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December 4 - House of Leaves, Day 6

Page history last edited by ckwalsh@... 11 years, 11 months ago

Main Points


Reactions to the text:

Many people in the class were filled with doubt--that is, we were confused about which aspects of the book should be considered "real." The unreliability of Johnny as an editor leads us to wonder what part of the Navidson Record should be considered "factual" in the context of the book. Regardless of the many issues left unresolved at the end of the book, it was still a fun read. Because not everything is given away, sites like www.houseofleaves.com/forum/ exist where readers continue to dissect the novel and pull the truth from it.


Many of us were unsatisfied by the happy ending. It had an “amusement park” feel to it, which felt out of place in the book. However, the inconclusive, horrific element still remains. Is there more to Johnny’s story? What happens to him after he stops running? Did the house really disappear?


Is House of Leaves a horror story?


There is no evident monster in the end, so that cliché is ruled out, as far as we know. As a class we agreed that Johnny’s history was the scariest part of the novel—especially with the eerie elements found in his mother’s psychotic letters. The nonexistent has effects on people, especially in the index where many items are listed as not existing. “There’s nothing there. Beware.” The formatting also has a rather disturbing effect on the reader. It plays with the limits of the page to lift the impossible out from the paper. 


Since the novel has so much of it's foundation imbeded in the 'unheimlich' or 'uncanny', it can be considered a horror story solely by virtue of having calling into questions those elements which are challenged in the novel.  When a house does not conform to the set laws of physics, that house could be said to be 'horrific' because it violates the natural order.  In essence, the house is the monster.  In the mind of the average reader, the same can be said for this book. 


It is also important to note that the layouts of these pages were possible to do before, but no one did.  Perhaps, we needed the example of the internet and electronic links to inspire this type of remediation of the novel. 


In the end we the readers have been strung along a narrative by characters that do not definitively exist on any level of reality- in the novel as a whole or as a part of one of its many layers.  There is absolutely nothing in House of Leaves that we can be sure about due to the overlap of of storylines, unreliable narrators, and potentially psychotic characters.  All this being said, a reader can also make a case for pieces of work found between the lines of the text.  Good examples of these moments are the decoded messages found in the letters written by Johnny's mother.  At the end of the novel, the reader can also question who the letters were intended for and even whether or not Johnny, Pelifina, or Zampano actually existed.  The book is a constant struggle for the characters within the text and for the audience taking part in understanding the text.



Johnny Truant's violent episode with Kyrie and the Gdansk Man, page 497:

"Surprised? Really? Has nothing prepared you for this? This place where no eye will find her, no ear will hear her, among pillars of rust, where hawks haunt the sky, where I will weave my hands around her throat, closing off her life, even as I rape her, dismember her,piece by piece, and in the continuing turn, for these turns never really stop turning, void out all I am, ever was, once meant or didn't mean."


Johnny recalls being abused by his foster father, page 93:

"Raymond took me somewhere else first, where I lost half my tooth, and alot more too I guess, on the outskirts, an an ice covered place, surrounded by barbed wire and willows, where monuments of rust, seldom touched, lie frozen alongside fence posts and no one ever comes near enough to hear the hawks cry."


Johnny's use of identical language in these two passages is obviously no mere coincidence. Here, readers observe the inescapable and permenant psychological ramifications of physical abuse. The violence Johnny experienced at the hands of his foster father clearly has a significant effect on his actions throughout his life, especially when he is placed in already violent situations.


Inside the front cover and page 552:

"Perhaps I will alter the whole thing. Kill both children. Murder is a better word. Chad screaming to escape, almost making it to the front door where Karen waits, until a corner in the foyer suddenly leape forward and hews the boy in half. At the same time Navidson, by the kitchen, reaches for Daisy only to arrive a fraction of a second too late, his finger finding air, his eyes scratching after Daisy as she falls to her death. Let both parents experience that let their narcissism find a new object to wither by. Douse them in infanticide. Drown them in blood."


 Sexual violence or at least the suggestion of it pervades many of the layers of the novel. We discussed Johnny's encounter with Kylie and Gdansk man; while it is impossible to determine the extent to which it was hallucinated or real, it is still evidence of a sort of cycle of violence. It seems like there is a clear link between the Sex/Drugs theme and this Sex/Violence thread; some kind of injury or emptiness (also a thematic center) gets passed from person to person without anything ever being gotten back. Most of the one night stand women have a history of sexual abuse, and the implication of this passage is that Johnny himself has been sexually abused. Johnny is disappointed by his sexual encounters and drug experiences because he continually finds only more emptiness, and like the black and white squares in the labyrinth chapter, their mutual empty spaces simply continue to grow.


Navidson reads House of Leaves, page 465:

"Taking a tiny sip of water and burying himself deeper in his sleeping bag, he turns his attention to the last possible activity, the only book in his possession: House of Leaves. "But all I have for light is one book of matches and the duration of each ma-" (for whatever reason the tape cuts off here)."


The  layers of the novel collapse here. House of Leaves should exist two layers removed from Navidson, but it is shown here that it exists not only in the same world that Navidson himself lives in, but also in Zampano's reality, because House of Leaves is the layer including Johnny's commentary on Zampano's Navidson Record. The question of a single, supreme reality. After all, all the copies of the book are thrice burned before publication by Zampano, Navidson, and Johnny, so the origin of the copies we are reading is unclear.




Horror: a story that attempts to evoke feelings of repulsion or fear from the reader. Often includes elements such as a horrific monster.


Concrete Poetry:  A form of poetry in which the format/typface/shape of the words on the page are used to convey meaning.


Affect: The emotional reaction that the text provokes in its readers.




http://www.darkcloudpress.com/blog_files/horror.pdf - What exactly constitutes horror? This file/website lists multiple elements usually found in a good horror story.


www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/0400/danielewski/interview.html- interview with Danielewski about what causes fear and how "smart horror" is exploring the roots of fear. 


Examples of concrete poetry 


House of Leaves Trailer - Interesting fake preview for the "movie" House of Leaves. Funtions just as effectively as a preview for the book, interesting cuts from actual images of houses to text constructions.


www.last.fm/music/Poe/_/House+of+Leaves A song by Danielewski's sister titled "House of Leaves."  It's pretty terrifying, complete with crying children.



This NY Times article explores Girl Talk's legal issues, focusing on his use of the fair use agreement. The article also explains that one of his biggest expenses are laptops, they are often ruined beyond repair during his live concerts.



Comments (4)

Adam Al-Sayed said

at 10:40 pm on Dec 8, 2008

I'll work on stuff as soon as I finish this essay for another class. Probably won't be until late tonight or early tomorrow though, sorry guys.

Hong Tran said

at 2:40 am on Dec 9, 2008

Don't know what else to add.. Still looks a bit messy.

Brian Croxall said

at 4:28 pm on Dec 10, 2008

I'm not sure if we should consider Navidson's burning the book to be a burning that takes place prior to publication. It is a bound book rather than a scattered assembly of notes. Still, I _want_ it to work this way as thrice burning seems much more interesting than twice burning. You should also point out that the materials on 551 call into question who added the title of _House of Leaves_ to Zampano's text.

Brian Croxall said

at 4:31 pm on Dec 10, 2008

One will also note that basic horror story themes (as per your link) involve detective work.

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