johnny in describing his frustrations of differing the two exact passages. Through this entire paragraph like we have seen before in Johnny, the same sentence separated only by commas, is the one sentence. In this quote in particular Johnny seems to have a similar feeling of the description of the Framer. You seem at the beginning anger and frustration than into this quote I felt a sense of sorrow from Johnny. He seems disappointed and grieving that his search for a meaning is merely impossible. Yet he, in the same sentence, changes his train of thought and goes into the other end of the spectrum into sarcasm.

In Johnny’s testimony to the passages from both Miguel de Cervantes and Pierre Menard that both are identical but search for distinction he is frustrated and bothered. In the style of Danielewski he shows Johnny’s feelings in the illustration of run-on sentences. The entire paragraph is one sentence. In this style you find it similar to the time Johnny is on ecstasy. From his reaction the drugs and his loss of control of the situation Danielewski shows his emotions through the use of this style. The entire two pages once he is on the drugs is one sentence. I believe Danielewski is trying to rely the emotions Johnny is feeling through his style and use of commas.

In conclusion finding a meaning of two exactly identical passages being different. As a reader interpretation is up to you, this is the freedom of being a reader. Although sometimes confusing and difficult it is up to the reader to find what it means to them. Ill go back to my original opinion of these two identical passages not to “judge a book by its cover.”

1 comment:

  1. I liked this. I have mixed feelings about some of the details of your choices, but there are several positive things I'd like to point out.

    1) Your discussion of your empathy for Johnny's feelings was interesting. Maybe you didn't do enough with it, but the reader having the same problem as Johnny, and thinking a little like him, is a good area for exploration in the novel.

    2) I was very happy to see someone (that is, you) talking about "The Framer"; it's an odd and mysterious line, which people tend to dodge rather than engaging with it. I like your reading of "The Framer" as being connected to all of us a lot, even though it's never been my reading.

    3) Many people go the route of saying that these "different" passages are about interpretation. That's cheap and obvious in isolation - it's when you deal with the details that it isn't.

    What could have made this better is if you'd spent some time (as you were supposed to ) applying these interpretations directly to another passage. Also, like Johnny, you have a bit of a problem with running on and with repetition here - successfully moving on to talking about another passage, not just about repeating yourself, would have pushed this from a promising start into an excellent essay.