Echoes of Echoes: In Where I Attempt to Add an Additional Echo to House of Leaves
House of Leaves weaves together various narratives conveyed through the story of the Navidsons experience in the house, as well as the commentary from Zampano and Truant conveyed through footnotes throughout a manuscript of an academic study of The Navidson Record. Throughout the novel, Mark Danielewski includes some analyses, one of which includes several pages examining the mythological and scientific histories of echo. The several-page passage is one of the first academic inserts in the novel, taking the reader aback. Daniewleski is incorporating the repetition of echoes throughout the novel as a structural presentation of the novel.
The novel has a repetition of echoes in the text as time is moving backward and forward so readers gain insight in the Navidsons. An echo is an invisible thing, and it’s not actually a voice, but a mimic of a voice. In middle of the echo discussion, Danielewski writes, “The apparent echoing of solitary words reminds us that acoustical echoing in empty places can be very common auditory emblem, redolent of gothic novels as it may be, of isolation and often unwilling solitude” (46). This echoing of words and events is the sort of tactic that Danielewski is trying to incorporate into this novel.
The readers are reading Truant’s echo of him reading Zampano’s echo, of Zampano echoing Navidson’s video citing various sources, and Navidson echoing the events of the house and the people inside through an unaccounted for film. So Zampano doesn’t know that Truant will be adding his own commentary that matches this passage’s theme of echoes. And Zampano’s passage is also an early reflection of his entire academic manuscript.
The passage about the mythological Echo presents how the different voices of the novel are conveyed. After explaining the mythological history of Echo, Danielewski writes, “Thus Echo suddenly assumes the role of god’s messenger, a female Mercury or perhaps even Prometheus, decked in talaria, with land in hand, descending on fortunate humanity” (44). Zampano’s voice is filtered through at least two other voices so far in the novel, and Truant says that he changes some of Zampano’s words, such as making “heater” into “water heater” to fit Truant’s fluid writing. Zampano writes in the Echo passage that echoes have “faint traces of sorrow or accusation never present in the original,” hinting that echoes can be altered as they are passed along over time (Danielewski 41).
Late in the novel, following the sudden emergence of a hallway that sends Karen into a panic attach, echoes emerge again. “In the living room, Navidson discovers echoes emanating from a dark doorless hallway which has appeared out of nowhere in the west wall” (Danielewski 57). We can take this as Navidson hearing the voices of past children lost in the walls of the dark hallway. The use of echoes also adds an eerie tone to the already eerie actions of the novel. In middle of the echo discussion, Danielewski writes, “The apparent echoing of solitary words reminds us that acoustical echoing in empty places can be very common auditory emblem, redolent of gothic novels as it may be, of isolation and often unwilling solitude” (46).
The Navidson family doesn’t really have control over the house, no matter what the inhabitants try to do to make sense of it, be in repeatedly measuring the length of the inside and outside of the house or installing a door over the long hallway that appears out of nowhere. “Delay and fragmentation repetition create a sense of another inhabiting a necessarily deserted place” (Danielewski 46). In the hallway, growling noises from an unknown person or creature creates echoes, but without a physical presence, the noises are some similarity to something we don’t want to see, so it’s a sort of a Truth without facing reality.
With this essay, I’ve now filtered from the Navidson’s experience, to the documentary, to Zampano’s manuscript, which has been commented on by Truant with stories commented on in the footnotes. How well this presents an accurate presentation of the Navidson family’s experience is unsure, because as Zampano noted,