Monday, March 31, 2008

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

I know we are on the next book but I have been thinking about Jimmy Corrigan and all of the subtle references of various sexual Acts. We spent a little time on the Peaches and the various times their appear throughout the book and how it signifies sexual acts, or the "growing" telescope but what about all the other sexual acts scattered throughout the book.

It seems almost at random where there are random acts of sodomy and human sexuality scattered throughout the book. What does everybody think about this? Do you think this is just a reference to how Jimmy is a social and sexual outcast? His inability to form meaningful relationships with the opposite sex at his old age? Or is the author just a pervert? Or is the author trying to say something completely different?

Final Project: Proposal

In order to have a head start, I have already been thinking about a final project and I should like to propose an idea here which I can use for the final project.

I have been looking at video game evolution, or the evolution of popularity and culture of video games. I remember my early child hook and video games I used to play in the very early 90's such as the Monkey Island Series, Indian Jones Series, Loom, Day of the tentacle, Sam & Max or the one with Zach (whatever that one was called). These games were all part of a common genre: Adventure. Adventure games were always based on puzzle solving with a strong story line. They were competing for the market over video games with early (and very primitive) FPS games such as Wolfenstein and Doom that had absolutely no narrative elements. Almost 20 years later now, adventure games are virtually extinct and FPS games have become very popular. Today a lot of the FPS games have strong narrative elements and story lines, like Half Life 2, Bioshock or even the Splinter Cell series and some FPS games have optional narrative elements such as Doom 3.

The question I should like to answer or at the very least consider is why this change happened? Perversion of culture? Different age market? Natural and normal societal evolution? Improvement of technology? Which is it and why?

What's everyone think?

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I was going to post the jpeg of Kevin Carter's photograph on the blog- but then changed my mind. I feel a little conflicted about ambushing those looking on the site with the image. If you want to see the photo and read more about Carter you should look at this website:

The other photographer that I referred to in class is named James Nachtwey- his website contains many of his most-well known photographs.

If you are interested in contemporary photojournalism- or even just interested in having a visual illustration of what is described in the book- check out the websites (particularly Nachtwey's website under the "famine" heading).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poe - Informal

YouTube - Hey Pretty

After talking about Poe in class, I decided I should find the video I remember from 8th grade I think.2  I’m not sure, but I do remember someone saying it was really weird that it was the girl’s brother speaking those words at the beginning. (Read: incest)


I have two initial thoughts after seeing this on youtube.  First the obvious references to House with Mark speaking and the words/blue box.  This echos the different voices we discussed in class today - how someone speaking someone else’s words changes the original story. 3  I don’t think Mark is speaking about an actual sexual experience with his sister in a car.  Analyzing the context of the book, this is Mark telling Johnny’s story.  I’m sure there is a lot more to think and analyze, but I would have to come back to that (maybe in a blog entry.)5


My other thought is youtube itself has an abundance of this retelling, revoicing, and echoes of other’s work.  For example I just found a home-made music video for the Postal Service’s song “Brand New Colony”.7  Clearly these teenagers used the song and added their own interpretation with video on top of the song.  While this is nothing new, I think it might be interesting to view this platform (youtube) as something that allows for this process to be done.  And to be done by any kid who has a $300 dollar camera and a computer.  There are a ton of other examples.


None of these are as painstaking as what Johnny or Menard did, but all these videos which aren’t wholly original require editing and commentary someone else’s work.  Though the more I think about it, how many stories/narratives are wholly original?  Aren’t most narratives using elements (both in structure and content) from other narratives?  Even this very creative novel, House, is using tons of references from literature.11






2I do plan on mimicking House’s conventions to my own means.  I feel it could be a fun experiment to explain such a strange book.  Plus why can’t we adopt new technique/technology?

3  ENGLIT: Narrative and Technology.  Professor: Adam Johns.  March 27, 2008.

510:50PM – UCLA 20 – 13.  CBS Sports.  I’ll have to finish my thought process when basketball isn’t on.

7  Feel free to judge the video.

11I’m starting more thoughts than I’m finishing, so before I go too far, I’ll quit.  These thoughts are either completely wrong or good formal blog material.


After Borges- After Walker Evans- Appropriation in Art

When discussing Borges and House of Leaves in class- something else occurred to me. There is a whole genre in art, particularly contemporary art, which is sometimes referred to as "appropriation art." The figure that I thought of immediately was Sherrie Levine. She's a photographer whose most well-known works are actually photographs of famous photographs. Kind of like the idea of an author re-writing Don Quixote. The photograph above was photographed from a catalog of Walker Evans photography. This could be considered even more significant (in relationship to House of Leaves) because he, along with Dorthea Lange (who is quoted in the book), were two of the best known documentary photographers of the 20-30's, forerunners of sorts to Navidson.

Levine was able to photograph the works and hang them in galleries as her own work (titled "After Walker Evans") because they were no longer protected by copyright laws. Of course, her work is covered by those laws (although she waives them.)

I'd highly recommend you check out the site and/or where you can read about the motivations for her project. You are also encouraged to print out your own copies of the work each with its own certificate of authenticity. For whatever that's worth.

Just a thought.

Henry Darger

These are some of the images drawn by Henry Darger. Chris was right- the collection, the novel, was over 15,000 pages long. His opus was titled:

"The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion."

The first photo is actually of Darger's 1 bedroom apartment in Chicago. He died in the 70's and after his death (particularly in the 90's) became a well-known example of an "outsider" artist. I looked for photos of his writings- but couldn't seem to find any examples online. The writings juxtaposed with the imagery are where I think he is most similar to the description of Zampano. Interestingly, much of the discussion surrounding Darger has to do with his mental health status. He's described as "a poor, unkempt, ill-educated, half-mad man lost in the fog of his own loneliness." ( His story parallels both Johnny and Zampano in that he was a man who held menial jobs, had lived in and out of institutional settings as a child and obviously was obsessed with an entirely fabricated world. Tearing it down and rebuilding it over and over and over again.

There is a ton of information on Darger online. Very interesting figure.

House of Leaves, Informal Post

House of Leaves is very complicated (I think we can all agree), but it is also very interesting and intriguing at the same time. It took a while to read most parts of it for me, but I think I understand a lot of what is going on so far. Then again I could be completely wrong. I am definitely confused as to what is real and what is made up, but I think that we are supposed to be? So what I got outlined from it so far is that the narrator supposively found all of the stuff in the story in Zampano's apartment and he pieced it all together. So we are supposed to believe that Zampano is writing about The Navidson Record which is apparently a film and we are not sure if it is real or fake? Zampano seems to allude that it is real a lot in the book. I enjoy the narrator's footnotes and his obvious sarcasm that he puts into them. It is a very interesting novel and I am actualy excited to see what everyone has to say about different parts of it. We are obviously not going to get to talk about everything today in class, so if something I was wondering about is not mentioned, I'll be sure to blog about it. I'll save some of my questions for class for now though.

informal post, okay so far

Have you ever been the only one at a party not drunk? Nothing seems to make any sense, everyone is screaming and running around, it seems like chaos, but only to you. People tell you something that they think is hilarious but you really have no idea what they are talking about. Along the same lines, have you ever been with a group of friends having a conversation and have no idea what is going on. Then you realize that they are all high. This is the exact feeling I get when I read this book. I feel like some things make no sense because I am not on whatever the author was on when he wrote it. I attribute much of the randomness of the book to this.

Besides the occasional confusion I am enjoying the book so far. I like the off the wall stories and wild occurrences. For example the story he was telling in a bar about his scars was awesome. Then at the end he abruptly ended it by saying that it was completely fabricated and that he has never boxed before. I found that hilarious how detailed he went in the story and then admitted to making up the whole thing.

