Jake Thomas's Reviews > House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
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M_50x66
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Jun 23, 07

Recommended for: Ambitious enjoyment-seekers
Read in October, 2002

So there's a definite cult around this book, and I am one of the many who drank the Kool-Aide and never looked back.

Here's a little anecdote that speaks to the possibilities of this book:

I was an RA my junior and senior years of college. One year I had a good friend of mine living in my building, and upon one of her visits to my room I put The House of Leaves in her hand, telling her that she should read it. A couple of days later I was in my room, awake at some unholy hour due to my vampiric sleep schedule, and there's a knock at my door. As an RA this is a rather unsettling experience. On the other side of that door could be a drug overdose, suicide attempt, food poisoning or any other host of problems we're warned about as RAs. So tentatively I open the door and am relieved to find that it is not some horrific medical emergency, but simply my friend. Except my friend looks haggard. Her hair is unkempt, there are bags under her eyes and she is slouched forward, breaking her usually quite nice posture. In her hand is The House of Leaves. We stand there, silently measuring each other up, and then my friend rears back and throws the book at me, then walks away. Such behavior is not terribly unusual for this friend of mine, so I make a note to ask about this later and then go back to bed.

The next day I call up my friend and ask her what exactly was the deal. "I hadn't slept in two days," she said. "That damn book kept me awake. I couldn't finish it, I couldn't sleep with it in the room, I had to get rid of it. That book fucked me up." To this day she still can't bring herself to finish reading the book. And so.

The book has an amazing way of crawling beneath your skin and taking root. When I read it my sleep schedule, already astoundingly bad, became even more irregular and bizarro. I started looking at things differently. The world changed. Not in any big way, but there was a definite shift, and that's the way this book works. It comes at you sideways. People who just see it as a gimmick, in my opinion, are trying to hit the book straight on when you just have to give into it. It's like music, which isn't surprising seeing as how Mark Z. Danielewski's sister is the recording artist Poe, who came up with her album Haunted in tandem with Danielewski's writing of House of Leaves.

There are sections of this book I found so surprising and affecting that I had to put it down and give myself a minute to take in what I'd read and go over it in my mind. Every person I've ever met who has read this book has had something to say about it, something more personal than just "Oh yeah, I liked that," or "It's overhyped." There's a visceral reaction this book can elicit, and I find that fascinating.

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and she mentioned something David Mamet said once, something along the lines of "When you leave the theater wanting to discuss the play, that's a good play. When you leave the theater wanting to discuss your life and the world, that's art." I like that definition, and I think it applies to House of Leaves. Conversations about this book never stay on the book, they branch out into other areas and interests, they can't help but grow longer and deeper, not entirely unlike a five minute hallway.
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Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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Ostara wow, I must say I am quite intrigued after reading that review! It is now on my must read list, thank you!


Justine That's a really good way to describe this book, it does crawl under your skin.
And same with me, everyone I met who has read it has a personal story.


message 3: by Elf (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elf You hit the nail on the head with that review. I'm rereading it again for the second time (read it about 2 years ago) and again I'm captured by it. It's actually difficult to concentrate on my work and to see it sitting on the side of my desk just waiting for me to pick it up on break.


Kara Excellent description. I too could not put down the book for two days and I was haunted for weeks afterward...
I want to read it again, but I'm too chicken...


Cyrano Jake-
What a well-written and awesome review of House of Leaves. I see that it is your favorite book, which helps to explain your passion for it. It seems like you even wrote the review partially in the style of House of Leaves: descriptive, entrapping, and with nigh-impossible-to-trace quotes. Not that I spent much time looking for the Navidson Record (maybe), but I can't for the life of me find that David Mamet quote you mentioned. Could you help me with that?
::shrugs:: Either way, it's true.


message 6: by Manesha (new)

Manesha great review


Dave Yeah, I must be too mundane, because I never fell under the spell. Dammit.

Poe does completely rock, though.


message 8: by Arminzerella (new)

Arminzerella This book has been on my to-read list for a long time. I saw it while I was organizing our fiction section back when I worked at the bookstore. I can't even remember why I added it, but your review certainly adds to the intrigue. Smashing! :)


message 9: by Zee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zee I've read this book, and your review is bang-on. The example with your friend was also quite shocking too, as I also had a similar experience. At one point I threw the book across the room (not unsual for me either!) and did not pick it up for months after.

