House of Leaves by: Mark Z. Danielewski

by - Monday, October 08, 2012

Title: House of Leaves
Author: Mark Z. Danielewski
Publisher: Pantheon
Format: Paperback, remastered full-color edition
Pages: 736


Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth -- musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies -- the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

My thoughts:

Ever since college, there've been quite a few people who suggested I read this book. Their marketing pitches included sentences such as "It will blow your mind" and "There's nothing like it."

So, I guess you won't be surprised when I mention I had high expectations from this book. In fact, I made sure I read it on vacation so I wouldn't be distracted by anything else. All in all, it wasn't at all what I expected, but I didn't hate it either. I've been trying to put into words how I really felt about this book, yet I'm not sure I can do a good job of that. Let's give it a shot...

There are at least two (some say more than that) stories in this book. One is Zampano's book, who wrote about a long-lost movie called The Navidson Record. The other one is Johnny Truant's, the guy who found Zampano's notes after his death and decided to put them together into a book. Zampano's language was academic, and have millions of footnotes-- okay, millions is an exaggeration, but there really is A LOT of them. Johnny has footnotes too, which are kinda like editor notes, but in them he goes on and on about his life.

I liked Zampano's book a lot. He wrote about the movie from different points of view, all supposedly based on comprehensive research. What's interesting about The Navidson Record is that it's a documentary film exploring a house that's bigger on the inside than it is outside. Kinda like the house in American Horror Story, really. When Navidson figures this out, he wants to explore. Even when his wife goes bananas asking him to stop, he doesn't listen to her and brings in a professional team to explore with him. And, of course, all of a sudden everything turns into a horror movie. 

However, as we're reading this horrifying story, we're also reading whom Mr. Johnny was with and a whole lot about his sex life. There were times when I wanted to scream, "Shut up, stupid; just tell me who's scraping their nails against the walls of the house!" What I want to say is that Johnny's story wasn't interesting for me. And the horror concept of the other one I did appreciate, but it was no Clive Barker story that literally gave me nightmares. 

The book is physically very interesting. You can tell Danielewski worked hard on it, and it's an interactive book. You don't just turn the pages while you read. Sometimes you need to go to the appendix, sometimes you need to turn the book upside down, and sometimes you need to hold it crookedly so you can read certain parts. While some pages are filled with text and footnotes, some only have a few words, and one sentence stretches out to a couple of pages.

I think it's a book every bookworm should read, but I also think you shouldn't get your hopes up.

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