The house dimension thing that he was describing really intrigues me and I have heard some other things about weird science before. Although some of his scientific equations do not make any sense to me it proves that he has some sense of what he is talking about. I guess it just adds a feeling of legitimacy. I hope that I enjoy the rest of the book as I do the beginning part. Although i am confused at a lot of what is written it seems to be a perpetual state in my life so i am used to it.

informal - a little confusing

Ok, so I am kind of confused as to whether there are 2 or 3 stories going on at once in House of Leaves. I'm not sure what the whole part about Echo and whatnot is about (maybe it is just because I was kind of bored with that part). I find Johnny extremely bizarre personal life to be much more interesting. In between trying to explain Zampano's story and curbing his odd feelings of terror and death, he still finds the time for drugs, sex, and booze. But anyways, I actually enjoy the book so far. The random squares and parts that you have to turn the book sideways to see are kind of annoying, but the story is pretty good.

I am taking a physics and science fiction class and this kind of remind me of some of the stories we have read in there. The floorplan of the house and the actual measurement not matching is really strange. We read a lot of stories in my other class about strange phenomena that take place but then discuss if they could happen in real life. It would be really interesting to know if this could really happen. It is almost like some of the stories I have read about the fourth dimension.

All of the twisting and turning in the book confuses me, but I am guessing it has something to do with representing how the mysterious hallways twists and turns and warps. I haven't figured out why the red writing is there all crossed out and what it means. Also, is there any significance with the word "house" always being written in blue? I'm sure this is bound to get much more confusing!

Formal Blog - House of Leaves -Difficult Passage

So far, House of Leaves is full of many eerie passages that leave me with a feeling of discomfort and a feeling that something is just not quite right. However, one of the passages that left me with a feeling of annoyance and confusion is on page 112,

"This is why classical thought concerning structure could say that the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it. The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere. The center is not the center."

One explanation that I can come up with to explain this passage is that the center of a specific structure is based on the center of whatever holds or contains that structure. The center of a specific structure is dependent upon the center of the world that encompasses the structure. In addition, that means that the center of the world around the structure contains the center of the structure itself. However, the center of the structure is not the center of the world around it, because that world has to have a center of its own, that is unique and distinguishes it as the center of that world, separate from the center of the structure. This explanation, reads just as contradictory as the passage above, but how does one explain something that is contradictory without the use of contradictions?

Applying my explanation to the plot of The Navidson Record will hopefully supply some clarity to the contradictions. Will Navidson is trying to do something which is contradictory within itself, as he is trying to capture and illuminate darkness itself. In capturing darkness, the only thing one can see is darkness. Usually capturing refers to making something more noticeable, drawing attention to a specific element, making it known, or uncovering something. How can one uncover or draw attention to something like darkness? The use of sight will not allow one to gather much information, so one must rely on other elements such as sound, specifically the echoes that are discussed prior to the passage at hand. The author wants to prepare the reader for the many use of contradictions throughout the rest of the book, by getting him used to thinking in a non-conventional way. He also wants the reader to begin to see the world not only through sight, but sound and how interacts with space to send messages.

Another way that this can be applied to The Navidson Record is through an analysis of the hallway compared to the house itself. The structure of the hallway is based on the structure of the house, but the hallway's dimensions and design doesn't conform to that of the house (at least for the humans). The hallway has walls that move, ceilings that are hundreds of feet off the ground, an endless descending staircase as well as endless darkness. The house as a whole has a distinct rigorous structure that doesn't possess any of these characteristics. So how does a house with a distinct structure contain a hallway that has moving walls, etc? The only way to answer this would be to use the explanation that the center of the hallway is both within the hallway and outside of the hallway, belonging to the house. However, because the house has its own distinct center somewhere else, the hallway has its distinct center as well. It is a part of the house, but at the same time it is a structure on its own; it conforms to its own center, while being a part of the house's center at the same time. The center of the hallway, just so happens to be one that is flexible and not fixed, allowing the walls and space to change and seem infinite. So the center of the hallway is not really a center, because it isn't fixed in one spot in the middle of the structure. Instead it exists in and all around the structure. The fact that the center exists everywhere within the structure and everywhere outside of the structure allows the hallway to move and take any shape or form. No matter what form the hallway takes it is based on some type of "center."

As mentioned before, the difficulty in this passage is a tool used by the author in order to change the reader's perception and the way one looks at the physical world as being so finite, and having definite characteristics. One must question his definition of a "center" and the meaning of space, dimensions, and time in order to understand The Navidson Record and Will Navidson's mission to uncover and understand that which cannot be seen. Focusing on the form of the passage, the last statement is what shows the purpose of the difficulty. It reads, "The center is not the center." The author makes the reader stop and think about this last sentence, and then go back and re-read the entire passage. The reader is forced to either continue on reading confused, or come to terms with what this passage means and its implications. Presumably, after reading that last statement one will want to stop and make sense out of it and continue reading the book with a new perspective. From now on, nothing is certain, anything is possible and nothing will be the way it is expected to be.

Formal Blog

To find a complicated passage in the House of leaves was not a difficult task to do. I must admit I came across more than one passage that I had trouble understanding, but The Pelican Poems left me in the dark that can only be compared with the darkness found in the house on Ash Tree Lane. In an attempt to get some insight into the maze of footnotes on pages 137 and 138, I read the Appendix II-B or The Pelican Poems. However, I felt more confused than ever.

Usually appendixes are there to offer more information about a given text, but in the House of leaves they obviously have some other role. What I have learned from Jimmy Corrigan is that sometimes one needs to know how to read certain text in order to get its meaning. Unfortunately, House of leaves does not come with the instructions.
The only thing I was able to get out of the poems in Appendix II-B is that they represent Zampano’s poems written during his travels across Europe. Whatever deeper meanings these poems have it escapes me. The footnote that will eventually lead a reader to The Pelican Poems appears after the sentence, “ An old man’s mind is just likely to wander as a young man’s, but where a young man will forgive the stray, an old man will cut it out.”
Since at this point in the book, we are getting further and further away from the main topic, the Navidson’s film, if I can call it the main topic of the book, (not really further away but rather we get buried in the additional information, Magellan’s and Hudson’s expeditions), maybe Zampano is trying to justify all this additional information he is providing as necessary. He is an old man and yes his mind strays, but he is able to cut out the unnecessary. To prove his point he refers us to The Pelican Poems, the example of young man’s mind going astray. I know that this explanation is highly unlikely. But, I tried to look at the names of women some of the poems are dedicated to, to see if they match with the list of female names Zampano is repeating at one point in the book, no luck there. I could not think what the pelican might be the symbol for, so… I present you my lame explanation of The Pelicans Poems. I hope they will prove to have some meaning as I continue reading House of Leaves.

As for the form, the poems are not confusing as the page that referred me to them. They are chronologically organized from May 26, 1988 to August 12, 1990 with the exceptions of October’s Tapestry Sale and The Wednesday Which Pelican Mistook to be a Sunday and Caused Easle to Lose her Cards. I wander if misplacement of these two poems is important. If these two dates represent code for deciphering the meaning of the rest. The form of the page, for that mater the form of the chapter IX, in my opinion serves the purpose of picturing Johnny’s state of mind. By now, he is lost in the world of Zampano’s novel. He spends most of his time organizing Zampano’s text and writing his own. Through this bizarre layout readers are pulled in Johnny’s madness whether they want to or not. This confusing arrangement can also serve as an example of a labyrinth, to depict the sense of loss and lack of direction people in Navidson’s house must have had.

Eric B. Formal Blog #8

House of Leaves is quite possibly one of the hardest and slowest novels that I have ever read. The layout of sections hinders me from quickly reading through a page, because I am constantly jumping to the appendixes and footnotes. Within the first 152 pages there are 198 numbered footnotes along with a large group of footnotes that are marked with a symbol. There are two very difficult passages that I met while reading House of Leaves. Both passages are chapters that revolve around defining a term. The first passage was based on the three definitions of echo, and the second explored the word labyrinth.

Chapter IX begins with a confusing, twisting, mind wrenching exploration of what is know as a labyrinth. Of the 198 numbered footnotes over the first 155 pages, there are twenty-one numbered footnotes along with a few symbol footnotes in the first nine pages of this chapter. Most of these are not typical footnotes that act to reference or define/translate a word or phrase. The footnotes act as a labyrinth through which an understanding of labyrinth is established. The layout of this section is designed to resemble a labyrinth. What the words mean is not hard to understand in comparison to how hard it is to read this section. The following image is a representation of the nine pages with colors sections of the labyrinth.