I guess it's a common experience :) Just give into it people, let yourself go... it's one hell of a ride!


message 10: by Lindsay (new) - added it

Lindsay Just bought the book from Amazon.ca on a friend's recommendation and I'm a little scared to read it now. I started to read just a few pages and lost all track of time, about 45 minutes.

This book could be the death of me.


Nekobeko I absolutely loved this book and I totally agree with how it effects you. I read it on the bus to and from work and on my breaks. I could rarely put it down. Yes it is a more than a little self indulgent but as a fan of typography, I loved all the crazy formatting appearing all over this book.

I usually read it while listening to the album Blue Notebooks by Max Richter. It seriously adds a whole new dimension to the book, especially where the exploration of the house is concerned. Now every time I hear that music I envision the house and feel a mix of curiosity and mild dread. But in a good way.


message 12: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike True. I'm working my way through you, watching a friends empty house. It makes me enter rooms differently, when I hear my voice reverberate off of walls whether it be laughter during a tv show, or me yelling after stubbing a toe, I get quiet. This book is messing with me, it is an experience. A well told, well crafted and incredibly enjoyable experience. And for that, I'm going to finish it.


message 13: by Shaun (new) - added it

Shaun Daniel It sounds so stupid to say it but it really does under your skin. I had nightmares that werent scary in the least but still terrified me. Some of the book was a bit of a chore (chapter on echoes) bit other then that it was amazing


message 14: by Meg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meg i had the same experience as your friend. this book gets inside of your head & fucks with you in no way i ever experienced before or since.


Shayna Very true! I couldn't be alone with my own shadow without feeling some awful presence. This book is a trip.


Alondra great review and hilarious. Thank You.


Keshav Joshi I must find this book,Great review by the way.


Amberlynne Crain This is an absoluetly fantastic description. Dead on!


message 19: by Carla (new) - added it

Carla Natali I have to read this one!


Ashley Great review. I had to put the book down at times; it just overwhelmed me. I find myself desperate to talk about it! Alas, no one I know has read it. My copy is riddled with dog eared pages and highlights. Which things are true? I need days with the footnotes and Google. An unhealthy obsession, to be sure, but your review explains it!


message 21: by Lancey5times (new) - added it

Lancey5times That review is worth a book deal


message 22: by Tany (new)

Tany I have the book! I can't wait to read it!! Great review btw :)


message 23: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea Botero this is the best review I've read about a book...made me consider going halfway across my country to find it, if I have to...definitely a must-read, then.


message 24: by Lexisp123 (new)

Lexisp123 I'm thinking about reading this book, I've heard a lot of great things about it, but I was wondering, is it a ghost story?


message 25: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Amazing review. I ordered it. I can't wait for it to come. I wish their was a reading group doing this book!


Susan I was lol about your friend you gave the book to. I told my husband it was like being on an acid trip while you are straight...-and then wish you were so it would make sense. It was a step into the darker side of Sears. Loved it and found it fascinating. Loved your review.


Cenhner Scott To all of you: thank you. I was feeling a little weird because, you know, this book really fucks with your mind. And I thought I was the only one, and I felt a little like Johnny... But knowing that it has the same effect in a lot of people, that's a relief.


message 28: by Madeleine (new) - added it

Madeleine I just wanted to say, thank you for this review. I've gotten so sick of the "reviews" on this site which are nothing more than someone recounting the events of a book step by step (except for the very end, because that would be a spoiler, of course). I want to know what you felt after reading the book, how it affected you -- or failed to. Thank you for actually writing a review instead of a damned summary!


message 29: by Organicearthful (new)

Organicearthful If you got yourself arrested and taken to guantanamo bay i'm sure that would get under your skin skin too, still that's no reason to do it. There's literature and there's fooling around with the medium in such a way that it's very difficult to access or work out what's going on. While there might be moments of clarity, just because there's lots unfocused, creating an air of mystery and abstractness, does that mean it actually has something to say,or are you just filling in the gaps amongst the authors meandering stream of consciousness.


message 30: by Organicearthful (new)

Organicearthful If you got yourself arrested and taken to guantanamo bay i'm sure that would get under your skin skin too, still that's no reason to do it. There's literature and there's fooling around with the medium in such a way that it's very difficult to access or work out what's going on. While there might be moments of clarity, just because there's lots unfocused, creating an air of mystery and abstractness, does that mean it actually has something to say,or are you just filling in the gaps amongst the authors meandering stream of consciousness.


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