House of Leaves: The Remastered Full-Color Edition Paperback – Mar 7 2000
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
I had never read it.
At the bookstore I worked at, there was a waiting list for the book. The publisher would only send two or three copies at a time and I was never quick enough to grab a copy. I would try to find the book in other bookstores, only to find it absent from the shelves.
So it was with pleasure that I found a copy of it at a bookstore in Montreal. It felt odd being able to actually hold the book. I've been waiting to read it for a long time.
It is, perhaps, one of the most bizarre books ever written. It is a story within a story and it defies traditional concepts of writing and words. Let me explain...
House of Leaves is really two stories, a story within a story (and within another story as well, but that comes after). The first story concerns the set up of the novel. Johnny Truant, a layabout working at a tattoo parlour, is called at 3am in the morning by his friend Luze. Luze is sure that Zampano, an old man who lives in the building has died.
They find Zampano's body, but Johnny finds something else as well. In an old trunk, Johnny finds a book written by Zampano called The Navidson Record. The book is written on pieces of paper, envelopes, on the back of stamps, on ticket stubs. Assembled by Johnny Truant, it is a dizzying book.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Although it was completely original and unique, I found that a lot of the content was unnecessary, and even took away from the story at times. Read morePublished 7 months ago by J Duff
This is a very very complicated book, I read about 50 pages and I still don't understand what the story is supposed to be.Published 9 months ago by Joel Levesque
Exactly as shown. Arrived fast too. Very happy with this as I purchased it as a gift for my husband.Published 10 months ago by Sandra Simms
It's been ten years since I first read this book. I have yet to find a book that captures my curiosity & imagination as this. Read morePublished 13 months ago by GET TO THE CHOPPA!!