I included this image because I decided that words couldn’t describe the complexity of the labyrinth. The pages are read from the top and to the right. The colors start with orange and continue as follows: dark orange, dark blue, pink, light green, dark brown, purple, yellow, light blue, dark green, light brown and finally gray. (Just a note of caution, this is my best attempt at deciphering the paths that allow the reader access to the entirety of these nine pages. A better way may exist, but after spending a considerable amount of time, this is the best design I could produce.) When deciding when to change colors I used the following method. If a footnote appeared as a branch in the path, when it came to an end, so did the color. If a footnote was short and seemed like it was a traditional footnote, I would allow the same color to be used in the text that followed the footnote. At any point were a later footnote path overlaps with an earlier path, the later path immediately stops, and the story is picked back up where the later footnote diverged. It can be seen that the path to complete these nine pages is very complex. On three occasions over these pages the reader is returned to the beginning of the labyrinth. The reader is also directed to the same footnotes within these passages on multiple occasions.

Danielewski makes us of this complex layout to prepare the reader for what is about to happen in the Navidson Record. Holloway and his men are about to descend into a labyrinth that will not allow them to leave with ease.

In order to fully appreciate the way the ambages unwind, twist only to rewind, and then open up again, whether in Navidson’s house or the film--quae itinerum ambages occursusque ac recursus inexplicabiles [“Passages that wind, advance and retreat in a bewilderingly intricate manner”]--we should look to the etymological inheritance of a word like ‘labyrinth’. The Latin labor is akin to the root labi meaning to slip or slide backwards though the commonly perceived meaning suggests difficulty and work. Implicit in ‘labyrinth’ is a required effort to keep from slipping or falling; in other words stopping (Danielewski 114).

I believe this quote sums up a lot of what Danielewski is trying to do with his labyrinth of passages. The “slip or slide backwards” is something that appears to happen quite often throughout these pages. As mentioned the reader at multiple times while following the laid out path will return to previously visited locations multiple times.

If the work demanded by any labyrinth means penetrating or escaping it, the question of process becomes extremely relevant. For instance, one way out of any maze is to simply keep one hand on a wall and walk in one direction. Eventually the exit will be found. Unfortunately, where the house is concerned, this approach would probably require an infinite amount of time and resources. It cannot be forgotten that the problem posed by exhaustion--a result of labor--is an inextricable part of any encounter with a sophisticated maze. In order to escape then, we have to remember we cannot ponder all paths but must decode only those necessary to get out (Danielewski 115).

The pages of chapter IX can be read in a different order other than the one depicted by the pathway above. By decoding the information at hand, and only following some of the paths a more structured story can be read. Danielewski pulls the reader into the world that Navidson, Halloway and his Halloway’s men face by incorporating these non-traditional means of story telling in his book House of Leaves.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Unconventional Book- formal blog

The first thing that caught my eye, and what drew me into the book, was the unconventional format. The two interlocking stories that sort of mold into one are extremely interesting, and there is so much too analyze and ponder about. For instance, Johnny Truant, in reading and compiling Zampano’s narrative of the Navidson family, begins to feel the presence of things that may or may not be there. He stops eating or leaving his house, and Zampano’s narrative consumes Johnny’s life. However, it is difficult to tell if Johnny begins to lose his mind due to the things he is reading about the Navidson family, or if it is due to his drug habits and family history.
There were quite a few things about this novel that confused me, but one in particular was why Zampano had written about the Navidson family, or why he even knows about it. What also confuses me is why Johnny Truant is so fascinated by it and consumed by it if it causes him so much mental and physical stress.
Also, why all the passages and quotations in other languages if the translation in English is given directly after it? Is it supposed to add to the confusion and mysteriousness of the book?
One passage that I difficulty understanding was the translation from German to English of Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. It appears directly after the Navidsons come home, after being away for a few days, to an extra open space connecting the children’s bedroom to the master bedroom. I understand that this intrusion and addition to the house was disturbing and “uncanny”, but what did the passage mean when it said, the “nothing and nowhere”? Also, why are “being-in” and “insideness” distinguished from one another when they mean the same thing? The only thing that I can think of is that the “nothing and nowhere” refers to the empty space that the Navidsons discovered. There is nothing inside of it and it came out of nowhere. Also that additional space was nowhere to be found before they left on their trip. As for the difference between “being-in” and “insideness”, I have no clue as to what the distinction could be. It was a difficult passage to make sense of.
I think the reason to make this passage, along with the book overall, difficult, is to make the reader not simply read words on a page in a conventional manner, but to analyze and make sense of what is happening in the book. It seems as though the author wants the reader to form questions and be confused because it adds to the excitement and intrigue of the story.
I also can’t help but notice that the front cover of the book is smaller than the pages of the book. When I first purchased the book I thought this was strange, but it makes sense to me now that I started reading it. This parallels the Navidsons’ house on the inside being larger than the house on the outside.

Formal Blog: The confusion

Find a very confusing passage in House of Leaves – not a slightly difficult one, but one that drives you up a wall. Hopefully that won’t be too hard! Then briefly explain both

a) What that passage seems to mean, or at least one possible explanation of it. If you’re highly confident in your explanation, your passage is probably too easy (or you did some substantial research).

b) What that difficulty accomplished; in other words, you should explain what the difficulty itself (think form, not content) is for.

My favorite field of academia is history. Most of our modern western culture and essentially everything else in our society can be derived from antiquity – ancient Greece and Rome. I was looking through the book, House of Leaves, reading the different sections and in section “F: Various Quotes” I stumbled upon something familiar: The Greek alphabet is what actually caught my eye. I looked at it more carefully and continued on, deciphering. I quickly learned that the next several quotations were actually taken from the same work, the same passage from the Iliad - one of my favorite works of ancient Greece (only second to the Golden Ass). The passage is repeated six times in the following languages respectively: Greek, Italian, German, Russian, French and finally translated to English in the foot notes (Page 650, footnote 442).

I was sure, right away because of the repetition, that this passage has some sort of significance. Luckily I can call myself an expert on the Illiad so my analysis was eased. Two questions immediately arose in mind…why did Danielewski choose this particular passage and why did he repeat them in five non-English languages? What is the significance of this repetition?

To begin, I should like to explain a little bit about this passage in the context of the Iliad since I think a firm understanding of this passage is important for further analysis. This passage is about Agamemnon preparing for an assault on the sieged city of Troy. The siege had been going on for years at this point and Zeus was growing tired of the lack of fighting. Zeus, using his powers, manipulates Agamemnon to have a dream which is about a premature attack on Troy (which was a strange idea, because the strongest Greek hero of that side, Achilles, was on strike because of his “property” being violated – a slave girl he captured earlier in the war). In response to the dream, Agamemnon deceives his armies and declares that the war is futile and it must be abandoned. He does this in order to see how the troops feel and whether they would gladly give up on their Kleos (Greek’s difficult concept of honor, which is the main reason for Achilles’ participation in the Trojan War) or if they would remain and fight in spite of the futility declared by their King. It is interesting and also important to note that this passage therefore has a very interesting point that can be missed by a superficial eye. What we have here is a bluff by Agamemnon based on a trick by Zeus, kind of a double false where “Nothing is quite what it seems…”1

Now, that we have a small insight of the meaning of the passage in the context of the Iliad, perhaps we will be able to understand why this passage appears in the book and why it appears so many times and in different languages. My first suspicion is the meaning of the passage, which is that nothing is as it appears – like a labyrinth if we can consider an abstract notion. In a labyrinth, which is a major part of the story, everything looks the same so nothing is what it appears (as in the entrance looks like the rest of the maze and nothing is as it appears) – which is why I suppose the main character has to use the fishing line to find his way to his original starting point (Is this another reference to the Greek King Theseus who used his wits similarly with thread at the Palace of Crete?). So perhaps the meaning of the passage is why it was included in the book, although this conclusion is pretty abstract and there could be closer more relevant ideas such as Homer being the founder of “literature” etc. and this book is a continuation and prime example of a new era of literature.

