Wednesday, April 2, 2008

House of Leaves: Formal Post

The portion of the text that piqued my interest was a footnote on page 305. Footnote 252 reads: “This formula isn’t entirely accurate. A more precise calculation can be made by [fill in later]^253.” In turn, footnote 253 reads: “Mr. Truant never completed this note. –Ed.” When I saw this at first, I didn’t think too much of it – it was just another footnote in a book that seems to be half footnotes. After I read this footnote again, however, I noticed a striking similarity to an earlier section of the book. In particular, on page 63 Zampano had left a few blanks in his story. Johnny Truant mentioned as much in a footnote on the page.

To me this represents the growing similarity between the lives of Johnny Truant and Zampano. From what we know about Zampano (as told by Truant), writing House of Leaves had engulfed his life prior to his death. To this effect, ever since finding the manuscript and then proceeding to piece everything together, Johnny’s life has similarly worsened. He appears to be in poor psychological state and has taken to many different forms of medications and drugs. Whereas Zampano had put so much stake into writing House of Leaves that he left sections to be continued or filled in later, Johnny began to exhibit similar traits in his writing, compiling and note taking of Zampano’s work. The fact that both left sections unfinished was a testament to just how engulfed they had become into their work – and a possible foreshadowing of what might inevitably happen to Johnny.

With the amount of text given to Johnny’s life in the footnotes, it’s difficult to gain parallels to the Navidson Record itself. Without the introduction tying Johnny to Zampano, the footnotes would almost seem entirely pointless. But as more and more of Johnny’s life is described – his friends, anger, drugs, sex- the more relevant the introduction becomes. In it, Truant faced almost a self realization that Zampano’s tailspin into a lonely life completely devoted to his work could serve as a warning. Really, many of Truant’s traits are directly opposite to Zampono. For one, Johnny does have friends, has had relationships and keeps up with them. Zampono, while known to be depressed in his later years, did not drink or do drugs, clearly in opposition to the lifestyle of Johnny. It does appear, however, that when Johnny encountered Zampano’s work, something changed. The amount of effort that Johnny then put into the compilation and annotation of the Navidson Record shows striking similarities to the amount of effort that Zampano must have put into even writing the work in the first place. The guy was blind and yet analyzed and described a fictional documentary in such detail that his entire life must have been centered around this project because of its sheer difficulty. Similarly, the amount of effort involved for Johnny must have been enormous as well. Not only is he detailing his own life in the footnotes and adding comments to Zampano’s work, but he is also putting together “lost” pieces of the story, crossed out pieces and pieces that had been inked over. It is then, in the similarities found between Johnny’s footnotes and Zampano’s story that illustrate the growing link between the two. The question then would be under what circumstances was Johnny’s footnote left unfinished. Did he truly heed the warning of Zampano and abandon it? Or did he fall into the same trap and die before completing it. Either way, I found the link to be quite interesting.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Although this post was interesting, I couldn't figure out quite what you were up to until the end, when you bring it neatly back to the question of why the note was left unfinished. You raise a good set of questions here.

So, since this manuscript is in some sense unfinished, how do we read it. As a failure (for Johny or for Zampano)? As something which, for various reasons, needs to be unfinished for it to make sense? Or do we read the unfinished material in a more particular way, as a reflection of who Johny is - e.g., he doesn't include the calculation in a footnote because he's no good at math, and he can't just lie his way through an equation the way he does with everything else.

This was somewhat disorganized - it might have been structured more clearly, to show the way you're working back around to your original question.