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November 11 - Bolter and Grusin, House of Leaves Day 3

Page history last edited by Persia Shokoohi 12 years, 7 months ago



     Remediation is the reappropriation of one medium by another. Inherent within the idea of remediation is the hypermediacy/immediacy paradox; new media simultaneously claim to be more immediate and transparent than old media while foregrounding itself. In this way remediation allows new media to refer back old ones, incorporating its precursor into itself. New media can be described as looking through thewindow, whereas hypermedia can be compared to looking at the window and resizing it, cognizant of multiple layers.


WWMS? (What Would McLuhan Say?):


      The book Remediation is in fact remediating McLuhan, as evidenced by the subtitle, "Understanding new media". As we often say, the medium is the message, so if new media contains within it old media, then perhaps the message of the new media would be the old one. Bolter and Grusin take McLuhan's ideas about hot (providing full involvement) and cool (providing less involvement) media and tighten them up by renaming them to better fit the world of new media. Bolter and Grusin assert that automation facilitates immediacy, whereas hypermediacy foregrounds the desire and pleasure of media.


House of Leaves


     The growls heard throughout the house on Ash Tree Lane can be interpreted in a number of different ways. An “academic source” cited by Zampanò attributes the noises to the constantly shifting walls, assuming they simply accompany the physical changes to the house’s layout. Holloway Roberts, a hunter and explorer by trade, naturally assumes they are produced by an animal of some kind, and loses his mind in a desperate attempt to locate and kill a monster that may or may not exist.


     The supposed monster, paralleled by Zampano to the Minotaur of Greek labyrinthine myth, also manifests itself in the narrative of the “real world” occupied by Johnny Truant and Zampano. Upon investigating the old man’s apartment, Lude discovers deep scars gouged into the wooden floor, and notes that the cats who usually occupied the courtyard had begun disappearing in the months preceding his death. He even finds “one with its head ripped off and another with its guts strewn all over the sidewalk.” (Danielewski, xv) It is interesting to note that Zampano attempts to remove portions of the text that allude to the Minotaur, which seems to indicate that he feared some sort of physical, real-world repercussions for suggesting a parallel. The most bizarre of these manifestations occurs for Johnny Truant, who, when alone and in the dark, experiences extremely vivid and powerful hallucinations of monsters hidden in the shadows surrounding him, sometimes even imagining that the shadows themselves become monsters.


     As a class, we discussed whether the "monster" in the house could be an actual beast. We talked about the beast - whether it could be an actual "beast" - and the dead cats, that add to the spookiness of the novel. The house itself could also be a possible monster. There is a superabundance of interpretive possibilities in this book, that can lead the reader to interpret the narrative in countless different ways. There is a series of conflicting interpretive possibilities and the reader must navigate his or her way between the labyrinth of interpretation. The layers in the novel speak to each other and provide the reader multiple ways of interpreting, refusing to explain the detailed relationship. It is up to us as the reader to end at our own interpretations.


Sex, Drugs, Women


     Johnny seems to be self-medicating, he does a whole slew of different drugs until towards the end he disposes of all of them to try and rid himself of the cloying madness that pervades his narrative.


     Johnny has a pretty active sex life of questionable reality; he uses sex or at least the idea of it in much the same way he uses drugs, that is to escape from his personal demons and achieve brief moments of perceived human connection and companionship. Johnny has a history of physical and emotional abuse during his childhood that he is possibly trying to compensate for in his life. Whether or not these sexual encounters actually occur is up for debate, as Truant goes out of his way to demonstrate to the reader that he is an unreliable narrator. Regardless, all of his women share certain traits. His women can be classified either as "cheap women" or "pedestal women," and in our discussion we drew possible similarities with Oedipa in Crying of Lot 49. Natasha, whom he never sleeps with, and Thumper the stripper are both pedestal women. Cheap women include Ashley, Australian girl, Halitosis Hailey and others.


     His mother is the most intelligent, well-developed female character in the novel. There is no real female role model in the novel but Johnny's mother. However, she is also insane and put away, just like the female characters in 19th century literature (such as Jane Eyre), where women are put away in attics. Although she is intelligent, she is not balanced and she commits suicide. Karen Green seems have certain traits in common with all the little groups of women in Johnny's life, as she too is portrayed as sexually promiscuous; in his discussion of Karen and Will's relationship, Zampano alludes a number of times to her past infidelities. Zampano also has a history of loving pretty women which occasionally is hinted at. All of his readers are women. 



     graphomania: (pg XXII-XXIII) “Old shelters-television, magazines, movies-won't protect you anymore.  You might try scribbling in a journal, on a napkin, maybe even in the margins of this book."

     Based on the descriptions as well as the words of the author it is clear that Zampano is indeed a graphomaniac. Indeed, Johnny truant seems to be inviting us to write all over the margins, thereby adding another layer of text to the already monstrous collection. Some of the layers speak to eachother, such as the checkmark on page 97, which recalls a letter from Johnny's mother on page 609.


     pg 71-72: "I see I'm holding onto the tray loaded with all those caps and bottles of black and purple ink. Not only that but I'm already walking as fast as I can through the doorway.  The door is open though I did not open it.  I stub my toe.  I'm falling down the stairs, tripping over myself, hurling the tray in the air, the caps, the ink, all of it, floating now above me, as my hands, independent of anything I might have thought to suggest, reach up to protect my head."

     Johnny's relationship with ink flows throughout the book and resonates through his life.  He works in a tattoo parlor, but has no tattoos, and finds ink on his hands after continually tracing a news print. 



graphomania: It is used popularly to mean a sort of obsessive need to produce text. In the psychiatric arena it describes a mental condition characterized by writing long strings of meaningless and apparently random words. Zampano is a graphomaniac (see passages).


amaurotic: blind



Poe - Hey Pretty - This single from Poe's 2000 album Haunted features her brother Mark reading from House of Leaves.


MZD Interview: They talk a lot about how his work is like various classical music forms, and they briefly discuss why his work isn't just a gimmick. That seems to be adressed a lot when if comes to these sort of more experimental forms, as if people need to be reassured that something is still there when it becomes harder to find.


Exploration Z: fan website about Mark and Poe


graphomaniac illustration - this is an interesting image displaying graphomania in terms of art and also makes an obvious point at remediation as well, as they are is information of one media integrated into another, with aspects of certain media (in this case the words or writing) becoming more transparent.


Comments (1)

yleavel@... said

at 1:04 am on Nov 19, 2008

hey guys, could someone add to the passages section? I don't have my book on me right now. thanks!

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