House of Leaves by Mark Danielowski is one of the most well-known techno texts in existence today, for its play with innertextuality, the use of footnotes, and the layered stories built within the physical frame of the bound book itself. If you’ve ever read this, you have to turn the book sideways, upside down, and even go backwards to fully understand what is going on. Even then, however, it’s one of those books that you have to read twice before you really get it.
In fact, while I’ve read it multiple times, it’s taken me months to even sum up the courage to try to blog about it. Because it’s like reading Fight Club WHILE watching the movie. It’s almost too amazing to handle.
But while I make an argument for supporting local libraries and not creating paper/space waste, this is a book you have to buy because it is just as much art as it is novel. Very beautiful. There are so many layers of the actual physical look, the tiny pictures in the book that I’ve spent hours dissecting, the way the words are laid out on every page, the colored blue word “house” the actual story. There are so many aspects that are so cool. For example, the fonts. Zampano, who’s narrative dominates most of the book, writes his story in Times New Roman, one of the most accessible and easily recognized fonts today. Johnny Truant writes in Courier, usually considered the “newspaper” or “messenger” font, possibly because he serves as a messenger to the world for Zampano’s story and the Navidson record. The editorial comments are given in bookman, reinforcing the idea of their neutrality and impassable nature in the text. Even Truant’s mother gets her own font, Dante; which strengthens the artistic, symbolic, and literature-heavy nature of her writing… and the fact that House of Leaves is printed in Dante on the title page (there’s some food for thought for you..)
There’s of course also the overflowing metaphors that link all the characters together. Perhaps one of the most obvious ones is the fact that Johnny’s stripper Thumper wears daisy sunglasses, and Navidson’s daughter is named Daisy. All of the different stories slowly sift together and become connected. There’s the fact that at the beginning of the “baby’s death” story, Johnny says “I’m sorry, I have nothing left,” which is exactly what Navidson says in the climax of his exploration of the hallway. There’s also the blend of name and meaning. While some people think that this is over-analyzing a text, I for one don’t believe that you can over-analyze anything (just ask my boyfriend haha) and that some of the deepest themes are buried “out in the open” of novels, so to speak. By the blend of name and meaning, I mean that many of the characters are named for what they do or represent as a character. Thumper, well, she “thumps” people. Lude is a rather lewd, crude, and gruff person, Karen cares about her family and her children to an extreme, and so on.
There are so many lines blended with reality (did anyone have to stop reading when Johnny was alone in his apartment? I could not read that section except in heavily populated areas) that it’s hard to not think that by purposefully making everything quite vague and open to interpretation, Danielowski is creating yet another layer of dialogue: Zampano trying to understand the Navidson record, Johnny Truant trying to understand Zampano’s works on the Navidson record, Pelafina trying to understand Johnny Truant, US AS READERS TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THEM. If you even google House of Leaves infinite chatrooms pop up, of anonymous readers from who-knows-where all over-analyzing each and every line, to try to find concrete meaning, going crazy trying to tie up all the loose strings…
Anyways, tell me if there are interesting “tidbits” of information you’ve found. I would love to hear about them 🙂