Halfway through the year and I am falling behind in my goal to read 25 books this year. I finished only 1 book,Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves in June, bringing my total to 10. The good news is that I was well into another book, Henry Miller’s The Cosmological Eye, when June ended, so July began with me finishing that early in the month. There’s hope for getting caught up.
House of Leaves is one of the most mesmerizing books I have read in ages. Ostensibly a horror story, the book’s real strength is the relationships among the main characters and the effects the horror elements have on those relationships.
House of Leaves is a complex, multi-layered novel that’s a bit hard to describe. Johnny Truant, who works in a tattoo parlor, finds a book by a blind man named Zampanò about a film called The Navidson Record which may or may not exist. The book is heavily footnoted by Zampanò and is further annotated by Truant and even further annotated by an unnamed editor. Although the existence of the film is dubious, the book about the film has a tremendous effect on Truant.
The emotional heart of the book lies with the Navidson family: Will and his wife Karen and their two children who navigate strange happenings in their new home. Secondary characters, mainly Will’s brother Tom and friend Billy, provide insights into the complex relationship between Will and Karen.
House of Leaves is purposely ambiguous and challenging. Anyone hoping for a clear explanation of what is going on will be frustrated but the adventure is nonetheless fascinating. I found myself slightly disappointed with the ending but with such a complicated story, I’m not sure what kind of resolution would have been satisfying.
Author Mark Z. Danielewski employs many textual tricks to help convey his story. Different fonts indicate different narrators. Footnotes often lead to additional footnotes and to prior footnotes. Pages are formatted unconventionally often requiring the reader to flip back and forth through pages to track a narrative and flipping the book over. For the most part, these effects contribute to the telling of the story. Occasionally, they feel gimmicky.
Overall, House of Leaves is a compelling tale that is surprisingly moving. It’s much more a love story than a horror story.
So far in 2013, I have read:
- Anathem, Neal Stephenson
- Netherland, Joseph O’Neill (library book)
- The Buddha in the Attic
- McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13 (borrowed book)
- Empire State
- The Blogger Abides (ebook)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (ebook)
- Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (ebook)
- Tropic of Capricorn
- House of Leaves