The class blog for a section of Literature and the Contemporary, a literature and writing class offered at the University of Pittsburgh.
From the very beginning, there is an eerie sense of danger: Arbitrary Morris code dots which seem to be leading to an inevitable and treacherous outcome. Also, I found myself asking at first, “What deeper meaning could Navidson, or shall I say Zampano, or rather Mark Z. Danielewski have in focusing in and filming on Billy Reston? Is there something more to what is already explained? I liked how Zampano wrote of Reston and how he views the house by saying he, “… does not seem confounded by its impossibilities or at all paralyzed by doubt.” (99) In context, from this, one could use the photo Will captured right before Reston was rendered paralyzed to help explain his unchallenged perseverance; never letting a thing such as doubt sway him. On another note, Footnote thirteen suggests, that without Navidson’s commentary, we the readers would be lost in translation about the meaning of the house; but is this true or even necessary given all the images? It seems that all his commentary may not be needed, but perhaps maybe his insight draws for something more and deserves time for a more meticulous look through. Going back to the arbitrary code, I feel a bit claustrophobic when reading these short phrases only to become interrupted in mid thought: However, perhaps its supposed to represent the “claustrophobic feeling” the others are feeling in the labyrinth? I also liked how the imagery of the knocking S.O.S. signals was increasingly eerie and not loud and pronounced; it gave a sense of unease – especially when they began to hear the knocks in every room: Again, is there a deeper meaning? Is the House signaling for help? We later find out and which I thought was ingenious, that it Navidson himself was also signaling this codes; using his sometime frantic and prolonged camera frames. Later on, I found it notable and fascinating that in chapter X, the great spaces and little information throughout most pages could be seen as very representative; be it from the still frames and moments captured or from just the overall vastness of the ventured place. Well done.
With week 2’s reading of House of Leaves, we are introduced to not just different fonts and the word ‘house’ that is always in blue like in Week 1’s reading, but we encounter the passages that Zampanò tried to erase from his notes that Johnny unearthed with ‘a little bit of turpentine and a good old magnifying glass’ (111). These passages were struck out and in red. When I read these passages, I wondered why Zampanò wanted these passages removed. Was there something important or was it just mundane in what was deleted? The first passage that was uncovered was the story of the labyrinth and the Minotaur. Was this a none too veiled reference to the house and the maze that was found behind the doorway? Or perhaps was it to represent the fact that maybe life is a maze that we are all trying to navigate and try to not get lost? But then I asked what it had to do with Zampanò? He never struck anything out of his story before now. Or did he? The notes that were found by Johnny were very messy, cluttered, and just everything was bound together. With this grouping, one would think that there was no editing, he was just gathering everything that he could and amassed his story (biographical tale?). But this was what Zampanò tried to white wash. Was it something that was personal? Zampanò’s notes after the Minotaur excerpt details his belief that the labyrinth was not built because King Minos’ son was a minotaur, but that he was deformed and the king was embarrassed by this (110). Did he feel that he himself was deformed? The play that he references is based on his (Zampanò) own article “Birth Defects in Knossos” (110) which ironically he references in the article “Violent Prejudice in Knossos” Was he perhaps projecting his own feelings of maybe his father or people in his life? Or maybe he himself feels that he was deformed from his blindness so he retreated to the story of the labyrinth of the house for solace and protection? He did say that he was “convinced Minos’ maze really serves as a trope for repression” (110). I also found it interesting that the next pages detail the ‘center’ of things (112-113). If the edit didn’t go through, the passages would be after the description of a labyrinth where the whole point of a maze is to get to the center. Is the answer at the center of the house? But without that passage, it is just a dry read about mazes. Zampanò also offers insights, sometimes winding and scattered like the maze itself into the house, with the next few passages he deletes. “Like the house, the film itself captures us and prohibits us at the same time it frees us, to wander, and so first misleads us, inevitably, drawing us from the us, thus, only in the end to lead us, necessarily, for where else could we have really gone?, back again to the us and hence back to ourselves” (114). “You alone must find the way. No one else can help you. Every way is different. And if you do lose yourself at least take solace in the absolute certainty that you will perish” (115). This is also footnoted with an ‘x’ which references the passages at the beginning of the chapter which details the hopelessness and feeling of being lost that the house provides, ”“Here is the toil of that house, and the inextricable wandering” Virgil. “The house difficult of exit” Ascensius. And “difficult to enter” Nicholas Trevet”. (107)” Finally, page 119 discusses Minos’ daughter offering a trail of string to help Theseus escape the maze. Does this mean that there is a chance of escape for the Navidsons and company from the house?
