The class blog for a section of Literature and the Contemporary, a literature and writing class offered at the University of Pittsburgh.
In this week’s reading, I found parallels to the discussion from last class to what the house represents. During the last class, I had made the comment that it house was cold and dark as it represented death. In this week’s reading, more specifically on pg. 319, there was a footnote that the word ‘grave’ not only appears multiple times throughout the book in reference to the house and the feeling that this brings on people, but that also Zampanò uses the word ‘grave’ multiple times as well. I also found it interesting that it was described as a sensory deprivation tank in which “deprived of light (impenetrable darkness), change in temperature (always cold), and any sense of time (nothing to reference time change---no windows, no clocks), the individual begins to create his own sensory, d depenng on the duration of his stay begins to project more and more of  personality on those bare walls and vacant always” (pg. 330). Also, as an aside, the whole burnt spots between words([…]) was really annoying and made it that much more difficult to follow along with the psychiatric analysis of Dr. Tobe.
Again in this chapter I noticed a lot of color again, and I found it interesting that the only time it is mentioned (at least in a literal sense) has been in reference to John's mother, when she would color words in her letters to him (380). From 325 and the surrounding pages where John describes his relationship with Raymond, it is clear that black is used to define fear. This would make sense in the context of the house, but again, will probably make more sense as the book progresses. I also realized this time that Karen's last name is green...and according to 415 green is like open/safety which fits for her cause of her claustrophobia.12 was also a number referenced a bit in relation to the 12 candles johnny has, 12 numbered paragraphs, or the 12 parts of holloways tape (altho there is a 13th but its labeled "last" instead of 13th).It is interesting how little attention is paid to the children throughout these events. The drawings of both children are clearly disturbed, and the teacher could've called for someone, anyone, to come check up on the children to make sure that they were alright.. Then later on theyre left for months by their father and then by their mother. Its a wonder that they havent gotten physically hurt yet. Its also surprisingly scary to watch (or read about) John's spiral of madness. What does he really expect to shoot with his new gun anyway? And I'm not really sure why he is getting so worked up about this, I mean none of us are having nightmares about the house, even in the beginning when i thought it was real i wasnt too scared. It is really hitting him, and I cant understand why. Why he can't actually keep his job at work, and then when Thumper finally invites him over, he declines?
House of Leaves excerpt from Chapter XV:Zeno’s Arrow –“Hofstadter: [illustrating on a scrap of staff paper] Oh it’s very simple. If the arrow is here at A and the target is here at B, then in the course of getting to B the arrow must travel at least half that distance which I’ll call point C. Now in getting from C to B the arrow must travel half that distance, call that point D, and so on. Well the fun starts when you realize you can keep dividing up space forever, paring it down into smaller and smaller fraction until . . . well, the arrow reaches B.” (356)I found this snippet of information not only to be of an interesting quality, but also for the obvious appeal of its theme and idea of an alternative view of labyrinths given within this already elusive book. Furthermore, this exact indication can be seen in the writings of, as I’m sure you all know, the Argentine writer – Jorge Luis Borges. Supportively, in Borges’ short story: Death and the Compass.Collected Fictions excerpt from Death and the Compass:Lonnrot’s “Greek Labyrinth” –“”I know of one Greek labyrinth which is a single straight line. Along that line so many philosophers have lost themselves that a mere detective might well do so, too. Scharlach, when in some other incarnation you hunt me, pretend to commit (or do commit) a crime at A, then a second crime at B. . . . then a third crime at C. . . . Wait for me afterwards at D. . . . Kill me at D as you now are going to kill me at Triste-le-Roy.” (156)Scharlach’s Reply –“The next time I kill you,' said Scharlach, 'I promise you that labyrinth, consisting of a single line which is invisible and unceasing.' He moved back a few steps. Then, very carefully, he fired." (156)I suppose it might just be me, but in the latter excerpt from Death and the Compass, I feel as unlike “Zeno’s Arrow”, it seems that they are indeed talking about, at first I thought, a similar linear Labyrinth in Death and the Compass. However, as I went back to look at Lonnrot’s description, I found that in Zeno’s Arrow one is seemingly never able to be “killed” per say: Unlike in Death and the Compass, where one can be found, like Lonnrot, over and over again by Scharlach and infinitesimally killed.Wait! an epiphany -After rereading and proofreading my entry, I feel as if i have stumbled upon something more; a hidden or perhaps ingenious trickery of sorts. Lonnrot, with his Keene attention to detail, may have by Chance, or maybe non at all, tricked Scharlach into an upcoming and enduring quest to next search for Lonnrot on this "single line of his". Also, even though Scharlach adheres to this line as being one that is "unceasing", I feel as that given this challenge by Lonnrot, he will not be able to resist following demands because it is in his nature to chase and kill Lonnrot wherever he may be: He will endlessly be waiting at the end of the line - never to be killed again.I believe that is could be interesting or perhaps misunderstanding idea that I have stumbled upon: However, nevertheless – I suspect this topic could be one of consideration to discuss in class.