The next point of analysis that I considered was the use of the several languages. Why did Danielewski rewrite this passage so many times in all these different languages (even using different fonts and obviously different alphabets)? The only guess I could arrive is the problem of translation. In Classics courses here at the University we pay a lot of attention to translations of ancient texts and the problems this comes with. Some words are difficult to translate into modern words because they are concepts that we no longer have, such as Kleos (which roughly means honor but very important in ancient Greek society) or Harmatia (Fatal Flaw/ Blood Guilt / Debt). These terms have very complicated meanings and it is very difficult to translate such concepts because they do not exists in our society today. Some of these terms are translated and because of the inherent problem of translations the original meaning is often lost and changed. If I could only understand all languages that the author chose to include I could confirm my theory that each of these passages has slightly different meanings…like the growls in this book. So perhaps the use of the various languages is a reference to the book regarding that particular idea etc…

… or perhaps the insanity of this work has engulfed me and I am seeing things where there is nothing.


Informal - House of Leaves

Adam wasn't kidding when warned us about this book at the very beginning of class.  My initial thoughts on the book are as follows:

I'm in love with how the book is written - using two voices by incorporating fictional footnotes is brilliant.  Basically I like how he pushes the conventional boundaries of the novel medium.

This story reminds me of Mulholland Drive.  Probably because it takes place in LA and its just as messed up at the Lynch film.

Secondly, I wish normal stories could be told in this way.  I feel that I'm missing a lot because these stories (Jimmy/House) are foreign to me.  Like I'm concentrating on the delivery method much more than story.  

And to be honest, I think with a logical mind, and I like to be able to figure all the idiosyncrasies out, but with how odd these stories are I'm having a hard time.  Maybe I need more literary training.

Muss es sein? (informal blog)

After sieving through this book for hours and finding nothing understandable, I decided to retreat, return to the beginning and start afresh. This book is witty and unconventional in its style and manner of narrative. The title house of leaves, is a reference to the book as the house and the leaves which are the pages, an anthology of Zampano's manuscripts.

In trying to bridge the gaps in this narrative, I am proposing that the fictional frame narrative of the Navidson Record is an account of the book itself, and the audience's perception of it from the Authors point of view. The Author often makes subtle references to the academic critics and the belief that they have an understanding of this material despite its diversity and nonconformity.

Agreeably, you don’t have to read much of the book to dive into the confusion. Assessing the opening German phrase from Beethoven "muss es sein?" which means "must it be?” Danielwski introduces us to the confusing, satirical, and criticizing beginning of his novel. This phase immediately forces the reader to begin questioning whether the writing style and narrative had to be so complex.

Must it be this way? Does it have to be so complex? This is the question the Author was sure we'll ask so he presented us with it prior to our inquisition. Despite the requests that readers take the text literally, it is hard to ignore the style in which it’s written and presented.

Home Is Where the <3 Is

One part of this book where I went, "oh, wow," happens to be on the wikipedia

Bam. For those of you playing along at home, this happens from page 119-145.

Now, some parts of this are pretty easy... The blue box references how the word house is colored blue. It's a box because they're going down the crazy staircase. That's why the text is forwards on one side and backwards on the other.

However....what's up with the sidebars? The first time I read through this section, I kinda blew by them. Now that I'm thinking about it, though, they remind me of walls. So I started reading them...Googling the Pittsburgh name that popped up, I found this, which is house. Just a bunch of other buildings. The entire left hand side is a big list of architect firms and buildings.

If we flip the book over entirely and read it the other way, the other sidebar is entirely the names of individual architects.

So we have walls built out of things and people who are made of and make walls. That's as close as I can come to an interpretation.

I'm imagining he's doing this because our adventurers are exploring completely unknown territory. It's trying to emulate the visuals, but with layout.

The smaller sideways blocks still escape me, though. I have no idea what's going on there.

Joe Liu informal post

It’s been a busy week, so I got to start House of Leaves really late (today!).

After reading the first 20 or 30 pages, I really am not enjoying this so much. I haven’t even gotten to the really unusual things (upside down text, crossed out words, etc.), but I already don’t have a good feeling about this.

The footnotes are quite interesting however, just like how someone else has already brought up, especially the one where the main character gets up and is just pissed off that there is no running hot water for his shower. From then on, he goes into telling us a story about his time with Lube. He has an interesting character and really does like the women, but I don’t really see how this fits into the story. It is just so random, but I’m tired, so I am probably not seeing the big picture.

I’ll post more when I have more read. I really didn’t like reading the beginning. It just felt like I was reading a history book, and I am just confused because I read it like it is fact, but is it fiction?

Formal Blog or how House of Leaves almost drove me insane

The most challenging passages I have read so far have been the letters from Johnny's mother. They are, however, also the most revealing part of the book. These letters sevre to explain some of the strange quirks Johnny has such as when he believes there is a monster in the storage closet or describes being crashed into by a truck. These letters are truly chilling giving the reader insight into the slow deterioration of Johnny's mother's mind. As the letters progress they become more and more cryptic, taking on strange forms, describing intense paranoia, twisting in turning in despair. One letter, towards the middle of the section, is particularly bizarre and difficult.
The letter is on pages 620-621 and if read straight forward is complete nonsense with phrases such as "Try handing essay attitudes to tasting efforts..." or "Some over meaning enemies take illicit measures". The whole letter contains these nonsensical statements this is, however, not how you are instructed to read it. In the letter previous Johnny's mother informs him to take the first letter of every word and construct words and sentences out of them. This was a rather difficult task particularly due to the length of the letter. After highlighting each first letter of every word and inserting puncuation included in the letter it takes on a much more managable form. The letter takes a familiar paraniod form with Johnny's mother telling him that mutliple people in the center are raping her at night and no one is doing anything about it. She blames everyone working there for not doing anything to help claiming that the night crew cleans ujp after him without any remorse.
Despite the ability to translate most of the letter I was unable, after multiple attempts, to decipher certain sections. Towards the middle of page 621 one section resulted in this phrase "I let caprice and a certain degree of free association take me away" which I was not quite sure what, exactly, this refers to or if I deciphered it correctly.
I believe this section is difficult because it is meant to show the extreme level of paranioa people experiencing schizophrenia have. Johnny's mother is locked away in an insane asylum of sorts where she believe that the Director is out to get her and the attendants rape her in an attempt to break her spirit.
This letter, in my opinion, is highly effective at giving the reader the jumbled feeling a schizophreniac must feel. After reading it the rest of the letters were much more difficult, particularly due to the fact that I had trained myself to cipher the first letters in phrases. fff This section as a whole, when I was finished, made me feel as if I was insane my thoughts jumbled and mixed up going in ten different directions at a time. I even had to take a break from the book to reorganize myself before returning to the chapter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Formal Blog- Sensitive Artists

Option #2) Discuss some element of the _form_ of Jimmy Corrigan in relationship to some element of the _form_ of House of Leaves. You should discover at least a tentative argument, and refer to a specific passage/panel/page from each book.

I am a sensitive artist.
Nobody understands me because I am so deep.
In my work I make allusions to books that nobody else has read,
Music that nobody else has heard,
And art that nobody else has seen.
I can't help it
Because I am so much more intelligent
And well-rounded
Than everyone who surrounds me.

I have to admit, while reading Jimmy Corrigan, this song did not pop into my head. But while considering the similarities of form between Jimmy Corrigan and House of Leaves, I have been unable to get it out of my head.

One of the most important things to know about this song, besides the fact that it was recorded by the band King Missile in the late 1980’s, is that the song is firmly tongue-in-cheek (but I’m guessing you already knew that). The “introduction” of the book Jimmy Corrigan and the “dedication” page of House of Leaves operate in a very similar way. They both baldly state, each in their own way - “This is not for you.” Both books directly challenge the reader to stop reading, while counting on the fact that you, the reader, will indeed ignore their warnings. They both warn you, the reader, that the material is not designed for you, that you cannot hope to understand it, that you may actually be in danger if you continue to read it. Of course, you continue to read…

It can be argued that Chris Ware’s use of this conceit is self-deprecating, funny and even engaging. In his (fake) article, “New Pictorial Language Makes Marks,” Ware implies that “dumb” people will be the target market of this new type of “Pictorial” narrative. Of course, he is being ironic, but he is also being quite authentically caustic about American culture and those who live within it and consume it. His warnings about the book not being “for you” and his denigration of the readers who typically consumes “Pictorial” narrative (read, comic books) actually effectively sets the tone of the book. As a reader, you already have clear indications that the book is not going to be a conventional “comic book” and is probably not going to be a happy story. If you are looking for either of these things – this is not the book for you.

