Johannes's Reviews > House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
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's review
May 14, 08

it was amazing
bookshelves: literature

The house is larger on inside than on the outside. Impossible but true. At first it appears to be a difference of inches, but then the closet turns into a hallway and a labyrinth unfolds, the bowels of the house that Navidson dares to explore. Navidson makes a film, which Zampano analyzes in a lengthy series of notes, edited and published by Johnny Truant.

The book is the house and is also larger on the inside than on the outside. On the outside, it consists of some seven hundred pages (leaves) bound in sequence, with inks in patterns. Inside it contains a story in a story in a story: a documentary turned horror film, a dry pseudo-academic analysis, and a tale of a disaffected youth who finds a purpose. As the Navidsons explore the house, it responds to them and plays with their emotions. It is simultaneously intriguing and terrifying, mundane and absurd, evolving, almost living. As the reader explores the book, Danielewski plays with his/her emotions. House of Leaves is at various times sexually charged, boring, tense, pleasant, scary, subtle, vulgar, confusing and always changing. Nothing is reliable or stable.

Danielewski's writing is bizarre. If the book were any less than it is, I would describe the experimental style -- e.g. footnotes that span pages, sections of mirror image text, pages containing only one or two words -- as trite and affected. The word house appears always in blue. If you haven't, pick up the book and leaf through it (no pun intended) just to see the shape of the text. Somehow, though, Danielewski makes it work. Most of the time the strange typesetting adds to the intensity of the story.

Reading this book was an effort. It wasn't hard to make myself read: I was overwhelmed, I was obsessed, and I read constantly. It was an effort to suffer the emotional game the book plays with the reader; it was exhausting. I don't know if I'll ever read House of Leaves a second time: it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind.

- page 563, 2nd ed.

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