Monday, November 10, 2008

Pittsburgh in House of Leaves

When I was reading I decided to glance at that long footnote, which is actually a sidenote on page 120 that is basically a list of architecturally significant things, some of which have names that are recognizable enough to be part of common knowledge. When I saw the sixth entry in that footnote I just had to google it and test whether or not it was something real or entirely made up. It reads “Katselas House in Pittsburgh” so I typed it in expecting to find an exact hit and read its website and so on, or find that no such thing existed, but I was mistaken. Instead I found numerous obituary pages with the name Katselas in them. Interestingly enough Milton Katselas had died soon before October 30th and he was a renowned acting teacher that taught George Clooney and Alec Baldwin. I thought maybe that had a connection with the book because after all Zampano is referencing a movie. After looking through the obituarys I could find no mention of any “house”. I continued looking until I found an architectural firm with the name Katselas, frustratingly enough; I could find no mention of any specific house. The Katselas firm mostly deals with big projects and they specialize in airports according to their website. So In one last ditch attempt I googled “Tasso Katselas” and found out that surprisingly he is Milton Katselas’ brother. I also discovered that Tasso Katselas apparently designed multiple homes in Pittsburgh so it is impossible to know what house is meant by that phrase. Essentially I went on a wild goose chase to discover that example in that footnote is actually ambiguous and isn’t really an example of architecture.

It’s interesting to question at some level whether or not this had to be a goal of Danielewski’s. One questions the validity of a source and looks it up only to find that it is not what it originally seems. I guess it just has to be some form of artistic license which brings me to think that this book must have been very time consuming to not only write but to format and choose sources for. It also adds to the overall mystery of the book because it must take a good deal of creativity to fake legitimate looking examples.

While we’re on the subject of Pittsburgh in House of Leaves Calvary Episcopal in Pittsburgh” is mentioned on page 124. A quick google reveals that this church actually exists and is in Shadyside but it was actually kind of hard to find any real information on it until I googled the architect of the church and found out that he was also designed the much more well known East Liberty Presbyterian Church. The two churches look very similar but the E.L. one is much bigger and more expensive which leads me to question why it wasn’t mentioned instead of the obscure Calvary one. I think it may be an attempt to make the example questionable when in actuality it is not.

Because these sources/ examples actually exist (in some form or another) it leads me to caution myself in either dismissing or accepting something so the best thing I could do while thinking about the book would be to be careful what I believe and what I don’t believe.

Works Cited,0,4661304.story


Adam Johns said...

On the one hand, I could say that this is just a gathering together of ideas, rather than a finished entry - you just raise a number of problems, without really making an argument.

It's still a good, productive piece, though, because you are including substantive research which people will be able to use in future semesters, though. Even if it's rough, it's a valuable contribution to the course *as a course*, or as a community. I may follow up on some of this material.

schifino2012 said...

There is an actual Tasso Katselas house in Fox Chapel designed by the architect himself and built for he and his family in 1962. The house is well documented and it should be fairly easy to find information and photographs of this famous local house. It is designed in the brutalist style which is rare for domestic work. The Katselas family lived in this house for 16 years, finally leaving it in 1978. This house celebrates its 50th birthday this year. It's a very well designed and well built house.