Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This Is a Horrible Post

So, I had a rather large post that had culminated over a five day period where I made all sorts of conjectures and other remarkable sounding theories that linked Woodring's "The Frank Book," "From Hell," and "House of Leaves" together but apparently my "securityToken" expired and even once I copied all the information... my internet explorer went all retarded on me and froze up.


So, now I'm going to make a quick bulletin list of some of the things I may have said-- for I surely do not recall half of what I wrote half as much as I should due to an all-nighter and 3 Expresso and Cream double shots courtesy of Starbucks. I'm also listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony and Mozart's 4th in a vague stab at keeping my sanity. We on the same page?


The Frank Book relates to House of Leaves in that TFB is a surrealistic piece of work in the artistic sense whereas I believe HOL to be a surreal piece in the written narrative sense. I'd say just about every drawing in TFB is up to interpretation. Why? Well besides the fact that nothing in the book concretely resembles anything we know (Manhog is a mix between a guy and a... hog. Frank is an anthropormorphic beaver cat, etc) there is virtually no written words. Everything is pantomimed. It sort of reminds me of this Finnish band (whose name eludes me at the moment) that sings in a made-up language and whose CD case has a packet where all the songs are blank lines... you fill in whatever you think the lyrics should be. I like to think this somehow relates to HOL because the House's dark caverns really are nothing but representations of the internal strife within the individuals within its halls. For example, Holloway goes batshit because his fear is that he won't gain any recognition from finding just a bunch of rooms underneath the house. He has to find SOMETHING... and so the house gives him the impression that a beast is lurking about. Gandalf fears the Balrog in the Mines of Moria and ends up battling with the other Maiar until he dies and is sent back by Illuvatar to fulfill his job on Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings really does have its parallels with HOL in that, the characters in both stories are fighting the darkness within themselves. The only difference between HOL and LotR is that LotR's fears inside the main characters manifest in the shape of ephemeral ghouls of past kings and a giant Red Eye. HOL has a pissed off house.

From Hell is ridiculous in general and no one should read it. That being said, I find an interesting contrast between HOL and From Hell in that, whenever Jack the Ripper gets inside somebody (and not in the cool way) he has delusions where light is escaping from these bedraggled prostitutes. This is entirely contrary to the bowels of the house-- an entity that makes us believe that there is only darkness within each and every one of us. Perhaps whereas the house focuses on the internal strife within our minds, Jack's snickersnack treatment of the prostitutes focuses on the departure of the soul. I also think that while HOL is defined much like a labrynth in ancient Greek mythology... it somehow resembles at least some layer of Hell to me. I'm a little rusty on my ancient Italian philosphers, but if I can recall correctly the most agonizing punishment of being in Hell is one's lack of connection with G-d. In From Hell we really see no development of true friendship throughout the book... people may help one another but most of it has an ulterior motive attached. The same goes with The Frank Book. In HOL, when Jed, Wax, and Holloway descend into the house's bowels there is a distinct lack of comraderie. Though Tom is only down the hallway from the entrance, he feels completely isolated and alone.

And that's all I got. Timmy's cell phone is playing "MakeDamnSure" so that means I gotta go. Maybe I'll post more when I've had more time to collect my thoughts!


Nik said...

I think the Finnish band you're looking for might be Sigur Ros, though I'm not entirely positive.

I think the anthropomorphic element in The Frank Book (even though I only saw that one who page you showed me) also rings true in HoL. The language used in HoL is overly suggestive that the characters are becoming more animal than human and the combination of the two makes up a manhog. Or something. Also, the House seems to blur lines between man and animal, or lines period. Just by merit of darkness, there are no discernible lines, and by having there be close to no text in the comic, I agree that leaves everything up to interpretation.

Something interesting I got from your analysis of From Hell concerning the light that comes from the bodies of the prostitutes... "This is entirely contrary to the bowels of the house-- an entity that makes us believe that there is only darkness within each and every one of us."
I made a note on page 58 --

Women are always portrayed as vessels or metaphors for the House while men are the monsters who change and explore it. Lance calls attention to all the phallic passages (in shape, not necessarily content) in this book.

I do eventually want to discuss gender in HoL, especially since no women go into the House. Why is that, anyway? Dunno. That's all I've got. You're awesome.

