In the broad world of books, there are only a select few that keep me interested… and House of Leaves is definitely apart of that select few. I absolutely believe that Mark Z. Danielewski is a sheer genius. He created a way to engage readers in his visceral novel House of Leaves by creating a reading experience that is unique among novels. In a normal novel, your reading experience is purely based off of the content of the novel. However, in House of Leaves, Danielewski creates a novel with an interactive reading experience that allows you to read the book forward, backward, upside down, or however you feel, (this works well with ADD people like me) while still providing amazing content that engages your thoughts and feelings.
In reading through the first 356 pages of the novel, I’ll admit that at first I was a bit confused and I wanted to give up reading the book. But as the book progressed, I could not set the book down. With each page the novel gets better and better. From the story itself to the footnotes to the appendix, each word, each line, and each paragraph has a profound meaning that will, more than likely, all come together in the conclusion of the novel.
Unlike most novels, the House of Leaves has two intertwined plots. The first plot is the narrative of a tatoo artist named Johnny Truant who finds notes of a documentary written by a deceased man named Zampano. Truant takes on the tasks of being editor of this disorderly pile of notes. As time goes on and Truant continues to edit these notes, he becomes noticeably distracted and paranoid. He could possibly be haunted by the very thing that killed Zampano, the former owner of the documentary notes. Johnny Truant’s story is found in the footnotes of the novel. The second plot, which is personally my favorite part of the novel, is where the novel begins to become weirdly interesting. The Navidson Record, which is the storyline of the second plot, are the writings of Zampano, edited by Johnny Truant. The Navidson Record is about Will Navidson and his family who recently moved into a house that is literally growing. Navidson discovers that his new house is 1/4” larger on the inside than on the outside. Is it mathematically possible to have a house with dimensions that are slightly bigger on the inside than on the outside? In addition to these weird dimensions, Navidson discovers hallways, doors, and a mysterious growling noise that randomly appear throughout his house. However, these dimensions,hallways, and sounds do not just affect the physical house but they have quite an emotional affect on Navidson’s wife and two children; this eventually causes a split in the family. In order to figure out what is going on in the house, Navidson conducts an experiment with his brother and a few scholars, to scope out the hallways; however, this only leads to disaster.
As you read the House of Leaves, you actually feel like you are a character in the novel witnessing this monster-like hallway come to life. When reading about the exploration of the hallway, my heart beat raced faster with every word. While reading the novel, i actually became terrified and looked around my dorm room to make sure there were no appearing hallways or stalking entities. The House of Leaves truly has the ability to evoke terror and horror in readers. As Johnny Truant discovered the writings of Zampano, he said “I felt certain its resolute blackness was capable of anything, maybe even of slashing out, tearing up the floor, murdering Zampano, murdering us, maybe even murdering we” (xvii). After reading that statement, I wonder if the House of Leaves has the capability of making its readers lash out in such a way as this. It is very possible, that this book could be so emotionally terrifying to some that it haunts them, causing them to act out in rash ways. The novel, House of Leaves, could act as the very hallway or entity that is described in the novel. Like the hallway, this novel seems to grow and never end; it also entraps those who dare to discover whats inside. It could suck readers in and trap them in its complete darkness. I have never read a book that has the capacity to ensnare readers, but House of Leaves is so twisted that it is probably “capable of anything”. Now, that’s something to think about.
Interested in House of Leaves? Wanna read more? Check out these blogs: interactiveinterfaces, empyrean411, i am a writing machine