Danielewski uses this conceit (this is not for you) in a manner that is similar to, but also deviates from, the way that Ware utilizes it. It still helps to set the tone of the book, but in a more menacing and distinctly darker way. You (the reader) do not venture far into the book before you begin to realize that it is not what it initially appears to be. Beginning with the “Contents” page, the book initially appears similar to many academic tracts critiquing a particular art form of one type or another. But in Johnny’s introduction, the reader is exposed to the fact that the “Navidson Record” is, in fact, a film critique (about a film that does not exist) written by a blind man. Importantly, the reader is also exposed to Johnny’s voice (by which I mean the distinctive quality of his writing). This is significant because Johnny interrupts the narrative quite a bit with his theories, ideas and stories. Johnny’s introduction (much like Ware’s first two pages in Jimmy Corrigan) provides a road map which allows the reader to become familiar with some of the “signposts” which punctuate the landscape of House of Leaves. You, the reader, become familiar with Johnny’s voice, you also learn that many of the articles, citations and references within the “Navidson Record” are frauds, and finally you learn that the film does not even exist (as far as Johnny has been able to ascertain) and is being described in such depth by a man who would never have been able to watch the film anyway. You also begin to realize that there is also something unnamed and terrible happening to Johnny. He is being menaced by something. Something that is contained within the materials presented in the book (or is he mentally ill?). The line “this is not for you” perpetuates this sense of darkness and danger. Again, if you are looking for a traditional book about a family living in rural American or a film theory tract– this is not the book for you.

Another similarity of form between the two books is evident in the way that each of them marks transitions. In Jimmy Corrigan, as discussed in class, color is the clearest designator of a transition between time and characters. The transition between each narrative is marked by the sun rising or sun setting, darkness or light, rain or snow. In House of Leaves, the transition between characters is marked by the quality of the text (i.e. the font used). Both books use clear visual cues to mark the transition from one character to another. In House of Leaves, the reader is additionally “cued” by the use of footnotes to transition from Zampano’s writing to Johnny’s observations and his own storyline.

But why have I had the song “Sensitive Artist” stuck in my head for the last couple of days? I finally figured it out. Formally, both Jimmy Corrigan and House of Leaves owe a huge debt to the artist’s book movement. Neither book so much resembles the examples of their own particular genre nearly as much as they resemble the books made by visual artists (and each other). Both books bear the mark of their respective authors'/creators' hand clearly upon them. Every element, every centimeter of Jimmy Corrigan is designed/constructed by Chris Ware to push forward or explore some element of his narrative (the layers upon layers of information grafted together in House of Leaves clearly shows the hand of its creator as well). The book, both books actually, by their very design, demand that the reader interact with them in a very physical way. You, as a reader, must turn the book this way and that way, flip the pages back and forth, and pay incredibly close attention to the visual details, or else risk becoming lost or even worse, frustrated.

Artist’s books demand much from their readers. They are designed to be interacted with, not passively gazed upon. Books by artists Ed Ruscha, Anselm Kiefer, and Max Ernst pushed beyond the boundaries of traditional narrative, traditional bookmaking and even traditional artistic practice. They challenged the expectations of those who might gaze upon their work, their books. In some ways, Danielewski’s use (on pages 119-148) of shapes, columns and reversal of type (making it appear as though the text goes through the pages) appears heavily influenced by some of the experimental books produced by artists, particularly those of Dada-ist origins. His liberal use of architectural terminology, film history, photo theory and mythology throughout these specific pages seems almost self-referential, an acknowledgment of his influences. As discussed in class, Chris Ware’s work is also heavily influenced by the historical, the architectural.

Both books transcend the traditional boundaries of their respective genres through their form and in how they function. Like many other artists’ books, they require active participation from their readers and are visually and intellectually complex. They can be a challenge to read, but definitely an interesting one.

And you can’t say that they didn’t warn you, now can you?

Technology and Communication/Final Project Idea

I have been thinking about my midterm project on using two different mediums (comic/music) to tell a story and found that I have been quite interested in that concept lately. I originally was planning on writing a short story and recording 3-4 songs to go along with it but there's only about a month left and I only have a few riffs music wise and would be taking on way more than I am currently capable of with that.

But this brought me to thinking how many mediums we use today because of technology to communicate with people. There is talking in person or on the phone, writing letters/email and using websites such as facebook and myspace to blog, send messages and upload photos. Recently I went on a trip to New Orleans and was thinking that I have used all of these technologies to rehash the trip to friends and family. Also there is added complexity because each of these mediums are chosen depending on what audience I was telling the story to whether it be family, friends or mere acquaintances. I thought this would be an interesting topic to do a paper on for the final project. I was wondering if anyone had some input on this because it's quite vague at the moment and I need to tighten it up a lot before actually doing the project.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Post that May Seem as Insane as the Book

I’ve read quite a few books in my life, but it isn’t until now that I realize I’ve never read a horror novel. Right now that’s what I’m calling this because it creeps me out. I’ve definitely never had a chill run down my neck from reading a book, and that definitely happened at the end of chapter V.

“Then again, ‘always’ slightly mispronounces ‘hallways.’

It also echoes it.”

It’s strange, while reading this book I’ve begun to feel a lot like Johnny. The book has definitely consumed a lot more of my time than I expected it would, even now I’m trying to understand and decode what I think is a hidden message in the Chapter VIII. I’m sure most have you have noticed the little squares breaking up the paragraphs, solid ones and hollow ones. I’m pretty sure that indicates the dots and dashes of Morse code, but without knowing where the characters begin and end it seems impossible to decode.

A recurring theme I see throughout the book is exploration. The novel itself is exploring the boundaries of what you can do with how a novel is structured. The main focus of the book so far has been exploring where the hallways leads. Even the family’s pets, Hillary and Mallory, are named after the mountain climbers. Hillary being the first to reach the summit and Mallory being a climber who died attempting the same feat. Mallory is also the man who famously said he wanted to climb Mount Everest “Because it’s there.

This book is complex and engrossing. There are so many things that can be said about it, and I’m sure I’ll be blogging frequently on it.


Also when I first started reading this I was instantly reminded of John Dies at the End. Maybe some of you have heard of or even read it. If not it’s a strange, funny and creepy book that was originally published online in a series of episodes. The whole thing is available to read online at (Just scroll down to the bottom to find the index). It’s quite long, but it’s a really cool story. The reason I thought of it was because they both start in the same way. With one guy getting a call from his friend at 3:00AM that he soon regrets. The first part of it was written in 2001 so it’s entirely possible that it may have even been inspired by House of Leaves

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Formal Blog Assignment

Option #1) Find a very confusing passage in House of Leaves - not a slightly difficult one, but one that drives you up a wall. Hopefully that won't be too hard! Then, briefly explain both

a) What that passage seems to mean, or at least one possible explanation of it. If you're highly confident in your explanation, your passage is probably too easy (or you did some substantial research).

b) What that difficulty accomplishes; in other words, you should explain what the difficulty itself (think form, not content) is for.

Option #2) Discuss some element of the _form_ of Jimmy Corrigan in relationship to some element of the _form_ of House of Leaves. You should discover at least a tentative argument, and refer to a specific passage/panel/page from each book.

