Wednesday, April 13, 2011

House of Leaves, Pierre Menard, and Don Quixote

     One should interpret the passage discussed in class from House of Leaves as a way of using Pierre Menard to deliberate, analyze, and foster questions about three deliberate points:  Those being of – Interpretation, appropriation, and authorship.  From footnote 49, but more specifically a quote with in it, its repetition from Don Quixote has a point that becomes clear: In order for one to find the key to unraveling this concealment, all must not forget and also look to Borges’ Menard’s use of Cervantes.  Additionally, after further reading one could see relations begin to form and become clearer subsequently after discovering an uncanny collage that shouts of parallelisms between Borges and Danielewski.  Comprehensively however back to footnote 49, although in its somewhat duplication, one should interpret Mark Z. Danielewski’s use of Borges’ Cervantes as not trivial, but as something more and quite possibly one of the most important indications to unlocking the mystery behind the House of Leaves and many more works: With limitlessness, infinite and unfathomable numbers of denotations are encircled with each and every person.

     Interpretation:  Interestingly, can be seen as having its effects taught from the repetition and meaning behind Mark Z. Danielewski’s reference to the late Cervantes and his masterpiece Don Quixote within Borges and House of Leaves.  Feasibly, even by Chance, this upcoming passage has been rendered so similar that only the keenest of readers may be able to detect its subtleties; as Zampano implied.  Or rather, more probably, this is not likely to be the Chance at all because most, if not all individuals that will be reading this, will be unable to comprehend its intricacies and will inevitably windup merely reading it and rereading it – differently each time:  Even if it is the same exact text twice.  For example, not only do the words in the following quotation have meaning, but also in its duplication.

From Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote:

" . . . la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, émula del tiempo, depósito de las acciones, testigo de lo       pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir"

From Pierre Menard’s Quixote:

" . . . la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, émula del tiempo, depósito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir"

     From this rendition and interpretation, one can find the connection with appropriation:  The act of borrowing an element of another’s work in order to create ones own.   For example, as Pierre Menard did, with his “writing” or rather interpretation of Quixote.  From Pierre’s appropriation a link can also be made with the interpretation of Pierre’s duplication of the words because, although the same, it is somehow seen by him (Menard) as being richer than the original.  Meaning, that Pierre was, unlike others, not appropriating in the customary sense of using another’s work to create his own, but rather using the art of appropriation to develop Cervantes’ work to create or better yet enhance his own meaning.

      More intuitively in a different light, because Menard’s “work” is after the time of Cervantes, it is somehow and for some reason fuller in meaning and concept than that of Cervantes’.  Because, as it is implied, due to Cervantes time preceding Menard in history and more generally the world:  “Cervantes couldn’t see what Menard could see” – Menard is richer in meaning.  Additionally, and more importantly, does this interpretation of appropriation now mean that Danielewski’s use of the quote is even richer than Pierre’s? And in that, is mine now filled with the richest of meanings because I have post seated Danielewski by copying the phrases here on this blog?  But I suppose, by the time one reads this, as you are now, that you may in fact by then be the one with the richest interpretation and knowledge of all; reading this anecdote and deducing it for all its worth.

     Unfortunately, someone somewhere has just read it after you and you are no longer the richest one alive – sorry.  I suppose you and I will never be the richest creator of this duplication:  However, because history will repeat itself at some point in time – I then you will at some point have the richest interpretation of this passage and its meanings.

