Johnny Truant is a liar, but at least he’s honest about it. The reader knows shortly into House of Leaves that authenticity is a major problem; the line between what Zampano wrote and what Johnny wrote is constantly being blurred. Even questioning the existence of Zampano is not too far out. On page 383, a glossary of terms appears to accompany Chapter 16. There are two distinct categories of terms that appear here: geological and linguistic. While the geological terms may be the key to understanding the house (which remains mysterious due to the lost pages and sections throughout the chapter), the linguistic terms are a key to the book itself, the true house of leaves. Understanding these terms and how they work together in the field of Linguistics and applying this to the novel is an important tool for showing how much of “Zampano’s Story” is truly Johnny’s.
In my paper I will first explore the importance of the specific linguistic terms that Danielewski chose to include in his glossary, citing a couple of my linguistics textbooks. Next, I will discuss the application of these terms to the novel, drawing primarily on The Three Attic Whalestoe Institute Letters in Appendix II and the relationship between Johnny’s mother and Karen. An important point to acknowledge and defend against will be that the Glossary of terms appears at the end of Chapter 16, and therefore does not necessary directly apply to the entire novel. Showing that it is in fact pertinent to the entire thing, including Karen and Johnny’s mother, will be a large part of my argument. The juxtaposition of the glossary and Johnny’s diatribe on written words and legacies helps with this. While the similarities between Johnny’s mother and Karen could seem coincidental or due to small insertions on Johnny’s part, it is clear that Danielewski leaves us clues (for example, in the index) to show us this isn’t the case. The proof becomes more and more direct that the character of Karen was created, or at the very, very least severely mutated, by Johnny, leading the reader to further question the entire “manuscript”.