Informal: House of Leaves

Has anyone else found the footnotes, particularly later on in the book, insanely confusing? Twice already a footnote has refered to a later chapter which, at the current moment, has little or no relevance to the topic at hand such as page 82. On that page the footnote instructs you to refer to Chapter 13 which, after reading the first two pages, isn't really relevant at this time. Also, are we really supposed to read all 50 pages of the letters from Truant's mother at this time. Anyway, anyone's input would be greatly appreciated because right now I'm interested while, at the same time, confused. This book is like watching Momento for the first time, it's very difficult to juggle both stories going on at the same time. This problem is exacerbated by the weird times when one story is cut off and the other one continues.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The mid-term project, in my opinion, was impossible. First, I didn't get any help from the reviewer in terms of what to fine tune. Second, it is very hard, for me at least, to work with such a vague description of what needed to be done. I believe, going in, that this project was about demonstrating some aspect of the class and what we had learned. I put a ton of effort into my project and tried to make it entertaining while also staying close to the design laid out in the choose your own adventures I have read. I really wish I was given the suggestions I got for my final draft on my first, then maybe I could have worked on it. I believe it is more than a bit unfair the grading system and way in which this way handled. I have never been a C student and I didn't put forth a C effort. This basically makes me feel like I should give up on this class or withdraw, I'm sure the final will be just as unclear.....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Formal Blog.

Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan the smartest kid on earth is a graphic comic narrative of the life of a kid, Jimmy Corrigan, through different stages in life. It was a social commentary attacking our stereotypical views on comics and some social norms. The book offered very little words, rather a pictorial dramatization of event coupled with parts of speech, a vast assortment of sounds.

In the text, Ware took advantage of the different parts of speech in various contexts, some of the panels were linked by adverbs which serve the purpose of modifying what was said or about to be said, and sometimes he repeatedly used conjunctions to connect panels to create a sense of continuity for the reader. Wares’ crafty use of these parts of speech boosts the effectiveness of the novel while maintaining its comical identity even as it vocalizes the ensuing events.

Ware also used and array of sounds further limiting the quantity of words used in the novel. Sound stood as a representation of jimmy’s emptiness and a crafty way of limiting the volume of words used in the novel. This amplifies what is otherwise quite in our world because of Jimmy’s loneliness and boredom. Although these sounds weren’t exclusively used in contexts with just jimmy, it still showed the emptiness in jimmy’s life amplified everything else. Since Jimmy’s social contact revolved around the phone, most times it phone rings with jimmy in the panel and when he wasn’t Ware depicted the phone looking for Jimmy.

The text, Jimmy Corrigan the smartest kid on earth was an unconventional spatial narrative circumspectly depicted by Chris Ware.

informal blog

Jimmy Corrigan was one of the most interesting and frustrating reading experiences I have ever undertaken. First, the book changes the way you read constantly which makes it almost impossible to read any given page one time. Also the story seems to go nowhere, when I finished the book I didn't feel like I was satisfied with the way it ended or that the story was wrapped up I just had a ton of questions and no answers. Despite the frustrating reading experience I still enjoyed the graphic novel, it was a good diversion from the average novels I have been reading all semester and the use of the comic book form was incredible. This book left me with no feeling of closure but a desire to read more of the author's work.

The young Master Corrigan

So this is the image I'd like to discuss. I really like this particular picture a lot. It's very similar to the picture that we discussed in class about the cat and the mouse and their eternal conflict.

This image is also showing a complex relationship. However, it's different. It's telling its own story. It takes a few minutes to work through, but it obviously starts in the center somewhere. We have this yearbook, showing how two people from the class of '64 got together to make this child. We get one story below the yearbook, showing how the father left the mother when she got all knocked up. The mother had the child, but had to put her up for adoption. As we move up the right side, we see how she was adopted by a different woman, who shortly married, and then we get a final image of the girl all grown up.

What's interesting is that this picture relates a fairly complicated story with absolutely no words at all. My minimal explanation was a whole paragraph, and that's only explaining the immediate image. This is a compelling example of how the different medium allows for a different style of storytelling. It's utilizing the art, rather than the written word. If one's gonna write everything, why not just write a novel?

There are some little details that make the picture pretty interesting. I like how the adoption papers are shown going from the doctor to to pocket of the woman on the right hand side. It parallels the journey of the child from the biological to adoptive mother. It's a small detail that shows the connection very effectively. In the pictures representing the timeline of the girl's life, it starts off with the fetal picture on the right hand side, and it has all sharp edges. But on the far left, it's got a wavy line, indicating that this is only the beginning portion of her life. It's not the entire story. It's entirely communicated through a graphical medium.

Jimmy Corrigan Formal post

First I guess I have to say that I don’t think analyzing comics are my forte, last class when we went over Jimmy Corrigan I was amazed at the things people were able to pull out of comics, but I will give it a shot. Though I don’t think I can select a certain area to discuss, overall I think the comic is very interesting how it is designed. The colors and sizes of the panels give more to what is going on than the text or images can do alone. About 2/3 of the way through the book there is a section where Jimmy is still in school and has a bouquet of flowers on his desk. It starts out with a big frame indicating to me that he has some sort of self confidence or maybe an indifference of what is going on around him. But as the teacher addresses him about the flowers the panels get smaller and smaller. Then at the end of the scene he is asked to put the flowers in his desk showing his embarrassment from this and the panel shrinks to where the text is almost unreadable. This is used throughout the comic to show artistic views such as the theatre we discussed in class but also to show Jimmy’s emotions.

Another way emotion is shown is with the colors of the images. In Jimmy’s “future” where he is older the images are often dim or gray, but when we flash backwards in time the images are lighter with more colorful images. Also Jimmy’s mood reflects the colors used in the drawings. In the frames following the image I talked about earlier the colors change dramatically as Jimmy anticipates a “pounding” from his classmates for bringing flowers for his mother into the classroom. As he expects to get beat up after school the colors immediately change to a red hue, and continue as he gets home late and awaits his punishment there. Then without any punishment he wakes up the next morning still confused about why he hadn’t received punishment for coming home late, and also for leaving the door unlocked. The colors again correlate changing to a yellow hue as Jimmy remains confused, and then as he reaches some kind of conclusion it leads to a depressing gray hue. This type of color change is used throughout the comic in conjunction with the panel size to bring more emotion and incite to how the characters are feeling.

Well that was my shot at analyzing the comic strip…there is also a French film called “Amelie” that uses the same type of colorful imagery throughout the movie to express the main characters emotions.

Formal Blog on "The Smartest Kid on Earth." (hyperbole anyone?)

First of all, welcome back everyone, I hope you all had spendid breaks! I think this book is very interesting on many levels. It amazes me how every little detail could mean something and how intricate everything is. At first I thought, like everyone else, "oh a huge comic book, sweet thank god it isn't Mark Twain." I was wrong. It actually has a very complicated narrative that I feel is open to much interpretation. I feel like we could talk about this book forever because there is so much to interpret. That is what I like about it. It is very weird in my opinion, but I actually enjoy reading it more than a conventional novel. There were a lot of parts that I marked as interesting, but i'll attempt to explain one as I saw it.

In the book, Jimmy has a whole lot of fantasies, and they usually interrupt the narrative. I found the fantasies he had when with his dad very interesting. I also find their relationship interesting. Jimmy is so soft spoken that he never stands up for himself, but his Dad has never been there and after he left him and his mother, he still isn't very warm-hearted when they meet in Jimmy's thirtys. On the one page he calls Jimmy a "mistake," and proceeds to say that he isn't the only "mistake" he ever made. In some of the fantasies he has, his Dad makes him kill animals and is abusive. This is obviously a metaphor for the emotional abuse Jimmy has been handling from him his whole life. One part that I found interesting was when he first meets his father in the airport and he "fantasizes" that he is awkwardly in his bedroom and he breaks his mug and hits his father, while his father asks politely for him to stop and laughs about it while getting hit with broken glass. I feel like this is basically Jimmy switching places with his father. He has always been so passive and when people walk all over him he plays it off and awkwardly laughs while completely submissive. His dad has been crushing him his whole life by never being there and affecting his mother, so he is dreaming that he is "crushing" his father instead, while his father passively takes it.