The way the text is arranged in X, XII, I felt as if i was being drawn deeper & deeper into the hallway. It is also interesting to read how Johnny's life is deteriorating as life inside the house is deteriorating as well. I guess it would be obvious to say that this parallelism exist due to the fact that Johnny is reading the Navidson Record.Another part that I found interesting was the story that Johnny told about the ship The Atrocity. As he described how one little ember, it came to mind that one minuscule thing can cause a massive problem if precautions are not taken (mopping the oil off the floor, etc)to prevent them. However, how is one to know that certain situations can combine and as a result cause an "atrocity"? Life is unpredictable, and it is really hard to make things go exactly as planned. This is also seen in The Navidson Record when Will, Reston, and Tom are making the ascent back into the living room. I'm sure none of the three men were expecting the stairwell to expanding well over 27,000 feet.
This book just keeps getting more confusing and disorienting, I think it’s cleverly done so as readers we too are disoriented. Another thing that disorients me is missing footnotes and latter footnotes then footnoted with a previous one. On 115 for example at the end of 139 is a footnote back to 135, and from there back to 129. Also on 115 there is an X at the end of footnote 140, but no X footnote…I’m not sure what this means other than further confusing/disorienting the reader. When the pages start to look like newspaper pages, I found it interesting that the blue boxes were backwards on the other side of the page, as if on glass. However, on page 140, the footnote surrounding the box on the front (182) is different than the one on the back that is supposed to be its like backside (which is footnote 183). This is true for pages 141 and 143 as well. 143 is peculiar because of the white expanse on the front, with the outline of the blue box && the back being text and the box is black. It actually scared me when I turned the page. For one, a reader is not expecting this, for two, it is a big square of blackness, and lastly it just feels like a window opened up into that house and something is either watching me through the darkness or going to come out. I’m assuming this is along the lines of whatever intentions Danielewski had for this page. To disorient/confuse and scare the reader, placing similar emotional states on the reader as the characters. Also, with the two sides of the page being different, there is an element of surprise and of deception that adds to the fear. We think we see a mirror but actually it’s another dimension type thing. I want to start out discussing the morse code, especially as it appears on 102 & 103. On 103 using morse visually displays the phone's busy signal and ring, the busy signal being the dot, the ring the dash. However, on 102 when there are dots/dashes depicting the phone the busy signal is the dash, the dot the ring. Also the pattern of this particular code is questionable. If kept as one "word" the dash,dash,dot,dot,dot is code for the number 7. Why would there be a 7 as a header? I cannot find any reference to it or use for it. If broken up, this pattern also could mean MS, GI, ZE, or TB. Again, I have no idea which of these (if any) would fit between Navidson's SOS clip and its analysis. I spent way too much time trying to figure out a pattern of the dots/dashes between the paragraphs, but found nothing. I’m sure there is something there though, I made each dot a dot and square a dash—nothing; I made each paragraph into a dot/dash depending on length (7 as the denominator), cut with the squares to form words—nothing; I took away the cuts by the squares—nothing. What am I missing?
2nd part (apparantly theres a max of 4 thousand something characters...whoops)Another symbol I noticed in this section was the word hand and its capitalization (261, 298 & 299) and misspelling (145 “haand”). On 299 specifically, “an angry Hand punching through bulkhead and hull, where a reciprocal nearly maternal Hand reaches up from the darkness below and drags all of them down, captain, deck hands…” and later on this page “an attempt to conceal the Hand that never set a word upon this page, or any page, nor ever was for that matter, no Hand at all, though I still know the message…” It is interesting that deck hands is lower cased though, so this Hand is more like an actual being than it is figuratively implying something (like blue house is, since it sits inside other words). Hand seems to refer to a force? On 261 it refers to Tom’s “Hand shadows.” I don’t know.On 131 when he shares his experience with a “ghost,” why does he call her voice a ghost? It was very clever how he explained the effect of hearing someone across the room, if I hadn’t experienced it myself I may have never known what he was talking about and just thought he meant a real ghost. But even after he clarifies it, he still refers to her as a ghost…why? She’s not. And Ghost is capitalized. I don’t understand the last two sentences referring to her: “Of course, ghostly voices don’t just have to rely exclusively on domed ceilings. They don’t even have to be just voices.”
Allow me to state the obvious. The formatting in this week’s reading was really odd. I liked that there were only some words on a page during the suspenseful rescue. It added to the feel of the story. Every time you turn the page, you have no idea what is going to happen, what is lurking behind a corner, who’d going to shoot you. I hated the other types of formatting such as the columns and the stuff that was written over. It was annoying and difficult to read. Something that I thought was very interesting was this quote; “In the future, readers of newspapers and magazines will probably view news pictures more as illustrations than as reportage, since they will be well aware that they can no longer distinguish between a genuine image and know that has been manipulated. Even if news photographers and editors resist the temptations of electronic manipulation, as they are likely to do, the credibility of all reproduced images will be diminished by a climate of reduced expectations. In short, photographs will not seem as real as they once did.” (Danielewski 141) I would say that this quote is one of the most important in this week’s reading, if not in the whole book. I say this because the essence of this quote has to deal with perception and perception is the main issue of this book. The quote is saying that people will no longer trust newspapers and magazine because they will assume editors have enhance the pictures for shock value. It doesn’t really matter if the photo really WAS enhanced. The only thing that matters is that people believe it has and therefore will not believe what they see in the picture is true. This same idea can be applied to the dilemma of the house. Each person believes something different about the house. Karen is frightened of it, Will is intrigued by it and Holloway wants to conquer it. For each of the people, the house seems to change its attributes to meet each person’s expectations. It makes itself small to accommodate Karen’s claustrophobia, makes itself just a little bigger to intrigue Will and makes itself unconquerable and vast for Holloway. This is why everyone is so upset about it. No one can understand why the house frightens Karen so much just as no one understands why Will is so obsessed. There is no way to explain it because it is your own perception and no one else can really understand it but you. As seen in the story, it drives a wedge between Will and Karen and it makes Holloway go crazy.
