Friday, July 17, 2009

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

What miracle is this? This giant tree.
It stands ten thousand feet high
But doesn't reach the ground. Still it stands.
Its roots must hold the sky.

I loved this book. I first heard of it in the englishmajors community on LJ, and was instantly intrigued. It's been on my to-read list ever since, and this summer I finally had time to tackle this beast of a book. It really drew me in, so it took me less time to read than I predicted.

I loved this book for a few reasons: it's self-referential, it has an attitude, it pokes fun at scholarship, it questions assumptions. It is quite frankly pretentious, but in an amazingly fun way (is that possible? Apparently it is). There are extensive footnotes, some of which are composed of references to imaginary sources, some of which are written by Johnny Truant, who tells his own story of psychological and physical deteroration alongside the unfolding of the Navidson report.

In terms of being a horror story, I found Johnny Truant's portions far more chilling than those by Zampano, perhaps because, like Johnny himself, I too found myself in the position of reader. His mental breakdown seems to imply how books (or texts in any format--even just a bunch of mixed up pages gathered in a chest) construct a reality of their own, unencumbered by physical limitations or logic, but with a history of their own and an existence that will extend far beyond that of both author and reader.

Overall I found House of Leaves simultaenously amusing and thoughtprovoking. It's a simple enough plot: a house that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. But this simple idea is then expanded and entwined with the legacies of literature, philosophy, fantasy, mathematics, psychology, and all manner of imaginary academic writings. It's amazing how much work must have gone into writing this book.

Definitely a must read.

A sun to read the dark.

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