House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of LeavesBefore we begin, I need you to imagine, as clearly as you can, the interior of a nautilus shell. You’ve probably seen one cut into a cross-section: a long spiral of rooms opening from rooms opening from rooms, onward and onward. Or, better still, think of the infinite view that comes from a mirror facing a mirror or the visual feedback of a video camera viewing its own live feed on a television screen. Bear these things in mind.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is the book I would like to tell you about. It is a novel about a scholarly discussion of a film, The Navidson Record, which is about a photojournalist’s attempts to document the sudden appearance of a dark, cold, featureless, labyrinthine complex of rooms, hallways, chambers, spiral staircases, and outright mazes (remember the nautilus?) that has appeared in his family’s house. Elderly, blind scholar Zampanò had been writing an academic critique of this film—until his death, at least. Here, then, we are presented with Zampanò ‘s manuscript of his critique of this documentary along with interviews and transcripts and editors’ remarks and documents related to the film—and now with added annotations and autobiographical footnotes by the finder of the manuscript: one, Johnny Truant, a Los Angeles tattoo parlor employee and all-around unreliable narrator.

No, House of Leaves cannot be called a “simple” book—not in storyline nor in structure. Visually, too, the book is a maze, with unconventional typesetting, different fonts for different narrators, coded messages in colored words, and footnotes within footnotes. Nor is it a happy book, generally speaking (most would categorize it as horror; the author has referred to it as a love story): angry Johnny Truant writes like a refugee from Fight Club, Zampanò came to a mysterious and violent death, the explorers of the house fall victim to desperation and insanity, and the house itself growls.

It is not an easy book. It is not a simple book. But what maze should be simple? A maze without turns would in all ways always be a hallway. Be ready. But try the maze.

“Well, now, after all that thinking, wouldn’t it be fine if we could take a little trip? We will do it. I know a game we all like to play inside la casa, the house.

“We will play hide and seek.”

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