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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 2 edition (March 7 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703768
  • Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 3.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (419 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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Had The Blair Witch Project been a book instead of a film, and had it been written by, say, Nabokov at his most playful, revised by Stephen King at his most cerebral, and typeset by the futurist editors of Blast at their most avant-garde, the result might have been something like House of Leaves. Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel has a lot going on: notably the discovery of a pseudoacademic monograph called The Navidson Record, written by a blind man named Zampanò, about a nonexistent documentary film--which itself is about a photojournalist who finds a house that has supernatural, surreal qualities. (The inner dimensions, for example, are measurably larger than the outer ones.) In addition to this Russian-doll layering of narrators, Danielewski packs in poems, scientific lists, collages, Polaroids, appendices of fake correspondence and "various quotes," single lines of prose placed any which way on the page, crossed-out passages, and so on.

Now that we've reached the post-postmodern era, presumably there's nobody left who needs liberating from the strictures of conventional fiction. So apart from its narrative high jinks, what does House of Leaves have to offer? According to Johnny Truant, the tattoo-shop apprentice who discovers Zampanò's work, once you read The Navidson Record,

For some reason, you will no longer be the person you believed you once were. You'll detect slow and subtle shifts going on all around you, more importantly shifts in you. Worse, you'll realize it's always been shifting, like a shimmer of sorts, a vast shimmer, only dark like a room. But you won't understand why or how.
We'll have to take his word for it, however. As it's presented here, the description of the spooky film isn't continuous enough to have much scare power. Instead, we're pulled back into Johnny Truant's world through his footnotes, which he uses to discharge everything in his head, including the discovery of the manuscript, his encounters with people who knew Zampanò, and his own battles with drugs, sex, ennui, and a vague evil force. If The Navidson Record is a mad professor lecturing on the supernatural with rational-seeming conviction, Truant's footnotes are the manic student in the back of the auditorium, wigged out and furiously scribbling whoa-dude notes about life.

Despite his flaws, Truant is an appealingly earnest amateur editor--finding translators, tracking down sources, pointing out incongruities. Danielewski takes an academic's--or ex-academic's--glee in footnotes (the similarity to David Foster Wallace is almost too obvious to mention), as well as other bogus ivory-tower trappings such as interviews with celebrity scholars like Camille Paglia and Harold Bloom. And he stuffs highbrow and pop-culture references (and parodies) into the novel with the enthusiasm of an anarchist filling a pipe bomb with bits of junk metal. House of Leaves may not be the prettiest or most coherent collection, but if you're trying to blow stuff up, who cares? --John Ponyicsanyi

From Publishers Weekly

Danielewski's eccentric and sometimes brilliant debut novel is really two novels, hooked together by the Nabokovian trick of running one narrative in footnotes to the other. One-the horror story-is a tour-de-force. Zampano, a blind Angelino recluse, dies, leaving behind the notes to a manuscript that's an account of a film called The Navidson Report. In the Report, Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer Will Navidson and his girlfriend move with their two children to a house in an unnamed Virginia town in an attempt to save their relationship. One day, Will discovers that the interior of the house measures more than its exterior. More ominously, a closet appears, then a hallway. Out of this intellectual paradox, Danielewski constructs a viscerally frightening experience. Will contacts a number of people, including explorer Holloway Roberts, who mounts an expedition with his two-man crew. They discover a vast stairway and countless halls. The whole structure occasionally groans, and the space reconfigures, driving Holloway into a murderous frenzy. The story of the house is stitched together from disparate accounts, until the experience becomes somewhat like stumbling into Borges's Library of Babel. This potentially cumbersome device actually enhances the horror of the tale, rather than distracting from it. Less successful, however, is the second story unfolding in footnotes, that of the manuscript's editor, (and the novel's narrator), Johnny Truant. Johnny, who discovered Zampano's body and took his papers, works in a tattoo parlor. He tracks down and beds most of the women who assisted Zampano in preparing his manuscript. But soon Johnny is crippled by panic attacks, bringing him close to psychosis. In the Truant sections, Danielewski attempts an Infinite Jest-like feat of ventriloquism, but where Wallace is a master of voices, Danielewski is not. His strength is parodying a certain academic tone and harnessing that to pop culture tropes. Nevertheless, the novel is a surreal palimpsest of terror and erudition, surely destined for cult status. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann on May 10 2004
Format: Paperback
This postmodern, typographically chaotic novel is a monstrous book, both in page numbers and ambition. It is the literary equivalent of "The Ring." As we learn in the introduction, Johnny Truant, a tattoo parlor employee, has come into possession of a trunk full of bizarre scraps of paper once owned by an old blind man, Zampano, now dead. The papers comprise an exploration of a cult film called "The Navidson Record" and its sub-films, documentaries about an ever-expanding house that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside and which consumes the lives of anyone who enters its dark hallways or watches the tapes. Johnny becomes himself obsessed with Zampano's papers and, in turn, with the Navidson house. He is haunted by the beast he smells and the descending madness he had no inclination to stop. The book itself is the melding of Zampano's papers, Johnny's footnote digressions into his own life and its troubles, and the debate among academics as they struggle to make sense of a film that probably never existed. The result is a dark, wild, often hilarious, sometimes excruciatingly boring foray into the meaning of home, family, love, and self.
The structure of the novel is innovative, with Johnny Truant's story unfolding in footnotes and in the appendices, while Zampano describes the film and the academics bicker over its meaning in the body. The most riveting narrative thread in this novel is of Navidson's and others' descents into the smooth walled, dark cavern of the mysterious hallway. The consequences on Navidson's marriage and on those he loves are devastating, and the reader is swept into both the horror and the need for hope. Johnny's story is less compelling, especially as the house fades into the background and his story takes over.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Canadian Girl on Oct. 2 2012
Format: Paperback
Based on the reviews here I was expecting to be completely freaked out or amazed or even a bit scared but that didn't happen for me. Yes, I loved the premise of the book within a book (with a documentary film thrown in for good measure) and, especially at the beginning, I found the story really interesting but other than the occasional "ooh, that's cool" moment I found that overall it was merely...alright.

