Both Jimmy Corrigan and House of Leaves prove to be complex tales with several similarities with one another. Both exist as a type of frame narrative, telling multiple stories at once, where an introductory story is first composed to frame the other stories within the tale. To help the readers comprehend the complexity of this type of writing, and also to provide an interesting element to their works, Ware and Danielewski deliberately designed these works to be pieces of interactive fiction. Present in both Jimmy Corrigan and House of Leaves, the reader is able to become actively involved in the plots of the stories being told.
In addition to the abundance of footnotes, varying fonts, colors, and formatting, and changes in author, House of Leaves incorporates several appendices, which are briefly referenced throughout the book. As these extra appendices are not included within the story where they would be relevant, footnotes insinuate that reading such additions will give the reader a better understanding of the story. For example, one particular footnote written by the editor states, “Those, however, who feel they would profit from a better understanding of his past may wish to proceed ahead and read his father’s obituary in Appendix II-D as well as those letters written by his institutionalized mother in Appendix II-E” (Danielewski 72). This slight coaxing requires the reader to take a pause in the reading, and further investigate this additional information, which, upon reading, does indeed provide a better understanding of the story and of the demeanor of this character. The reader can personally decide if he/she would like to learn more about the character, and if so, they have the option to do so.
In addition to helping the reader understand the complex storyline that unfolds in House of Leaves, Danielewski uses the narrator himself to further draw the reader into the frightening story. As Truant is having one of his first “episodes” in the hallway outside the tattoo parlor, he begins to speak directly to the reader, and does a superb job of allowing the reader to get a glimpse of what intense feelings were coursing through him. Truant instructs, “To get a better idea…now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of your, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can’t see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence” (Danielewski 72). Not only does this passage effectively describe the torment that Truant is facing, but it also allows the reader to feel a bit of the same. Perhaps I am not the only reader who quickly glanced around the room before continuing on with the story.
In Jimmy Corrigan, many interactive aspects are also very pertinent throughout the story of this family’s unfortunate past and present. Throughout the story Ware requires to treat the book as an object, rather than simply a book, as he provides the reader with various interactive opportunities. Most obvious of this are the “craft” pages, where the reader can deface his or her book and create paper models that directly relate to the story at that time. Ware also uses the comic book frames to his advantage, as he sees these illustrated frames as additional opportunities to engage the reader in the story. The first page of Jimmy Corrigan displays the world, and the zooming in of such, similar to that of frames of a movie. The reader is able to personally determine how quickly time is moving throughout these frames, and must turn the book accordingly to view the illustrations in correct sequence.
Ware’s and Danielewski’s ability to actively involve the reader throughout their stories allows a better understanding of the material and provides for a more enjoyable read. Whether the reader is able to mentally control the speed at which time of the story passes, or can personally feel the emotions of the speaking character, the interactive aspect of these authors’ works effectively improve these complex tales.