     Continuing with this theme of interpretation, instead of relating a certain passage from our infamous House of Leaves, I would like to challenge us all to find and interpret a way we can describe the photograph of collage #1 on page 582: That is, if we can interpret it the same way anyways? Unlikely, but we’ll try.  Within this collage you may see nothing more than that of a few pills here, a couple stamps there, or even perhaps the mysterious codes for the some questionable footnotes early on (k).  Nonetheless, each of us will be seeing something different and interpreting something else in our own way.  Meaning, that one may skip over or find trivial what another finds intriguing and all too meaningful:  For example, one may skip over the “repetition” of Pierre Menard’s “quote” of Don Quixote.  Meaningless?  I think not.  And with that being said, I challenge you to find and make a connection of sorts to something you have been exposed to in the recent past that you may just not realize yet . . . Think! Look at the collage . . . Times up.  If you gaze carefully enough, or perhaps to some just Look at all, you will find our dear friend Jorge Luis Borges Placed in the mix.  At first, or maybe always to some, this collage will be seen as a mess of unimportant belongings of useless junk with Borges just there by chance.  However, it is quite the contrary.  All of these possession, be it pills or the Ground Air Emergency Code used to denote footnotes; each has a meaning and purpose tied into one another.  An organized mess:  House of Leaves.  And perhaps as a joke, or maybe as a deeper w;t coupled with intuitive meaning, Mark Z. Danielewski’s placement of Borges’ picture into this collage seems to show, at least to me, that not all can be like Borges and See (not only Danielewski’s inspiration in the collage), Interpret, and on page 42 Create the hardest messages while still being simple and blind:  At least in Medical terms. . .

     Moving away from the idea of interpretation, one can now focus on the aspect and ideas of authorship brought around by Borges and Danielewski’s writings.  From Borges’ Pierre Menard’s use of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Danielewski’s Johnny’s use of Zampano’s House of Leaves we can not only see obvious possible correlation between levels of authorship, but also develop a question to how reliable these works are and who might have written/altered them.  We may never know for sure.  However, as we proceed to speak of authorship and its complexity, I believe that Johnny, thanks to Don Quixote, can now be seen as the Arab translator:  We, like from the story, believe and have seen similar characteristics that perhaps Johnny, like the Arab, wanted to or did omit (redline stricken paragraphs).  Enhancing this, the Arab, like Johnny, is seen as being “… prone to falsehoods…”  (Don Quixote).  Can they be trusted?  Additively, another parallelism can be seen between certain authors:  For example, the correspondence that Borges and Zampano are both blind. Interesting coincidence? I think not!

     Conclusively, it is apparent that from these three themes of Interpretation, appropriation, and authorship that these are merely tools in understanding that these stories deal with a great deal of the difficulty in the realm of relationship and meaning:  Not only in determining it, but also in creating it.  Danielewski and Borges are masters of interpreting the world around themselves:  For we will never know or see their world – we may only live vicariously through their limitless Creations.


  1. Luis,
    I thought your essay was well thought out, it provided very interesting arguments which were for the most part backed up succinctly, and overall was quite interesting, which to be quite honest with you, was mostly lacking in the papers that I have read before. Although your argument is convincing, one aspect that I would perhaps improve upon would be structure. Now I know that is a very un-Borgesian thing to request, and at times a non structured story would be appropriate for any stories that are being written with Borges in mind, but I think that if you are trying to prove your points of interpretation, appropriation, and authorship that you bounced around from interpretation to appropriation back to interpretation and then finally to authorship. But that was just me nitpicking because you really did (as you always do) a good job with your work and your insanely obsession with Chance.

  2. My negative comment is a development of one of Brandi's comments: this needs some structure. You have a range of worthwhile insights, some of them bordering on stunning, but you also have a casual, wordy tone, and you repeat yourself (not unlike Johnny, maybe); in the absence of clear signalling about where we are in an ongoing argument, it's easy to miss the best material, and too easy to pay attention to the merely repetitive material.

    Shifting your focus to the collage rather than the text was a fine idea, but to my mind you're not really interpreting it through Borges & Cervantes so much as pointing out that we *could* do so.

    The paragraph about the increasing wealth provided by layers of interpretation is absolutely great, but it needed more of a context. It's an idea worth pursuing (either in a serious or sarcastic way), but for it to work, you probably needed to illustrate the presumptive wealth (real or false) which you as a reader experience.

    The paragraph about Johnny as arabic translator also has great merit - but what does that do for us as a reader? It's a strong subject for an essay, but it's ok rather than great just as a passing thought, which is how it seems here.

    I think your three themes were too much to try to do in one relatively short essay; picking one, and streamlining it from a set of themes into a clear thesis, certainly could have helped here.