Although the first part of House of Leaves was confusing the second part only adds to the confusion. From page 119 on there are several pages that have boxes in the middle of them. This made it very difficult to read. Another interesting aspect was that there were parts that were written in red and then crossed out as if the book had been edited. The final interesting feature was that from pages 194 to 245 there are only words and short phrases. This leaves suspense for the reader but I also found it to be very annoying.
I have to say that I hated this week's reading. I was just too anxious and nervous to READ! I have to talk about the scariest part of the book (at least in my opinion. From page 194 to 238, each page only includes few words, or a single word. It was obviously very odd too look at in general without even reading. However, when I was reading that part, it added the intensity more and more. "All those doors/ behind/ the man/ are slamming shut/ one/ after/ another/ after/ another..." (Danielewski 216-224). I think this part of the book was the scariest part in the book because of the sound of flipping pages added the intensity of reading, plus the fact that there is only one word in each page. A pause when flipping each page felt like there was someone behind me, ready to kill me from the back. Also, the sound of turning each page reminded me of each leaves falling and I could see some connection with the title of the book like we discussed in class last week.
After the first reading assignment of House of Leaves it has been obvious style is a major factor into this book. Although the interesting style choices have made the reading and understanding quite difficult for me personally, it has helped me to critically understand Johnny on a different level. For example when Johnny is on ecstasy and the entire paragraph is one sentence. This shows the mood and way his mind was working. In the second reading assignment I began to notice something new in the style. There are certain blocked out segments in red with a line through them. On page 144 I found a red segment quite interesting. I found his claims in this paragraph was something he maybe didn't want to own up to or take responsibly for. To me this style reminded me of when a person is in a situation and thinks something but wont speak about their ideas. I found this to make the reading much more difficult. This was one of the many style changes in this reading assignment.
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For the second section of reading for the House of Leaves, the way the text is written provides for a more interesting read, as everyone else has commented about. I found the passage on the top of 109 to be very interesting and put things in perspective. As it states "However in order to consider how distances within the Navidson house are radically distorted, we must address the more complex ideation of convolution, interference, confusion, and even decentric ideas of design and construction. In other words the concept of a labyrinth." The house is constantly promising and forever confound to a changeless layout. As you read on the house appears to become more confusing and appears to leave the reader to take their own perspective. "The Navidson Record, we are involved in a labyrinth, meandering from one celluloid cell to the next trying to peek around the next edit in hopes of finding a solution, a centre, a sense of whole, only to discover another sequence, leading in a completely different direction...' (114). It seems to be a personal journey in which you are on a never ending exploration for what lies ahead.
This makes Borges seem simple. The formatting gives me a headache.From page 117 to about page 146 I can barely read with all of the insertions and upside down text and crossed out stuff, it made me feel as though I was dyslexic or something. It becomes a struggle again on page 170, with all of the one sentence per page. Its hard for me to gather any appreciation for The Navidson Record due to this choppiness. I get that they are trying to create an authentic feel, but the premise just seems off to me. Johnny's part was easily the most enjoyable thing for me in this weeks's reading. My favorite is the explicit sort of sex log he keeps for Lude on page 262-263. It really illustrates the kind of lifestyle Johnny and his friends live which makes it even more bizarre that he is going to such lengths to edit Zampano's work
I agree that the formatting of this book is confusing and the way that it is laid out leaves it very hard to focus on one aspect. I noticed that Johnny's life gets more confusing and hard just as the search in the hallway gets more confusing and hard. This is obviously for a reason and it is helpful that the two stories actually sort of match each other in terms of how they play out as time goes on. I also liked how this is the first time we really get to see who Tom is. There are pages and pages of his journal about who he is and how he feels in the tunnel. We also see why Karen wants to leave and take the kids with her which was foreshadowed in the first reading, but never explained why Navidson ends up alone.Crazier things start occurring in this 2nd reading like the disappearance of the Feng Shui items around the house, the disappearing of the supplies and neon markers in the hallway and the insanity that Holloway finds himself in. More questions start to arise, yet more information is given in this portion. We come closer to understanding the hallway and how it works and the house as well, yet we still really don't know what's going on. This portion of the reading was definitely more interesting the last.