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House of Leaves
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Cluster Headache Two - 2012 > Discussion - Week One - House Of Leaves - Intro & Ch. I - VII

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
This discussion covers the Introduction & Chapter I - VII, pp. 3 – 96


In Michener’s The Novel wunderkind Timothy Tull is an instant sensation with his debut experimental novel, Kaleidoscope. Danielewski’s debut novel likewise made a big splash with its metaficational elements and experimental forms.

Muss es sein?
(Must it be?)

House of Leaves starts out with an introduction in the form of a warning letter from character Johnny Truant. He gives a long description of how he entered the nightmare world of Zampanò and The Navidson Record.

These opening chapters juxtapose the academic tone of Zampanò’s faux-analysis of a fictitious film with the alcohol and drug-addled commentary of Johnny Truant as he either experiences a psychic breakdown or a demonic possession or maybe a combination of the two.

There are many references to real and fabricated-by- Zampanò books and journals. Most of the references are identified, but in Chapter V, p. 42, footnote 49, there is a reference to Pierre Menard. This very funny short story by Jorge Luis Borges is called ‘Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote’. If anyone notices any real-world quotes/fragments that are not identified, please let us know what you find.



To avoid spoilers, please restrict your comments to the Introduction & Chapter I - VII, pp. 3 – 96


Mikela | 5 comments On the second line of page 31, Zampano talks about the "morning" newspaper, yet Truant in note 36 speaks of the "mourning" newspaper. Is there a significence to this?


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

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Mikela wrote: "On the second line of page 31, Zampano talks about the "morning" newspaper, yet Truant in note 36 speaks of the "mourning" newspaper. Is there a significence to this?"

Danielewski has much fun with language and meaning. He is constantly having his characters make these small "mistakes". Their significance, I suppose, is to comment on communication, Freudian slips, and the typos of a young man who is constantly stoned, drunk, and/or terrified by the tricks his mind is playing on him.

The layers of this book are endless...


message 4: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam (buchflimmern) Jim wrote: "The layers of this book are endless... "

Yes, and I love it! Reminds me of Ulysses, somehow. But for me, House of Leaves is closer to my world ;-) I don't have this enormous trouble in 'seeing' connections and so on.
(I only hope I will not have to change this post when I get to the core of House of Leaves...)


Mikela | 5 comments I keep going into panic mode that I'll miss something with all the jumping around. It's hard to keep track of where I was, in the main story, footnotes, exhibits, etc...and this is while using multiple bookmarks. Pretty interesting so far.


message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Iselin wrote: "Jim wrote: "The layers of this book are endless... "

Yes, and I love it! Reminds me of Ulysses, somehow. But for me, House of Leaves is closer to my world ;-) I don't have this enormous trouble in..."


One word of warning: Set aside MANY hours for chapter 9, and don't forget your flashlight...

So far, Johnny is the most unreliable narrator I've ever met in a book. At the same time, I like his stories.


message 7: by Mikela (last edited Sep 24, 2012 06:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mikela | 5 comments I may be way off base with this, but I get the impression that the rooms grow larger, darker and harder to navigate through as the tension between Karen and Navy grows and they grow further apart, that the house is mirroring the relationship of the family. Further reading should tell me how right or wrong I am.


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Mikela wrote: "I may be way off base with this, but I get the impression that the rooms grow larger, darker and harder to navigate through as the tension between Karen and Navy grows and they grow further apart, ..."

Your impression seems correct to me. For years the couple had more space in that Navidson traveled with his mistress (his career) and Karen had her affairs. Now, trapped in a country house without friends, lovers, and the road, the tension builds and maybe they need more space than the house originally had.

Danielewski gives us much material to work with in this book. Much like the countless fictitious scholarly works about The Navidson Record, those same types of commentaries can/have been written about House Of Leaves. I'm enjoying this book very much. A booknerd's delight!


Catherine (catjackson) Finally got this from the library and have just started reading it. I'm loving it so far. The edition I'm reading has the footnotes as actual footnotes: they're at the bottom of the page so I don't have to jump around that much.


message 10: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam (buchflimmern) Have you noticed how Johnny starts using "of" instead of "have" after taking drugs? Navidsons brother does it, too (p. 39, after smoking a joint). I thought this might be a sign to be precautious, because that's when the narrator gets unreliable. I've read several times that Johnny is a very unreliable narrator so this could be a hint for us.


message 11: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam (buchflimmern) Another thing: On page 6, Zampanó (has anybody watched La strada?) says Will Navidson had won the Pulitzer Prize in photography for a photo showing a starving girl in Sudan. It is a well known picture, but it was Kevin Carter, member of the Bang-Bang-Club, who took it and won the prize. He later committed suicide.


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

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Iselin wrote: "Another thing: On page 6, Zampanó (has anybody watched La strada?) says Will Navidson had won the Pulitzer Prize in photography for a photo showing a starving girl in Sudan. It is a well known picture, but it was Kevin Carter, member of the Bang-Bang-Club, who took it and won the prize. He later committed suicide...."

Danielewski tells the story of Carter and the photo in a footnote at the end of chapter XV, #336. So many levels to this book!

I was wondering where I heard "Zampanò" before. A great but sad movie.


Whitney | 326 comments Iselin wrote: "Another thing: On page 6, Zampanó (has anybody watched La strada?)..."

I was going to post about this at some point. I could never figure out what the relevance of naming the character after Quinn's in La Strada was. I remember one critic speculating that the character was supposed to be Zampano years later after coming to America, which struck me a patently ridiculous given what an illiterate brute he was. (Yes, we found out he did at least have deeper feelings, but the jump to editor / writer is absurd).


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

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "Iselin wrote: "Another thing: On page 6, Zampanó (has anybody watched La strada?)..."

I was going to post about this at some point. I could never figure out what the relevance of naming the charac..."


That does seem ridiculous. Johnny never found any piece of identification in Z's apartment, so it would be safe to assume Zampanò is an alias.

I think it would be fun to imagine him as an aged, radical Professor from the 1960's who had to go underground 'cause the feds were after him...


Whitney | 326 comments Jim wrote: "I think it would be fun to imagine him as an aged, radical Professor from the 1960's who had to go underground 'cause the feds were after him...

Ooh, I like this idea! I wouldn't be surprised if Danielewski actually had a similar type of backstory in mind. Someone who would take the name Zampano ironically, and also as a nose thumb to the authorities who he knew wouldn't recognize the name.


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