Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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.


Adam Johns said...

I've never thought of the letters as a particularly difficult part, but we all read differently, which this book continually highlights: I never read the letters until I'd finished the main text, for instance. Also, they're my least favorite part of the book, so perhaps I neglect them.

The most interesting thing here, to me, is something I've also experienced. Because some letters (especially the one you mention) are in code, one starts to wonder if there aren't codes everyone. That actually might have something to do with why I don't spend much time on the letters, actually.

For some reason, this reminds me of an absurd book called The Bible Code, which purports to find all sorts of weird codes in the Bible, but really demonstrates that if you apply any arbitrarily large number of codes to a large text, you'll eventually be able to find whatever message you seek (people with enough training in math or CS will understand what I mean).

One thing bothered me. Do you think that severe paranoid schizophrenia is fully compatible with intricate codes? It probably is, but you take it for granted, and I'm not quite _that_ sure, myself.

bkerkan said...

If anyone cares here is the complete deciphered letter...

Dearest Johnny,

They have found a way to break me. Rape a fifty-six year old bag of bones. There is nurse and don’t believe there wise.
The attendants do it. Others do it. Not everyday, not every week, maybe not even every month. But they do it. Someone I don’t know always comes. When it’s dark. Late. I’ve learned not to scream, screaming gave me hope and unanswered hope is shattered hope. Think of your Haitian. It is far saner to choose rape than shattered hope. So I submit and drift.
I let caprice and a certain degree of free association take me away. Sometimes I still away long after it’s done, after he’s gone-the stranger, the attendant, the custodian, the janitor, cleaning man, waiting man, dirty MaN –the night tidying up after him.
I’m in hell giving into heaven where I sometimes think of your beautiful father with his dreamy wings and only then do I allow myself to cry. Not because your mother was raped(again) but because she loved so much what she could never have been allowed to keep. Such a silly girl.
You must save me Johnny. In the name of your father. I must escape this place or I will die.