The idea from this reading that stood out to me the most was the brief discussion about how the hallway was both infinite and nothing at the same time. The discussion alone could be described as infinite itself. Some would argue that nothing is something, but the something is nothing. The argument would go on and on with no sight of an end.Something that I found disturbing was the exclusion of certain words by the use of XXXXXX or just brackets . I worried that I was missing out on important content or if Danielewski wanted us to just fill in what we thought would appropriate. Not necessarily for words only missing a one or two letters, but words and paragraphs that were omitted in entirety.Also, was the use of the word "gory" instead of "glory" on page 391 intentional, or caused by Navidson's drunken stupor?
The details of Holloway's history were especially profound to me. The way that Zampano incorporated his personal issues with how he acted in the hallway (and throughout his life for that matter)and focused on the psychological reasons for Holloway's behavior was intriguing. This made me see a circular pattern start to happen with the way Holloway's life was turning out. Throughout this whole section the use of brackets and multiple X's was annoying when trying to read but I found myself filling in most of the bracketed spaces and sometimes the X's.The focuses on Karen's affairs seem to be brought up almost out of the blue but after reading the rest of the chapter you see how dependent she is on others; it is clear that she longs for companionship.It was also very interesting to read how Danielewski set up the multiple interpretations from those whom Karen sent the video of whether the house had an underlying meaning.
This reading brought forth a question I have been asking for a while. What happened to Daisy and Chad? There was such a focus on the weird happenings of the house that I feel the children fell through the cracks. I’ve already expressed my hate for Karen. I think she is immature and selfish. She let her poor children fall to the wayside as she becomes more and more consumed with her fear of the house. She says she wants to leave Navidson and yet she, it seemed to me, is psychologically dependent on him. She could not be a good mother if she left Navidson. She is too absorbed in anything but her children. I still do not understand why she didn’t just move out when she first thought about it. Instead she tried feng-sui. I think this is yet another example of her inability to make any big decisions that involves anyone but her. I just can’t understand her, or her dependency. If the neglect of her children is getting bad enough that Chad’s teacher is noticing, she needs to just get over herself. “In some respects, the distillate of crayon and color traced out by the hands of two children captures the awfulness at the heart of that house better than anything caught on film or tape, those shallow lines and imperfect shapes narrating the light seeping away from their lives.” (315) This quote shows another example of a characteristic of the house. It is dark and represents desolation. Both children show this through their artwork. They do not associate their house with the size or shape. Instead, they associate it with a black hole that sucks out happiness. From the children’s perspective, moving into the house caused their problems. They are alone and scared, with no support from either parent because of the house. The house virtually sucked all the love they had from their parents away. Therefore, their house is a black hole. Chad has even gone so far as to leave no white spots on the paper. This represents his hopelessness and I can’t help but feel very sad for the children.
The start of Chapter XVI really caught my attention with the way it lists the unnatural events that have occurred inside of the house, as well as the weird conditions, such as the fact that there is no light, humidity, air movement, sounds, or temperature change. This list illustrates the utter lack of normalcy in the house, and the blunt sort of presentation clarifies it. Along with the lines about the blackness of the walls, and the lack of windows it paints the picture of an abyss, and with only one of the three known dead bodies recovered it illustrates the hopelessness of it.Johnny continues to become even more disturbing, as he decides to not only purchase for himself a stainless steel Taurus 605 .357, but also a Weatherby 300 magnum, both on a credit card. It becomes all the more disturbing that he is purchasing these weapons when he is unable to buy the necessary prescription medication for his mental disorder. I though that this could be commentary fro Danielewski about our political system, where we spend money we don't have on defense, but are unable to find solutions regarding health care.
I am glad that Navidson and his family finally got out of the house. I was wondering when the house would finally start actually ruining their lives instead of just having the darkness and coldness centered only in the hallway. I thought that the insight into Holloway's life and psychological mind was interesting and I was glad we were able to see that character more in depth. We also see Johnnie more in depth with his personal footnotes that are once again pages long. He tells us about his beatings at home and he also tells us about how he agrees Zampanos story is becoming him. He says "without it I would perish" (326) admitting that the book has consumed his life and all he knows and does. He truly believes he would be nothing now without this story in his life.
Early on this story interested me because of the idea of not one unreliable narrator, but two. To me a large theme in this book is that there is no way to truly know what happened in the past. Danielewski shed doubt upon Zampano and Johnny early on and further removes us from what happened in the documentary. Zampano is, afterall, blind and could never have logically seen the movie in the first place. What’s interesting is that eventually we realize that it is not important whether Zampano or Johnny are actual people are not. Johnny comments on his own possible non-existence on page 326: …I’ve been covercome by the strangest feeling that I’ve gotten it all turned around.. A moment comes where suddenly everything seems impossibly far and confused, my sense of self derealized and depersonalized, the disorientation so severe that I actually believe… that this terrible sense of relatedness to Zampano’s work implies something that just can’t be, namely that this thing has created me; not me unto it, but now it unto me, where I am nothing more than the matter of some other voice, intruding thrugh the folds of what even now lies there agape, possessing me with histories I should never recognize as my own; inventing me, defining me, directing me until finally every association I can claim as my own… is relegated to nothing; forcing me to face the most terrible suspicion of all, that all of this has just been made up and what’s worse, not made up by me or even for that matter Zampano.” The irony of this passage is that we the reader are aware that this suspicion is true and that the person he suspects of creating him is really Mark Danielewski. The novels metacognition implies that it is not the specific events or who is telling them but rather what one takes from them.