When first leafing through “House of Leaves,” by Mark Danielewski, I immediately decided that it was a book I wanted to study. I wanted a professor to go through it with me to pull out all the nuances, references, and context. I love owning this book if anything for the opportunity to show it to other people. It’s a publisher’s and printer’s nightmare. (How appropriate for a horror.)
Ironically, “House of Leaves” could never be turned into a movie, because it’s about a movie (“The Navidson Record”) that isn’t supposed to exist. Well, it’s about a troubled young man reading over and annotating an essay (that couldn’t get published), about a film (that doesn’t exist), about Navidson’s explorations of his house (which also doesn’t exist).
Obviously, there’s a lot going on. The film is described in essay format with annotations and notes from various reviewers and critics. Additionally, Johnny adds his own commentary as the terrors hit too close to “home.” The horrors start simple but beautiful in their purpose by taking everyday occurrences and making them frightening. ie: the eeriness of silence, the coldness of one room, when measurements don’t add up, the implications of echoes, and even defining “uncanny” as “not at home.” The terrors are described in formal third-person, then “echoed” in casual first-person. Then the words themselves betray sanity as they box off, turn upside-down, and don’t translate.
Not for Light Reading
The house is a maze and the narrative itself is a maze. Zampano’s essay and Johnny’s commentary isn’t a straight read. I took notes on most pages and used two bookmarks when footnotes had footnotes (to the ninth level), jumping around and searching through the disarray of Appendices. One of those is a maddening epistolary story of its own.
If you truly want to appreciate the brilliance and insanity of “House of Leaves,” take your time to follow the footnotes, look up the translations, and search for the coded message in the epistolary story (it’s fairly easy to find).
Swearing disappoints me (there are so many better words to use), violence makes me feel gross inside, and anything sexual is a HUGE turn-off for me.
That said . . .
What I love most about this book is that everything it does has a purpose, even when it drops the F-bomb 20 times on one page – creating an SOS code. Though “House of Leaves” is brilliantly written and it’s solidly listed as my #1 favorite horror, I recognize this book isn’t for everyone. It took a point-blank hit on my moral bubble with its GRAPHIC sex scenes, FREQUENT swearing, and DESCRIPTIVE deaths. I have black spots (to *bleep* out F-bombs) on almost every page of Johnny’s portion. Personally, I think the black spots add to the creepiness. 😉
Update: There’s a movie called “Dave Made a Maze” (2017). I haven’t seen it, but based on the trailer and blurb, it’s probably the closest this book will get to a movie.
2 replies on ““House of Leaves”: Horror at its Best”
First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a
quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
I was curious to know how you center yourself and
clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
I do take pleasure in writing but it just
seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply just trying to figure
out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Many thanks!
I take lots of notes throughout the day whenever I have a thought regarding what I want to write. Then when I have more time to write, I review what I’ve already written and the notes I’ve taken to move forward. It’s not always a guarantee – sometimes listening to the right kind of music really helps. 🙂