Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jimmy and the House - Option 2

Before starting this blog I ruled out the possibility of finding any connection in form between Jimmy Corrigan and House of Leaves. Didn't think I'd be able to do it. So I read House of Leaves with the intent to write on a 'hard' passage. But after finally getting used to the very unique writing style I couldn't really find anything in this first reading. I mulled over Option 2 again and found out that there is actually a very blatant connection between the two, and quite possible other more difficult connections that I don't know about. Essentially, both books (or as far as I've read into House of Leaves) tell two stories at the same time.

In Jimmy Corrigan we have an account of Jimmy's present day life and the life of his grandfather as a child. The story goes back and forth between the present and past, between REAL time and replayed time. And as we glean more and more from the Jimmy's grandfather's past, our knowledge of Jimmy's present is enhanced and more complete.

Similarly we have House of Leaves. The story is told first person by Johnny Truant. Part of the book contains Johnny telling the reader about his everyday live, it's almost like reading his personal diary. On the other hand the book also contains some sort of documentary film script called The Navidson Record being read by Johnny. Sometimes the diary type story of Johnny doesn't appear to have any connection to what he is reading, while at other times he draws directly from the reading. These two 'story lines' are often written on the same page, half of the page is about The Navidson Record while the other half is about Johnny - indeed, one is reading two stories at the exact same time.

So clearly the forms nearly parallel each other, two stories being told in one book. But going a slight step beyond the physical appearance of the story telling is what is being told. I emphasized that Jimmy's life represents REAL time, contrasted by flashbacks of his grandfather. His life parallels the structure of Johnny's 'diary'. The life of Johnny is the REAL portion of House of Leaves, it is supposed to be taken as a real person's life, in contrast to the fictitious Navidson Record.

3 comments:

Krystal_H said...

First I'd like to say that I see where you are going with this. You will want to try and make
your argument more concrete by using specific examples from both books. You mention in the third
paragraph how Johnny is dually reading and writing in House of leaves, creating parallel storylines.
You could take that idea farther by mentioning the scene in Jimmy Corrigan where we discover, that
Jimmy's grandfather is telling his childhood story to Amy when she is young. It gives a greater look into
the whole "story within a story" concept.

"Sometimes the diary type story of Johnny doesn't appear to have any connection to what he is reading,
while at other times he draws directly from the reading." How does this differ from the parallel
storyline in Jimmy Corrigan in terms of "REAL" vs "replayed" time you mention in your second paragraph?
These two 'story lines' are often written on the same page..." You start to get into the form, and
layout of House of Leaves, which is good but I think you could expand upon this. How does having to
simultaneously read the account of the Navidson Record and Johnny's "diary" affect your understanding
of the two storylines? Do you think both of these storylines are going to converge or are they just
going to remain abstract and parallel?

You seperate both books into different paragraphs but I feel that if you did more of a concept by concept
comparison instead of a book by book comparison it, there will be more of a connection in the paper. (ie one
paragraph compare contrast form/physical layout of both books, another paragraph shows differences such as reality
and fiction in both books, etc). I think you're on the right track just narrow the argument some more, do some more comparison/contrast
and use specific examples.

Nathaniel Bacon said...

Before starting this blog I ruled out the possibility of finding any connection in form between Jimmy Corrigan and House of Leaves. Didn't think I'd be able to do it. So I read House of Leaves with the intent to write on a 'hard' passage. But after finally getting used to the very unique writing style I couldn't really find anything in this first reading. I mulled over Option 2 again and found out that there is actually a very blatant connection between the two, and quite possible other more difficult connections that I don't know about. Essentially, both books (or as far as I've read into House of Leaves) tell two stories at the same time.

As far as the physical layout is concerned both books tell two stories with different techniques. In Jimmy Corrigan we read about Jimmy's present day life for pages at a time and then we read flashbacks, often very long, of his grandfather's childhood. The story goes back and forth between Jimmy and James. In House of Leaves, however, two narratives are being written at the same time. Usually on one page the top contains the manuscript by Zampano and the bottom contains editor's footnotes and Johnny's footnotes.

Now, the flashback in Jimmy Corrigan of his grandfather's childhood is actually told by Jimmy's grandfather to his sister Amy for a school project. Instead of the author just inserting flashbacks, he puts a person behind them who is telling them. In a similar way, Zampano's manuscript of The Navidson Record isn't something just inserted into the book, rather Johnny is behind it, typing up the handwritten manuscript and commenting on it.

However, there is one main difference between the forms of the two stories centered around the idea of reality. In Jimmy Corrigan the story goes back and forth between the present and past, between REAL time and replayed time. And given that this 'replayed' time is about Jimmy's grandfather one could make the argument that everything from James' life would somehow impact Jimmy's life. In the words of Maximus from Gladiator, "What we do in life echoes in eternity." However, in House of Leave there isn't always much of a connection between The Navidson Record and Johnny's input. Sometimes there is a clear cut connection like on page 25 where Johnny is talking about the manuscript and even provides the English translation for a German text within the manuscript. At other times, though, Johnny simply writes about his life in ways that have no apparent connection to the manuscript, like when he talks about his experience at the bar, telling some girls a long-winded made-up story on page 12.

Because of this difference we can't necessarily learn more about Johnny from his 'interaction' with the manuscript. In Jimmy Corrigan, as we glean more and more from the Jimmy's grandfather's past, our knowledge of Jimmy's present is enhanced and more complete. Whereas in House of Leaves, because of the lack of strong connection between Johnny and the manuscript, we can't learn a whole lot more about Johnny from the manuscript.

So although both books do have very similar structures they are not the same. The purposes of having two narratives within a book serve different purposes. In Corrigan, James' story impacts our reading of Jimmy's story, whereas in Leaves the manuscript has very little impact on our reading of Johnny.

Adam Johns said...

Krystal - interesting, detailed and good feedback, especially your first paragraph.

Nate - I do like your argument a lot, although your introduction was maybe a little wordy until you get to your actual thesis.

You're right about the fundamental similarity, of course: both books are partially told by characters within them. This isn't an uncommon strategy, but the fact that each tells only *part* of the overall story is probably more unusual.

You start out with a good idea, but let's look at how you end: "In Corrigan, James' story impacts our reading of Jimmy's story, whereas in Leaves the manuscript has very little impact on our reading of Johnny." The thing that strikes me here is that you aren't trying very hard. Rather than asking: "how does the manuscript shape Johny's narrative" you simply assert and assume that it doesn't. You're perfectly right that the connection is less obvious than in JC - but you're not working very hard on the question.