House of Leaves

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Hotrocker, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. Hotrocker

    Hotrocker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2007
    Messages:
    851
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    357
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Georgia (US)
    What an amazing book... and I'm not even close to finishing it. If any of you have seen the movie "Jacob's Ladder" or "Silent Hill," then you'll see what importance House of Leaves has.

    The following description from the words of Wikipedia:

    House of Leaves is the debut novel by the American author Mark Z. Danielewski, published by Pantheon Books (ISBN 0-375-70376-4). The novel quickly became a bestseller following its March 7, 2000 release, having already developed a cult following through gradual release over the Internet. It was followed by a companion piece, The Whalestoe Letters (ISBN 0-375-71441-3). The novel has since been translated into a number of foreign languages, including Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Serbian. The format and structure of the novel is unconventional, with unusual page layout and style typical of ergodic literature. It contains copious footnotes, many of which contain footnotes themselves, and some of which reference books that do not exist.[1] Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often creating (paradoxically) both an agoraphobic and a claustrophobic effect. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other throughout the story in disorienting and elaborate ways.
    House of Leaves has been described as a "satire of academic criticism."[2]
     
  2. tackle7512

    tackle7512 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Jacob's Ladder came out ten years(ish) before House of Leaves, i found House of Leaves to be a bit too contrived, too much an artifact of construction, and too little story at times. which truly disappointed me, because there is a fantastic story being told, just lost in the telling, in my opinion.
     
  3. Kevbo

    Kevbo Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Messages:
    352
    Likes Received:
    0
    I liked "House of Leaves", but it's a challenging read. The story is in the footnotes. Some very cool parts, though.

    If you're reading it, you definitely want to check out Poe's CD "Haunted". She's the sister of HoL's author, and he appears doing spoken word interludes (from HoL) on the remix of "Hey Pretty". Here's a video for a different remix of the same song: YouTube - Hey Pretty. (But do check out the CD, which is a concept CD dealing with Poe's reaction to her father's death -- some really amazing songs on it.)

    Kevbo
     
  4. Meniscus

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Messages:
    3,258
    Likes Received:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Western Mass.
    I don't mind confessing that House of Leaves messed with my head a bit, not unlike the movies you mention.

    I have recurring dreams about houses. I can remember 2 in some detail, but I know there are many, many others.
    The first I had when I was a child. Actually, I think I've had it several times, but it's been a while. In the dream, my family moves into a new house. It's large and white, with many rooms. My little sister and I decide to explore, heading towards the back of the house into a hallway. The hallway is plain and painted white. It is also impossibly long. Every time you think you've reached the end, it just turns and keeps going. In some places it branches off in more than one direction. There are many doors on either side of the hall. They are all closed. We don't open any of them, but somehow we know that each room will have more doors, leading to more rooms and more hallways. We are in a labyrinth, and it's easier to stay on the main path. I begin to worry that we've gone in too far, too deep, that we're going to get lost and if we don't turn around and head back soon, we won't remember which way we turned, and we won't be able to find out way out. If our parents came looking, they'd get lost too, and would never find us. Then I realize that we are not alone; somehow I know--without knowing how I know--that there is a monster in this labyrinth, and that we are heading closer to it's lair...that, in fact, there is only one way out (back the way we came, if we can remember to take the right turns) and that all other ways lead to it. I'm about to suggest to my sister that we better leave, when I hear a growl...
    I really ought to sue Mark Danielewski for stealing my dream as the concept for his book. The only difference is that in his story everything in the labyrinth is completely black.
    The other dream is quite recent--I had it just a couple of weeks ago--but is a bit fuzzier. In my dream, I was looking for a new place to live, and there was a house in a town nearby that had a room for rent. It was large and brown--completely brown, inside and out. It was very dirty and in a severe state of disrepair. Everything inside--furniture, carpets, curtains--was old and threadbare. It was sort of like a boarding house. People were moving in and out all the time. It was full of hallways and stairways and rooms, each leading to more hallways and stairways and rooms. Every time I looked in a room it was completely cluttered. There were people everywhere, but the rooms were so cluttered they were sometimes hard to spot. Every time I looked it a room I was never sure if it was already occupied or not. The house was so large that you never knew how many people were living there at any time, and you would never know if you were home alone or if there was someone else somewhere in the house. I knew if I moved into this house, I would become a part of it, a permanent occupant of one of its rooms, never able to leave, to escape it's endless hallways. One room would always open onto another, but never to a way out. In fact, if I didn't leave soon...
    I wonder if houses and labyrinths--or houses that are labyrinths--are common dream settings?

    Aside from the familiarity of Danielewski's story, the Whalestoe letters really freaked me out. I have this fear (which has been explored in TV, movies, and literature--I can cite some examples if you are interested) of being falsely committed to a mental institution, and of no one believing me, of everyone trying to convince me that I'm insane, that I'm not who I think I am, that I'm delusional, etc., etc. and then starting to wonder if it's true, and of not knowing how to tell the difference.

    hotrocker, there's one other scene in the book that was particularly freaky, although you need to be pretty good at visualizing the scene to get the impact. I can't say more without spoiling it, but I'm really curious to see if it hits you the same way it hit me, so let me know if/when you find it.

    Here's a challenge for you. On page 334, there's a footnote about the "Hak-Kin-Dak" fear mantra. There is no such thing. But the idea isn't Danielewski's. Can you guess where he got it from?

