Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Joe Liu formal blog

Page 267:

“As Johnnie pulled away, she smiled again, that weird all wrong smile. For a moment, I watched her tail lights trail down the street, still feeling uncertain but a little relieved, until as I turned to go inside, I heard the thump. The one I remember even now, so clearly, an eerie and awful sound. Not too loud. Slightly hollow in fact, amounting to just that – a thump. Like that. Thump. I looked down the street. Her truck was gone but behind it, in its wake, something dark rolled into the light of a street lamp. Something Johnnie had thrown out her window as she passed the parked cars. I jogged down the block, feeling more than a little uneasy, until as I approached that clump of something on the side of the road, I discovered much to my dismay all my uneasiness confirmed.”

In House of Leaves, Johnny talks with Johnnie at a bar and gets to know her a bit. She eventually takes him to his house in her truck. However, on the way, they found a black Pekinese that was obviously neglected and destined to die in a dark corner. Johnny picked it up, wipes it off with his shirt, and even says to himself that he “wasn’t going to let this animal die,” but Johnnie wanted the “poor thing.” As it can be seen through the excerpt copied above, Johnnie violently throws it out of her window and kills it despite of her telling Johnny that she is the “momma to all strays.”

After analyzing this excerpt, there are many things that I have noticed that I am fairly certain that the author did not unintentionally do. The names Johnny and Johnnie are very similar, obviously. When spoken, these names are identical. They can only be told apart if one actually sees the spellings of the words. Johnny has very distinctive scars on his arms, which are noticed by almost everyone around him, hence why he can conjure up many false stories about them to impress his crowd. Likewise, Johnnie has her own very distinctive features that attract her own little crowds (mostly men I can imagine). Both characters are very appealing to the opposite sex. It seems like Johnny (and I even think that this is all in his imagination, but I can’t go into that in this analysis) can have sex with every attractive woman he meets. Johnnie probably is the same also, due to her very attractive features.

After noticing these parallels, I then really tried hard to think why Johnnie would throw out the Pekinese even after she shows so much false love towards it in front of Johnny. In a way, Johnnie is giving Johnny some of his own medicine. She was acting as a woman who loved animals, when in fact she hated them. In this way, it shocked Johnny. She lied to him just like how he lies to all of the crowds he and Lude meet.

The dog’s fate is almost pathetic. It dies with just a dull “thump.” Even Johnny describes it as “that clump of something.” But even more interesting is the fact that Johnny felt uneasy the whole time. If he felt so uneasy about Johnnie, then why did he put so much trust into her? Just like Navidson. If he was so uneasy about the dark and dangerous tunnel in his house, why did he want to venture inside of it so badly?

In general, I think this passage makes it clear for the reader that things aren’t how they seem. To Johnny, Johnnie seemed like a woman that would take care of the dog. To Navidson, the tunnel seemed like an obstacle that he could conquer (I did not read far enough to see his outcome yet). Even this book seems like to many a book of just random scraps of text pasted together. It isn’t what it seems, and in fact is much deeper than what it looks like. Although I don’t really enjoy this book much, I do respect it. I can’t really appreciate what it is. It is so deep, and I am missing the meaning of many of the things in it. However, there are parts that I do enjoy, and this excerpt was one of them.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Nitpick: "not unintentional"? Why would you say that, instead of simply saying "intentional?" Usually when we do that sort of thing while writing, it's to cover our tracks, to make us seem like we're not committed to a particular idea. But it's a good idea, so why do it?

You offer a variety of details to defend the hypothesis that Johny and Johnie are deeply similar characters. This all works well for me, but there's a certain amount of hesitation here (which is why I began with the nitpick). Why similar? Why not push the claim the obvious next step, and claim that Johnie is, in some sense, Johny?

Whether this is Johny's way of writing about something appalling he did that he doesn't understand, or whether this is his way of approaching a woman who seems like his double (a relevant novel in the background here is Dostoevsky's The Double), and whose cruel actions seem somehow a reflection of his own (his treatment of women, maybe), you're opening up a great topic, but showing unnecessary hesitation in pursuing it.