A. Benevent said...

The band he's referring to is indeed Sigur Ros, but they're from Iceland. Their songs are in a made-up language called "Hopelandic".

I'm not making this up.

but anyway their music is very good and anyone that likes chill shit should check them out.

Tim said...

I resent that you are saying that, because my cellphone alarm was going off, you had to finish.

It was only seven a.m. and I certainly was not getting up at that early of an hour. No, no, no.

JamesGz said...

Flatliners: Horrible movie starring Kiefer “I’m not Jack Bauer Yet” Sutherland, Julia “she-devil” Roberts, Billy “the Best” Baldwin, Oliver Bowl-Cut Platt, and of course, Kevin Bacon.
The movie is about 5 med school students who “research” the afterlife: one by one they have their hearts stopped, are dead for a bit, and are then revived. They each come back having experienced traumatizing dreams about their past indiscretions.

I wanted to bring this up for two reasons: 1) The Lighting in the Movie 2) Its Thematic Connection to HoL
Although it was a horrible Joel Schumacher Film, the use of lighting in the movie was intense for such a cliché movie. Almost all of the scenes are shot with a dominant blue or red light on the characters. Blue symbolizing a past error that is not yet rectified and red symbolizing a past that is misunderstood.

Lance talked about the light in From Hell and the darkness in House of Leaves, and it seems that Schumacher was going for a similar effect. The light only affected the characters when they were alone and isolated. Each character experienced disturbing flashbacks when isolated and the lighting on the character would either be red or blue.

In House of Leaves, the mysterious caverns of the house exacerbates personal demons and the only thing killing the characters is themselves. This is certainly the case for Holloway and Navy, although not so much for Jed who was killed by a deranged Holloway.

Overall there was a strong thematic connection between Flatliners and House of Leaves: Personal demons are the worst kind. Coincidentally, for both Schumacher and Danielewski, certain types of light are used to drag out these demons. While Danielewski went for the conventional “pitch black,” Schumacher chose more camera friendly gel colors, like cherry-coke red and deep sea blue.

Flatliners , despite its failings, made me think of HoL as a story about the personal demons and how absence of something can affect us as much as its presence. It also made me think that Danielewski stole some of Schumacher’s creative genius….

Adam Johns said...

Remember Scott McCloud (the web comic guy who I suggested for people writing on that)? He has this long and interesting argument, in Understanding Comics, I think, about how the relative simplicity of the face of most protagonists in comics (Charlie Brown and Jimmy Corrigan are perfect examples, but Frank works pretty well), has to do with our ability to identify with a vaguely defined face - this isn't the same as anthropomorphism, but is a related topic - Frank's face is both vaguely human and a little bit vague, which lets us identify with a beaver/cat (or whatever).

I finally thought of the perfect next comic for you, by the way. If I remember to bring it in I will, but regardless you should check out Black Hole, by Charles Burns.

Do you realize that you could have used Haraway to theorize all of that (in her understanding of the cyborg, the barriers between human and machine but also between human and animal come down).

Nice discussion of light & darkness, and Nik's response concerning gender is spot on (and also relates to Haraway, of course).

On light and darkness (in response to everyone, not just Lance): the next thing that happens in the passage from the Gospel of John, beyond the passage I wrote on the board yesterday, is the identification of God with light.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7: The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9: That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

This is interesting and relevant because God is sort of, but not quite, identified with light (which relates to the whole Tolkien business -- Gandalf is the bearer of the "secret fire," and the secret fire ultimately overpowers the darkness of the Balrog, whose fire doesn't ultimately generate real light. If you've read The Silmarillion, Lance, you'll recall the absolutely central importance of the light of the Two Trees, especially as perpetuated in the Silmarils). Yet the House is more or less darkness incarnate -- Danielewski's theology doesn't map particularly well to John's theology (although it does, to some extent, with Mark's).

Which takes me back to gender - maybe the house's simultaneous association with femininity, darkness and divinity makes this a twisted kind of feminist theology?

All of this is undermined by the fact that Shekinah, the feminine aspect of God (Hebrew term), is associated with light...

Anyway, fun post and discussion.

p.s. Maybe your tendency to see the House as an aggressor is linked to your interest in Tolkien, where darkness and aggression are clearly associated (think Ungoliant, most of all).