    This photograph, and the photographer who took it, are referenced on page 368.
    NPR: A Pulitzer-Winning Photographer's Suicide
     
  5. Meniscus

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Messages:
    3,258
    Likes Received:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Western Mass.
    I found out about House of Leaves through Poe's Haunted album, as I was already a fan of Poe's music.

    hotrocker, I think Haunted is brilliant, but not everyone will like her musical style. In fact, I suspect most people won't. I wouldn't recommend buying the album just because you like HoL. They're only loosely connected, anyway, although the connections are very interesting. The album is mainly about her issues with her father and her attempts to resolve things with him after his death by entering into a sort of dialogue with him via some tapes he left behind, which are sampled and interspersed through the songs. Her critics have pointed out that it's not an authentic conversation because, of course, she is manipulating her father's words to reconstruct conversations from her point of view, usually from her point of view as a child. Nevertheless, it's emotionally cathartic for her, and I found it conceptually and artistically interesting.

    Here are the lyrics from the album. I don't expect you to read them all, but I suggest skimming through them for the father-daughter conversations. Also, search for the word "house."
    Poe Lyrics, Photos, Pictures, Paroles, Letras, Text for every songs

    Here's some additional info:
    http://music.yahoo.com/read/interview/12057748
    The Haunting Return of Poe: Poe : Rolling Stone
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haunted_%28album%29

    "Communication is not just words; communication is architecture. Because
    of course it is quite obvious that a house which would be built without the sense...
    without that desire for communication, would not look the way your house looks today!"

    --Tad Danielewski (Poe and Mark's father)

    "I've been inside her house
    I've experienced her madness
    And I rejected the entire experience."

    --Tad Danielewski
     
  6. Meniscus

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Messages:
    3,258
    Likes Received:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Western Mass.
    Yes, it was contrived, but deliberately so. When I was in grad school from the mid-late 90s, several of my colleagues were attempting to write academic texts in hypertextual styles. Here's an example:

    theStrip religion and culture features index

    Here's the home page on which the previous "essay" can be found:
    theStrip religion and culture

    One of the things we used to talk about in grad school was how what's in the footnotes can sometimes be more interesting and valuable than what is in the main body of the document.

    In both his mimicry of traditional academic writing (both in terms of form and content) and in his exploration of hypertextual forms, Danielewski ironically satirizes academic styles and ideas while simultaneously indulging in them. But you may need to have familiarity with such writing to get the joke. I think the book demonstrates a certain degree of ambivalence towards hypertext. The form (or lack thereof) allows great freedom and creativity, but there's no small element of absurdity. It's relevant that several of the characters exist on the brink of madness. If you've ever worried that you might not have a completely firm grip on reality, this book plays on those anxieties.
     
  7. somethingradical

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2008
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    0
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Middle Georgia
    I was reading HOL on a plane to London and finally after turning the book for 2 hours the guy next to me asked me what the hell I was reading. Such an amazing book!
     
  8. Hotrocker

    Hotrocker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2007
    Messages:
    851
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    357
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Georgia (US)
    Wow, Meniscus, that was a good post. I've have similar fears about alienation and severance from humanity, though. Not so much about false committal. Your labyrinth dream was really freaky. You told it vividly, too. I've had labyrinth dreams in the past, where I though I was going to be entombed where I collapsed of exhaustion. Its a very traumatic feeling knowing that your death is on its way and theres nothing you can do about it... even though the solution is out there. Lately here, I've felt a lot like Truant and Zampano in the fact that I've found it harder to leave the house lately. I know its just laziness, but I can relate to the feeling that the characters had. Its unsettling. There are so many levels of reading in this book. There are so many unsaid factors in the book as well, such as the mental and emotional dilemmas being endured by the characters.

    I haven't found that part yet, being that I'm on page 128... during Exploration #4 after Holloway shoots one of his own men and loses his mind. I'm LOVING this book so far.

    And I'll be sure to check 334 out extensively and think hard on that mantra. I enjoy guessing quotes. Its interesting how Danielewski associates real life fact and real life detail into such a masterpiece of fiction.

    "If you've ever worried that you might not have a completely firm grip on reality, this book plays on those anxieties." <-- you stated that perfectly, Meniscus. I've discovered that to be totally true since I'm finding myself disturbed at times by this book. That just means its that much better...

     
  9. D_Martin van Burden

    D_Martin van Burden Account Disabled

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2002
    Messages:
    3,365
    Likes Received:
    6
    I had a copy of this book five, maybe six years ago. I saw it again at the warehouse. Someone had ordered it. The versions now are so much more "streamlined." The current publications look a little paltry. The copy I had was maybe 1.5 up to twice as thick, and I hear that the collectible editions are even larger and featuring paper, leather, wood, and metallic textures.

    I remember that I was riveted. I couldn't put it down. Then again, I was in Madison for a Jane Austen conference, and I hung out in one of the guest dorms in between sessions and such, so... yeah. Good book. It's worth a read. I don't think I would love it as much now out of changing tastes, but it's still a decent text.
     
  10. tackle7512

    tackle7512 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    see.....i considered starting out with a thoroughly massive post, but the first poster stated he hadn't finished, so i didn't want to drag all of the conversations i have had about this book into his experience of that initial read. Yes, i consider this an immensely important postmodern novel, an exercise in metaesque fiction that leaves you both exhilarated and terrified, and i will never forget the weird sense of "what the...?" i felt seeing house for the first time...

    this is one of those works of art that will spark a heated debate about what art IS, and whether art is about the message, or about the execution, or if the execution can be the message....

    I could honestly go on for pages here, i have read this book multiple times, and have debated it with my best friend over the years, so, obviously it has affected me, and as such i feel strongly about it. once HotRocker has finished it, if we want to have a further discussion without having to "spoil" anyone, i would love to.
     
  11. Hotrocker

    Hotrocker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2007
    Messages:
    851
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    357
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Georgia (US)

    hear hear. I would definitely like to talk all about it once I'm finished. Shit, I'll chat it up even before I'm finished...
     
Draft saved Draft deleted