Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blog #7, Prompt #1 Pat Kilduff

While reading “House of Leaves”,one is thrown into a world of darkness, depression, and a downward spiral of a once normal man. When reading the introduction, we can already sense the mood of the story by the intricate description and very difficult structure of the writing, from the first person aspect then jumping into dialogue. Reading this book has been a bit challenging for me to start, coming across many interesting and impossible to decipher passages. But what I would like to discuss is not a particular passage, but the overall difficultness of the book, and the interesting aspects that sets this book apart from anything that I have ever read in my entire life. I would like to take these aspects and try to explain what they mean to the best of my ability.

The first aspect that I found fascinating was the significance that the word “house” has in this story. As a reader can see once looking at this story, every time that the word “house” is mentioned, it is written in a blue font. It is everywhere that you look, even on the cover. In the title “House of Leaves” the “house” is blue. Another interesting thing that I found was that on page 107, we see something written in what I believe to be Greek, maybe Latin, but nonetheless it reads: “Hic labor ille domus et inextricabilis error”. The “domus” is highlighted in blue, just like the house has been on every previous page. I did a little research and domus was a house that was occupied by the upper class and the wealthy in the Roman times. So, even in different languages, the “house” is still highlighted in blue. Now I believe that there is significance to this odd feature. When we read the introduction, Johnny is telling us about when he entered Zampano’s house, it was like there was not a soul living in the house, even when Zampano lived there. The doors where storm-proofed, windows boarded up, no real natural light coming in, and a very distinct smell that Johnny could not quite make out. Once Johnny started to read “The Navidson Record”, he started to feel and act the same way. He was a basically a shut-in inside of his own house. Yes, we do know that Zampano walked around the outside every now and then, but the effect that one’s house has on the reader sends the reader into a spiraling abyss of nothing, maybe self-loathing, maybe depression, maybe insanity. I do not have a direct answer for this yet, only speculation, but this blue writing has a significance that is key for the book.

The second aspect that I found while reading “House of Leaves” were the footnotes at the bottom of the pages in“The Navidson Record”. These footnotes are so extensive, and some of these footnotes have their own footnotes, it is so bizarre. I have never read anything like this before. Traditionally, footnotes are supposed to clarify confusions for the reader, but if you ask me it sometimes only makes this book harder to read. I believe that these footnotes are here for clarification yes, but I think it adds to the mysteriousness to the book. We see that Johnny adds his own footnotes to Zampano’s, one example found on page 45. We see such an interesting composition of a novel, even if clarification takes a back seat.

The last aspect of this story that I would like to comment on and clarify is the different fonts found throughout the story. In the introduction, it seems that Johnny is given a different font than in “The Navidson Record”. Quotes at the beginning of each section in “The Navidson Record” are italicized (which by the way makes this story even more complex, because it seems Zampano used quotes from famous authors, such as Mary Shelly or famous musicians like The Beatles, but to me this makes absolutely no sense, other than the fact that it might relate to the section, a kind of preparation for the reader). To me, the different fonts signify the different characters, and it gives us some clarity when we read the footnotes given to us by Zampano or Johnny, and if Johnny needs to give us some clarification in the middle of “The Navidson Record”.

Overall, “House of Leaves” is by far the most interesting book I have ever read, giving us a glimpse into the world of the insane, but also showing us a different structure of writing. The features that I discussed earlier along with many more make this story so fascinating and hard to put down.


Margaret Julian said...

I think that you're overall impressions of the book are good. I can't really see anyting wrong about them, but I think they're kind of shallow and not really offering anything original. We know a lot of the things you're telling us and as far as the fonts go I'm not sure there's any kind of argument in that last paragraph. I think you're heading in the right direction but I also think that there needs to be more depth to your arguments.

Adam said...

I'm happy that you like the book so much and, like Margaret, I'm fine with all of your impressions. But the thing to realize when you're writing something like this is that any of those brief thoughts that were worth saying in the first place are perfectly capable of sustained work.

Take the appearance of "Domus." This is the origin of important English words like "Domestic." But the House is anything but domesticated - this is maybe the moment in the entire novel when the contradictory character of the House-as-house is revealed. I think you get that point to some extent - you just don't develop it.

Analyzing a footnote (a difficult one!) or a citation to another author would have been a good approach too. But you don't do yourself any favors by trying to cover too much territory. Cover fewer things, but cover them better - that's almost always good advice when writing, and it certainly is here.