I personally didn't mind the footnotes or the nearly blank pages or even the sideways / backwards text but I sort of hoped that it would pay off more than it did; if I'm going to put that much effort into reading a novel then I want to be blown away and House of Leaves didn't do it for me. I gave the book 3 stars because of it's originality and the basic plot but I can't in all honesty say that I truly, really enjoyed it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. M. Buck on June 30 2014
Format: Paperback
Judging by the number of people on the internet who list House of Leaves as one of the "scariest books I've ever read", I had high expectations for it. I'm usually not a fan of horror fiction, but people also called H.o.L. "clever" and "genius" which make me decide to give it a try.

I've just finished it today and I'm quite disappointed. Other reviewers note that the book founders in a mass of irrelevant footnotes, and they're right. I diligently read every one, giving credit to the author for forcing me down dead-end after dead-end, and appreciating the way he made my eyes physically live out events in the story. That is, I was constantly going backwards and forwards, feeling my way through meaningless miles of space. Unfortunately the story itself climaxes way too soon, and more with a whimper than a bang, and with hundreds of pages still left in your right hand. So, you keep expecting to get to the REALLY good stuff, the stuff that will "haunt your dreams" and make you "afraid of your own house". That stuff never materializes. Eventually I was simply plowing through it all, bored by the buzz of notes and the lack of dynamic plot.

One thing - I really think more people should have died. House turned out to be a weeny little soft-serve.

Anyway, there was real genius to the tension built up in the section dealing with "Exploration #4", but otherwise, meh. [tosses it into the donation bin] 138

138 See Chapter Six, footnote 82, Shan's Story as well as footnote 249. --Ed. 139
139 See Appendix H
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen Tobin on July 17 2004
Format: Paperback
This may be the most complicated book I've ever read. There are layers upon layers and you can never be sure what's real and what isn't.
I won't say it's the best book I've ever read, but it's certainly the most ambitious and creative. The way the typography was used alone is unlike anything I've ever seen. It could have been simply a gimmick, but it really reflects the story as well.
A quick hint to people who like to read while doing something else--this is NOT the book for it. I took it with me to the gym and tried to read it while riding an exercise bike. Not a pretty sight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shawn McCarthy on Jan. 18 2007
Format: Paperback
Have read through this a few times now. Walks a thin line between intellectual commentary and pretentious drek.

If you can get past the Literature-thesis-project-on-acid feel of the book, the stories do work fairly well together. Wrapping a passible suspense story inside a paranoid descent and fleshing it out with some characters who at times intimately reveal aspects of themselves, the author does manage to tell as much with the gaps and discrepancies as with the stories themselves.
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