Ruby Tombstone [With A Vengeance]'s Reviews > House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
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's review
Aug 29, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: an-ill-wind-blows-no-minds, creepy-kooky-and-or-spooky, littry-fikshun, striking-design, favorites
Read from August 16 to September 22, 2012

Wow. Where do you even start with a book review of House of Leaves? I guess by pointing out that HoL is really more of "an experience" than "a book". And for once, that's not hyperbole.

Along with being a book-about-a-book-about-a-book-about-a-film-about-a-house, it uses its own typesetting as a story-telling device. It uses footnotes about footnotes to tell a parallel story, it includes references to be decoded or googled, there's a companion album by the author's sister, photographs and collages, coloured text and poetry, and more appendices than core content. This is an experimental novel in every aspect. As with most experiments, some work and some don't, but at the end of the day they're worthwhile exercises. As pretentious as some of the devices may seem at a glance, you really do notice a difference in the way you perceive the content.

One example of an experiment that works is the scene where (view spoiler) The way the text is printed running in all different directions, so that you actually have to turn the book around and around to read it, actually did add to the sense of disorientation.

But there were a couple of things that didn't work for me. Danielewski frequently interrupts his own momentum and suspense, which gets irritating at certain points. It seemed like every time I became engrossed, I was rudely pulled back out of it by a jarring word or an abrupt change of context. Mostly, that appears to be deliberate - a footnote that takes you somewhere else entirely - but sometimes it just seems.....sloppy. For example, there is a heart-stopping action sequence where the story is spread out to a single line of text stretching across each page. You find yourself flipping the pages faster and faster, trying to find out what happens next.....building momentum....... and suspense........until........ the word "muntin" appears at the end of a sentence. If you don't know what the word means, don't worry. Neither did I. I had to google it, to discover that it's the strip of wood between panes of a window. Not completely appropriate to describe a door, but it kind of made sense. Until you realise that throughout the book reference is made (and if you've read the book, you'll know just how very MUCH reference is made!) to there being no single detail to the doors or walls. So not only was the momentum ruined by having to look the word up, but it wasn't really an appropriate word anyway. Grr.

What is masterful is the way that parts of the story interlink with each other, in a similar way to The Illuminatus Trilogy, so that you're never quite sure which bits are real and which aren't. This draws you in to the book's world, and you can easily start seeing references to the book in everyday life. Good news for people like me. Bad news for anyone with a paranoid disposition or mental illness, I suspect....

I could continue to dissect the book, but at the end of the day it really is a unique experience for each person that picks it up. Just trust me when I say: You NEED to read this.

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Quotes Ruby Liked

Mark Z. Danielewski
“Two kisses in one kiss was all it took, a comfort, a warmth, perhaps temporary, perhaps false, but reassuring nonetheless, and mine, and theirs, ours, all three of us giggling, insane giggles and laughter with still more kisses on the way, and I remember a brief instant then, out of the blue, when I suddenly glimpsed my own father, a rare but oddly peaceful recollection, as if he actually approved of my play in the way he himself had always laughed and played, great updrafts of light, burning off distant plateaus of bistre & sage, throwing him up like an angel, high above the red earth, deep into the sparkling blank, the tender sky that never once let him down, preserving his attachment to youth, propriety and kindness, his plane almost, but never quite, outracing his whoops of joy, trailing him in his sudden turn to the wind, followed then by a near vertical climb up to the angles of the sun, and I was barely eight and still with him and yes, that was the thought that flickered madly through me, a brief instant of communion, possessing me with warmth and ageless ease, causing me to smile again and relax as if memory alone could lift the heart like the wind lifts a wing, and so I renewed my kisses with even greater enthusiasm, caressing and in turn devouring their dark lips, dark with wine and fleeting love, an ancient memory love had promised but finally never gave, until there were too many kisses to count or remember, and the memory of love proved not love at all and needed a replacement, which our bodies found, and then the giggles subsided, and the laughter dimmed, and darkness enfolded all of us and we gave away our childhood for nothing and we died and condoms littered the floor and Christina threw up in the sink and Amber chuckled a little and kissed me a little more, but in a way that told me it was time to leave.”
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski
“Tom gets by, Navidson succeeds. Tom just wants to be, Navidson must become. And yet despite such obvious differences, anyone who looks past Tom's wide grin and considers his eyes will find surprisingly deep pools of sorrow. Which is how we know they are brothers, because like Tom, Navidson's eyes share the same water.”
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski
“Knowledge is hot water on wool. It shrinks time and space.”
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski
“Physics depends on a universe infinitely centred on an equals sign.”
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Reading Progress

08/29/2012 page 30
4.0% "I'm averaging one blown mind per page right now. This may take me years to finish." 1 comment
08/30/2012 page 37
5.0% "Possibly the most amazing single sentence I have ever read:" 3 comments
09/02/2012 page 75
11.0% "Saying "page 75" isn't really accurate, since I've started having to use two bookmarks - one for the main body and one for the appendices. I'm absolutely obsessed already."
09/02/2012 page 48
7.0% "Got turned around inside my own house today and wigged the fuck out. I fear for my sanity by the time I've finished the book!"
09/03/2012 page 80
11.0% "Got turned around inside my own house today and wigged the fuck out. I fear for my sanity by the time I've finished the book!"
09/12/2012 page 115
16.0% 1 comment
09/13/2012 page 123
17.0% "Okay, much as I dig riddles, clues & codes in a book, even I am getting a little irritated with some of these footnotes. Sometimes it's just being clever for the sake of it, with no payoff for the reader. I can be patient with this stuff, but Those. Annoy. Me."
09/14/2012 page 150
21.0% 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] Apparently I also got turned around inside my own status updates! It seems fitting somehow. This book is crazy-making! I love it.

Bettie☯ Ruby wrote: "Apparently I also got turned around inside my own status updates! It seems fitting somehow. This book is crazy-making! I love it."

Brilliant review of, as you point out, a crazy-making sortof book. Claustrophobic HOL...


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