Narrative and Technology
29 March 2012
Mark Danielewski and Chris Ware, although writing in similar prose, allows the reader two vastly different perspectives of their novels. Personally, I felt as though House of Leaves, although confusing independently, was vastly more comprehensible comparatively so to Jimmy Corrigan. It could have something to do with the fact that I disliked Ware’s graphic novel the most throughout this semester, yet even so I felt as though the writing style of Danielewski was only complimented by the style of prose. With that said, the similarities in Ware’s writing and Danielewski’s writing are glaring despite my distaste for Ware’s novel and adoration (yet still disturbances) for Danielewski’s novel.
First and foremost, we see in the very beginning a set of instructions for the novels. How to read it, what to expect, how to approach the countless hurdles and speed bumps we will be presented with throughout our reading. In Jimmy Corrigan this is seen on the inside of the front cover. It is organized chaos crammed into the first areas the readers eyes glance over past the cover and the author expects us to pay close attention to it if we’re going to comprehend the novel to the best of our ability. Yet when discussed in class, maybe one student read the inside cover rather than glancing over it prior to the class period. On the other hand, in Danielewski’s novel on the copyright page we see small boxes at the bottom explaining the development of the novel in different forms of print involving the most seemingly minuscule detail as to what color the text is at which periods in the novel. Furthermore, as we read the introduction by Truant, he displays for us how exactly to approach reading the novel before we are sucked in to the degree at which he is. This can all be seen as distracting, useless, and a waste of space and ink. I believe that had a friend not warned me to have exorbitant amount of patience with House of Leaves I would hate it for these very reasons just as much as I dislike Jimmy Corrigan. Yet, to the prepared and dedicated reader, these instructions, the preface of the prefaces, are exactly what can make the novel so enjoyable to the patient reader.
Another similarity between the two is seen in their consistency and linearity, or lack thereof. Jimmy Corrigan follows almost no linearity as he is constantly flashing back and forth between his fantasies, the stories he hears, his memories and his reality. It makes for an extremely confusing graphic novel and leaves the reader wondering which is the actual reality and which is the fantasies and the memories. Essentially, leaving the reader to question his or her trust in the author as well for allowing this heavy confusion to burden him or her throughout the novel and analyzations of it.
Similarly, in House of Leaves, the various footnotes, many of which Truant informs us in the introduction are fictitious, confuses the reader throughout the novel (or at the very least the first section thus far). It leaves the reader questioning where exactly in the analyzation and in the story we rest separate from the footnotes. Then, when we process the footnotes it leaves us questioning the consistency in validity in the novel with the footnotes. Add to the mix what was disclosed to us within the introduction of it being based off of completely fictitious sources yet being written as though it was purely genuine, and like the reader with Jimmy Corrigan, the reader here begins to question the trust he or she holds in the novel, in the characters, and most importantly in the author. In this pondering, the reader can in turn question the value of a novel which bases its clientele off of the lies it builds to attract the readers and followers in. Yet, is there really any controversy there if it is fully disclosed in the beginning that it is in fact 100% fiction. Unlike the article written in 1980 by Janet Cooke, Jimmy’s World, or even more recently, James Frey’s faux “memoir” A Million Little Pieces, Danielewski makes it a point to allow Truant (who I’m not even sure at this point whether he’s a real person or not) to make it clear for the reader that these events are in fact made up.
I’d say the biggest issue I’ve had thus far with Danielewski’s novel, which rings true for Ware’s graphic novel as well, is the issue of trust. It is a debate that I’m quite familiar with as we have it fairly regularly in the nonfiction English writing department (one of my majors). Yet, it doesn’t make it any less unsettling to confront it in these two places. It is part of the author’s job to build a trust with the reader in order to establish credibility in any future pieces of work. While many authors who commit one of the most taboo actions in writing by passing their work off as something it’s certainly not purely to build a following by creating an unrealistic reality for their readers and passing it off as real purely because it makes their reading more appealing and “sexy” to the reader, I’m not quite sure that Danielewski and Ware do that here. Ware certainly does not do that, because there is absolutely nothing appealing or “sexy” about Jimmy Corrigan’s characters nor world. And Danielewski’s is not appealing nor sexy either; yet it is interesting, and it makes the reader keep wondering what happens next, where the story is going and how much more of it we can take. So maybe as long as it is fully disclosed at the beginning of the novel, that it is not intended to be read seriously, that it is in fact meant to purely entertain, then what’s the harm?