On the next page it is back to Jimmy sitting alone in his apartment and it picks apart a picture of his mother, father, and himself. We see this picture being taken later in the text, and this image repeats itself multiple times. The picture is ripped, one side has him holding his mother's hand, and the other is his father alone. It shows the picture frame upright, then turned over, then a drawer which leads us to believe he put the photo in a drawer because he couldn't look at it. These images of the frame are connected to the part of the picture with his mother in it. I may be going out on a limb here but what I got from it was his mother was holding on to the image of the three of them, and she never let go, but she supressed her feelings for Jimmy and put them away in the "drawer." The image of his father is attatched to an image of a truck dumping off bricks in a pile and I believe this symbolizes his father dumping him and his mother into a pile of other things he has dumped. We did learn later in the text that his father has more "mistakes" or children.

In the bottom corner, we see a photo of his grandparents; his father's parents, together. Then to the left there is a breakdown of their lives. First the grandparents concieve his father, we do not see an image of his mother's parents. We then see Jimmy being concieved by his mother and father, and then it points to the ripped photo alluding that his father left when he was just a small child. It then progresses to "now" which is the three of them, unhappy, living seperately and not as a family. The next image is just Jimmy and his mother and a gravestone in his father's place, foreshadowing his death. Then it is just him and his mother. His father was only there for one segment of his life, and then he leaves again, this time for good. In all of the images his mother's head is faced down as if she is always sad. We never actually see her full face in the text, and I think that has a lot of meaning. We don't see women's faces till towards the end of the novel, and I think this is because first off Jimmy's mother smothers him and having no father causes him to be completely awkward with women. I think his mother's face not being visible, and her always looking down symbolizes how his father leaving affected his life and caused him to not be able to deal with women. Overall, his relationship with his father, and the fantasies he has about it are very powerful. I think Ware revolves the entire narrative around the effects of his father leaving. He uses a lot of repeated images to show how much of an impact it had on Jimmy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jimmy Corrigan Craft

After spending close to 2 hours with the spinny thing, i've completed it. I enlarged it a little bit and I definitely think that it helped with reduce the amount of frustration considerably. 

In class it was noted that Ware was very meticulous with this book, making sure that everything was designed perfectly, and taking a incredibly large amount time to do so. I was able to see these aspects come through while making this craft. The little cuts that had to be perfectly made and the fact that everything went together like it was supposed to, shows me the level of detail that Ware gave every aspect of his book.

Jimmy Corrigan: Last Man on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan is a story spanning four generations of the Corrigan family with the central story being that of Jimmy. Jimmy Corrigan is 36 years old, calls his mother every day and is all but unable to talk to women. The story is frequently punctuated with fantasies that Jimmy has. I chose to analyze one of these fantasies.

The fantasy takes place after Jimmy and Amy had looked through Jimmy’s dad’s pictures. After a mostly one sided conversation Amy heads to bed leaving Jimmy alone. Jimmy then fantasizes that they are both sitting together holding hands when a nuclear explosion goes off outside. Jimmy then throws himself onto Amy telling her to “Get Down” and saves her. They soon after realize that civilization is completely destroyed and that they are the only two people left on Earth. The scene flash forwards and Jimmy is shown a fit strong man wielding an ax and chopping wood. Amy is shown carrying a baby and wearing little clothing. A small fan clicking on then snaps Jimmy out of his fantasy.

This is consistent with most of the fantasies that the characters have through the graphic novel. Jimmy’s fantasies often involve him in some sort of hero role doing something to get a girl. In this fantasy Jimmy saves Amy from the nuclear blast. This is a fantasy not uncommon for many men. Lots of people like to imagine themselves saving the girl and having her fall in love with him. Jimmy’s fantasy is a bit different from this though because in addition to the girl saving, his fantasy also has Amy and Jimmy being the last two people on Earth. This extra detail shows that even in his fantasies Jimmy is insecure. Despite the fact that he portrays himself as a hero he still imagines them being the only two people left in the world. This essentially assures that Amy will fall for Jimmy. Additionally, since they are the only people left in the world Jimmy now doesn’t have to worry about his mother or any of the (few) other people in his life.

The next important detail of the fantasy is the image of Jimmy wielding an axe. No longer is he an overweight out of shape man. Here he is portrayed as being fit and muscular. Jimmy is shown chopping down a tree. Amy then approaches him holding a Jimmy’s baby. There is a log cabin which Jimmy must have built. These panels show how Jimmy wishes he could be. He his now a strong good looking man with a wife and kid.

I think the key idea here is that Jimmy Corrigan is getting a fresh start. I think everyone at some point in their life has wanted a “do over”. Jimmy just wants to be able to take another shot at life without having all those people in his life that made it so much harder for him. No one around to judge him and make fun of his strange quirks, just a woman who loves him and a family. I think this desire for a family idea is further emphasized by the fact that Jimmy looks a picture of his father’s family after he returns to reality.

Jimmy’s fantasies often show him being a hero, saving the girl and living happily ever after. Unfortunately for Jimmy these fantasies are far from his reality, thus why they are fantasies. Jimmy the 36 year old man who can’t talk to women is left only with his fantasies.

Formal Blog on Jimmy Corrigan

One of the interesting questions posed during last class was what exactly made comic books appealing as opposed to other mediums. Adam’s response in class was that comic books have the unique ability to present a narrative in moments of time and in time that may or may not be linear. This got me thinking exactly how Jimmy Corrigan takes advantage of the traits of a comic book and how exactly it is set apart from other ways other presenting a narrative. I noticed that some frames of Jimmy Corrigan immediately made me think of techniques used in film. Although the illustrations in Jimmy Corrigan do use similar techniques which I will explain further, the lack of true linear time during parts of the comic book allow each individual frame to have increased importance as well as provide for different interpretations of how the frames are fitting together.

One page that I think portrays the similarities between the comic book and film especially well occurs just a bit over halfway through. The center frame shows Jimmy entering a bedroom. The two frames directly to the left of the center show the bathroom door with a flushing sound and the door opened with Jimmy leaving. On the right of the center frame are three pictures zoomed in of items around the room. Finally, the four frames at the bottom of the page show Jimmy holding up the photo, a zoomed in picture of the photo and two more pictures of Jimmy looking at the photo, the last of which he is sniffling. The first connections that I made to techniques in film were of the extreme close up shot. If the director feels that a certain item in a room is important, the camera will zoom in on that object. Both the film and comic book medium have the same purpose of emphasizing something important that otherwise might go unnoticed. The difference in how the close up technique is used is that in film, the linear aspect of that narrative provides more context of the scene. In Jimmy Corrigan, the frames that display close ups act more as pieces of the puzzle rather than something that is blatantly important. The non-linear display of the frames allows for each close up to be interpreted differently. There is very little prior context to the frames with close ups – rather, these frames help to create a context from which the rest of the scene is understood. In this particular scene, the three close up allow the reader to see everything in the room that will eventually gain importance. Perhaps more importantly, the frames can be interpreted in a few different ways. The close-ups can be from a more omnipresent viewpoint – they are in the room so they are indentified. Or, as the center frame might suggest, they are items of Jimmy’s gaze. If the latter is indeed the case, then the page can be viewed from a more linear perspective. Otherwise, is there any true order or amount of time in between each slide? The ambiguity here is a result of the medium.

Another quick similarity that I found between film and the comic book style of Jimmy Corrigan is the use of establishing shots/frames. Before many of the events transpire in Jimmy Corrigan, there is a zoomed out illustration. This is actually used in a similar way to establishing shots in film. The setting of the scene is established in a moderately to heavily zoomed out view. One main difference between how the comic book uses these establishing frames in comparison to film is the extent of how much the shot is used to establish setting. In film, the majority of the establishing shots are solely to present the setting. In Jimmy Corrigan, this is sometimes the case, but because the narrative frequently jumps between the present, past and subliminal, these shots sometimes act more on creating the mood for the following shots rather than establishing a true setting. This isn’t to say that these frames aren’t used to provide a context for the environment, but they usually have more of a point than their counterparts in film.

Tony's Jimmy Corrigan Formal Post

On the bottom of page 272 (66 pages after the house project which is said to be page 206 in the directions to build it) in Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware uses an interesting technique. Immersed in a section that includes detailed drawings of the massive buildings of the world's fair, in a line of 7 rather plain frames. To this point James Corrigan's thoughts have been white script lettering on a black background, wherein these 7 frames there are two slides with a blue background and one that is red. This change in background struck me as odd and caused me to ponder its significance more that the simplicity of the drawings would suggest.

