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.
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 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.
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, I recognize this book isn’t for everyone. It took a point-blank hit on my moral bubble with its BLATANT sex scenes, FREQUENT swearing, and Graphic deaths. I have black spots on almost every page of Johnny’s portion. Personally, I think the black spots add to the creepiness. 😉