Wednesday, April 2, 2008

House of Leaves: Frame by Frame Formal Blog

The paragraph I chose to analyze is on page 193. This paragraph and the following pages describe the scene in The Navidson Record where Jeb is shot by Holloway. There are a few reasons why this paragraph and description are interesting. The first interesting thing is that the description is broken down into frames. The paragraph begins by referencing the Zapruder film. The Zapruder film is the famous video of the assassination of President Kennedy. This reference evokes two things, first the graphic nature of the following scene and also serves as an introduction to the frame by frame analysis of Jeb getting shot.

Danielewski describes the action of Jeb being shot in extremely graphic detail frame by frame. “…in the following frame (Reel 10; Frame 193) obliterated the back side of his head…” The end of the paragraph on page 193 ends with “Here then-“and in the following pages “the after/ math/ of meaning. / A life/ time/ finished between/ the space of/ two frames/ The dark line where the / eye persists in seeing / something that was never there / To begin with”. (Each “/” indicates a new page.)

When analyzing these following pages I realized two things. First I noticed that the sentences were broken up between pages in a way that brought to mind frame by frame analysis. Not only is Danielewski describing the death of Jeb frame by frame, he’s making us essentially read frame by frame by turning the pages. Danielwski is attempting to put us in a state of mind in which we see the action moving by one frame at a time.

The second and more revealing thing I noticed about these pages was how they matched the initial description on page 193. Danielewski describes the scene in the film as “Reel 10; Frames 193-205”. As I stated at the beginning of this essay the first paragraph begins on page 193 and the following frames/pages match up with the frames that Danielewski is analyzing. Additionally it is described as Reel 10 and this is Chapter 10 of the book. Not only is Danielewski writing the action frame by frame as it is in the Navidson record, but the pages of the book match up exactly with the frames of the movie.

This is interesting because after noticing this I cannot look at the book the same way. Now instead of seeing “chapters” and “pages” I now see everything as “reel” and “frame”. Obviously the action that unfolds on many of the pages is longer than a frame of film, but at the same time the book/movie connection is now always there. These details reveal that House of Leaves is not broken into chapters but instead into reels.

The final interesting detail is the “typo” at the very end of this section. “something that was never there/ To begin with” There is a footnote after To saying that it is simply a typo and that the “t” should be lowercase. I believe that this was done to show how abruptly the death happened. In one sense it is simply the end of the sentence, but at the same time it is a sentence cut short. Just like how Jeb’s life was abruptly cut short.

House of Leaves is a very complex and detailed work. This paragraph, split into a few pages with precision, to provide an analogy to Jeb’s death is simply amazing to me. By splitting the end of the paragraph into frames/pages Danielewski is able to blend the boundary between the Navidson record and Zampano’s paper on the film.


balford said...

This is a really good observation, I don't think I would have ever noticed that connection, with the pages and the chapter matching up with the frame and reel numbers of the movie. Knowing this will definitely make me read the book differently and this helps me feel like not only a reader, but a viewer of the movie as well. Danielewski is clever in making sure that the reader stays connected to the film and appreciates the fact that it was a movie, before we get it in the form of a book.

Adam Johns said...

I always work with these passages in class; your take on them is both very interesting and very good. I agree with more or less everything in this essay, which is well written and structured as well as insightful - but let me expand on a couple points.

Since the book opens by raising the _problem_ of authenticity in the age of digital manipulation, we might begin by asking _why_ he's turning a book into a simulation of a movie viewed frame-by-frame (incidentally, a movie viewed frame-by-frame works much like a comic, whereas you can create an animated film by making a comic _flow_ between frames -- all three forms blur together here).

I'll be working with these ideas, as well as the ones you raise, in class - but especially given how interested you were in Ware, I thought I'd raise them here - I think Ware & Danielewski might possibly fasicinate you for the same reasons.

Sean Dolinar said...

There is also the comic book recreation of this scene in the back of the book supporting everything you/Adam said.

David Alex said...

I read this the same way, then while looking back for a footnote I noticed a definite period at the bottom of page 204. Inserting this, you get "something that was never there. To begin with..." And then the quote from Ken Burns, which happens to be the first part of the book Truant explicitly tells us never happened...