Changes in color and shading are used quite often in this graphic novel to represent changes in mood or setting or story that is being told. One good example is when a day dream begins the shading and background color(s) almost always change. Here he uses an abrupt change in background color to note a change in mood but I also believe it leads to what happens in the subsequent pages. The first two frames in that line that only contain text have a blue background. In these frames James discusses how he did not use his free ticket for opening day and is waiting for his birthday and for his dad to take him, and how he does not trust him to do so. One way the blue background could be taken as blue in a gloomy sad sense. If it was looked at in this sense then the background is amplifying James' current gloomy mood towards everything. I believe that this color means a little more than that.

Throughout the book there are many frames with transitioning words on them, i.e. page 271 at the bottom "Sometimes". Many of these transition frames have the exact same shade of blue for its background. Therefore the two frames of James' thought can be seen as a transition to a new part of the story, which ends up being the end of the story of James' childhood. It is interesting how by only changing the color of a frame, the reader is alerted that something different is about to happen. This is done without pictures or the transitional words that are used in other sections of the book.

In the next frame of James' thought, the background color is changed again to a bright red. In this frame James finds that his father is coming through on his promise and taking him to the fair. This is a stark change in mood from gloomy to happy which could be the reason for the change in color. One thing that troubled me however, was that the red used did not bring the idea of happiness to my mind. It brought thoughts of danger or a stop sign. This is rather different than the words of happiness that are contained in the frame itself. I think Ware deliberately using this to warn the reader that something bad is going to happen soon. These thoughts are realized a few pages later when James' dad abandons him at the fair.

In both cases Ware uses the background color of a frame to guide the reader to what is going to occur in the near future whether it be a transition or to alert the reader something bad is going to come of the fair. This is done without the need of any text or pictures, though they are used in that strip of 7 slides and add to the transition. In the case of the blue frames, this idea is thought because of the many blue transition frames that occurred before it, allowing the reader to realize that a transition is occurring without the need of the transitional word. The red frame also tells the reader to stop. And even though the text contained in the frame may be happy a sneaking suspicion is placed in the readers mind that something bad is going to happen. This is a true testament how Ware has a very specific reason for everything he does whether is be in intricate drawings or something as simple as the background of a frame.

Ware, Chris, Jimmy Corrigan: the Smarted Kid on Earth. Pantheon Books, 2003.

Formal Blog

When I saw that we were going to be reading a comic book I was excited because I thought it would be a good break from our normal in depth highly complex readings that we have been doing. Unfortunately for me I had a wrong preconceived notion of the book. My previously held stereotype of comic books was a geek sitting in his basement reading a wild adventure comic or an old man sitting on the toilet reading the Sunday comics. Either way I never imagined myself reading a million page comic with a full plot line and intricacies. I read through the first half the book but when I got to class before break I realized that I had only read the words on the page and hadn’t taken into account all the time and thought that went in to all the other aspects of the story.

When I read the second half the book I read it much slower and analytically. I picked up on more of the small details that we discussed in class. The pictures portray most of the story and add a lot of depth to what the words are describing. I found myself struggling with the flow of the pages because I am not familiar with the format. Fortunately I picked up on it and also saw that some of the word bubbles come from people who are not in the box where they are written. Once I realized that I was able to start thinking like the characters and how they interact with each other. I also like how the author puts some words in bold to add emphasis to them. Also he uses only a few curse words which add more feeling to the instances that he does use them.

The section that sparked the most interest for me was when he found out that his father was in a car accident and was in the hospital. He goes to the hospital to see what has happened and see if there is anything he can do. Throughout the book I was confused by the multiple generations of Corrigans but this series brought it all together for me. There is a doctor that comes into the waiting room and delivers the prognosis that he has been in a car accident and will have to stay for a couple days. He describes some of the possible complications from the accident. One of them is that his organs could be failing and fill up with blood and burst causing internal bleeding. This sparks an image in his head of a plastic bag filling with blood and eventually bursting. Then you see a old limp body before the blood and one filled with blood. These images are not in a frame and seem to be in free form. This may mean that he is imagining the images and that they are not actually taking place. These images and thoughts must have been disturbing to him while he was in the room but the doctor did not seem to have any emotion.

Then there are a couple other events where he goes back to the house with his sister and she sets him up for the night. But then they go back to the hospital the following morning with fresh clothes for their father. They are greeted and told to go back to the waiting room and someone would be in to see them. They are both excited to see him again and give him the clothes. The doctor enters the room and delivers the news that he made it through the night but died in the morning. Both don’t know how to react initially and then the girl shoves Jim to the floor and he leaves the room and takes someone else’s taxi home. This series frustrated my because of the nonchalance of the doctor and people in the hospital. They deliver disturbing news so often that it becomes just another family to inform and then move on with their day. They do not sugar coat anything or make it sound better they just tell it straight and deliver the news.

Jim’s life seems to be confusing because he is trying to piece together who the colored girl is and how she is related. He is also trying to make amends with his father while keeping a close separate relationship with his mother. Although I probably will not be reading another comic for a while I was greatly intrigued by this one.

Formal Blog 3/20

I must admit I don’t see the point in The Adventure of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.  Maybe I’m missing something big, but there are two things, which bother me.  First the story is lame.  It is about a 30 year-old loser who just met his dad.  There is no driving conflict to push the story forward.  Jimmy bumbles about his pitiful life.  The second issue I have with the story is the discontinuities with in the plot.  One minute the book is focused on present day Jimmy, the next second it jumps to the 1800s.  Though I find these two items painful, I do believe they are crucial to this book and very unique to any form of literature today.  The discontinuities have much to do with Christopher Ware’s medium and his experimentation within the medium.  This will allow him to construct a narrative different than a conventional comic book, movie, or novel.  The story he tells with in it is also unique to Ware’s life, influences, and medium.


If you translated this graphic novel to a feature film, you would get an average length film that feels like the entire Lord of the Rings saga.  The story does not having any driving force which films typically exemplify.  Jimmy does not have any goals or motivations.  Instead, he simply goes about his life.  He goes to work, goes home, calls his mom, etc.  He is not aspiring to anything.  His only desire is to be with a woman, but he does nothing about this.  Jimmy Corrigan is about as passive of a hero as they come.  However, this graphic novel isn’t meant for theatres or even females.  He intended this for nerdy, off beat, introverted guys who like comic books (REF: inside cover).  This target audience could identify with this extreme example of a guy who has a hard time with girls.  In fact, I doubt there are many readers who have had that kind of luck with women as Jimmy Corrigan does.  This seems to be an exaggeration of a fact of life with his target audience and himself.  The medium itself is appropriate for the story also.  As mentioned before, this story would not work in a movie theatre, because it does not fit entertainment standards.  It does, however, to the niche audience of graphic novels and the Chicago newspaper he originally published.


The comic book medium also allowed Ware to create discontinuities and juxtaposed storylines and dreams without transitions or clues.  He will create dream sequences without any warning, and some are close to reality like the dream with nurse, it confuse the reader for a period of time.  This works in two different ways.  First it creates disillusionment for the character and conveys that to the reader.  Jimmy does have a great life in the real world, so he unknowingly escapes to his fantasyland just to snap back to harsh reality.  This device furthers Jimmy’s character making him more of a loser.


This technique also plays with the conventions of comic books.  Usually each frame is suppose to be viewed one right after the other like reading is one word after the other.  When there is a discontinuity, there should be a transition or at least an indication of a change.  Instead there is almost a seamless flow into the dream or flashback.  This challenges how the reader should read these scenes.  He has to read them all the way through, then realize it’s only a dream.  Then the reader rereads the dream in new context.  So the normal stream of reading is disturbed.  This calls attention to the fact that this is a comic (or graphic novel).  Ware is using these comic book conventions and the story line to construct his own story about his medium and an exaggeration of kids who read these comic books. 


Ware, Chris.  Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.