Saturday, March 31, 2012

Questions on Marcuse / Danielewski, Week 2


Amy Friedenberger said...

Week 2: Still no nightmares, but I haven't slept on it since I read the part about the rescue mission, so tonight could be the night.

The narrative structure was really out of whack during this reading. Especially from roughly page 134-139, I couldn't follow a single thing, so if anyone cares to weigh in on what was going on during those pages, I'd be curious to know. What's going on with the footnotes, the blue boxes with footnotes wrapped around it, the crossed out text, the and spaces between footnotes where I couldn't tell if it was a continuation of the above footnote was a struggle. Is this suppose to illustrate the maze-like environment of the house?

What I was curious about was Zampano's discussion about photography also within roughly those same pages. He talks about photography (especially in journalism and documentarian purposes) being an accurate reflection of reality. Is he commentating on The Navidson Record's genuineness? Or is he saying that it is in fact real? Or he doesn't trust that it's real? It's confusing, obviously, because we aren't absolutely 100 percent sure if it is real.

Caia Caldwell said...

There is one quote on page 165 in House of Leaves that I cannot get out of my head.

“Ruby Dahl, in her stupendous study of space calls the house on Ash Tree Lane ‘a solipsistic heightener,’ arguing that ‘the house, the halls, and the rooms all become the self—collapsing, expanding, tilting, closing but always in perfect relation to the metal state of the individual. ’ ”

This relates to Navidson, and how the great staircase is physically smaller for him, versus when the staircase is encountered by Holloway’s team. Navidon has visited the staircase before, and has discovered that there is indeed an end of that specific space. He “therefore has far less anxiety about the descent” (pg. 167).
So, because the mental state of Holloway’s team is anxious, and unsure as to whether or not they will find an end to the staircase, it takes them longer.

In our daily lives this happens all the time. The time it takes you to find a new classroom will probably seem longer in relation to the time it takes you the next time, and the time after that. Perhaps because we are so alert and aware of our surrounding the first time, it seems longer. Normally now, at the end of the semester, as I walk to class I am walking, but I am thinking about other things. I’m on autopilot, so to speak. (Obviously the difference here is that my walk to class does not actually change in physical distance...I think.)

So, if familiarity allows us to find things quickly, and the house is, in general, not letting its explorers get familiar with the layout, is this a mental game? Navidson seemed to have control over the house (if only for a minute) as he ran down the staircase. Can the explorers mentally control the space of the house with their mindset? Or will the house always have control over its inhabitants?

Kira Scammell said...

I too am confused about this layout. Quite frankly, because I couldn't understand why it was being implemented and because I was anxious for it to end, it seemed to take forever to get out of the sideways text, windowed text... whatever you want to call it. So maybe Caia has a point. Is it a mind game? Am I still getting freaked out about this book because I anticipate getting freaked out?

But honestly, for the life of me, no matter if I read every word on the damn page, I can't figure out why the layout is this way. Also, the footnotes seem to be making less and less sense.

Ben Fellows said...

As far as the layout is concerned, perhaps an explanation is that this is how all of these leaves of paper are compiled from Zampano's trunk, and that each separate block of sentences/singular words were each on their own slip of paper. Another could be of Johnny's deteriorating mind. The fact that he screams in his sleep and chews the inside of his mouth to bits is pretty disturbing.

I wrote in my blog entry from last week that I thought perhaps Johnny's minotaur was his foster father, after he described his beard as horse-hide-esque and him having hands like horns. The fact that there is speculation in these chapters that the abyss forms itself based on the explorer's minds somewhat reinforces my belief.

Are we supposed to believe that Holloway has gone clinically insane? The description of mutiny could be some sort of explanation as to why Holloway went on a shooting rampage, but I can only expect Navidson to be a new target, as he is invading Holloway's exploration, on top of being a risk to Holloway's freedom outside of this world.

Dana Edmunds said...

This part of the reading seemed particularly interested in history, and how accurately it is recorded by film and language in a digital age. How is the discussion of fact vs fiction related to the labyrinth, and each character's perception of the space? After Zampano mentions the alternative political interpretation of the Minotaur, he includes detailed accounts of situations of historical mutiny, and then Hollloway leaves Wax to die. Zampano remarks (in French) that it was "an honorable political solution." JT follows up with a footnote: "...and as usual, pretentious as all fuck...Nothing about Holloway's choice or Jed's request seems even remotely political."

This, of course, makes us think of the situation in political terms and changing paradigms. I think this book is about historical repression, the manipulation or "retranslation" of language for political means, but I can't quite put my finger on how the space in the house relates to historical fact. On page 167, Zampano does suggest that "knowledge shrinks time and space." Is the space in the house a metaphor for how Marcuse's "historical fact" operates within the space, as well as in JT's story and the overall "war of linguistic and logical analysis."?

The only critical insight I have to include on the blue box is: why an on-going list of everything that that's NOT occupying a space?

Brandon said...

I'm particularly intrigued by the passages about the minotaur. The editor states that Zampanó erased those passages, but Johnny wrote them back in.

I wonder if this could be related to the creature whose form he saw at the beginning of the book, and he felt the need to include it. If this is the case, then I feel like Johnny put it back in because of his hallucinations and needed to impart his experiences into the Navidson Record.

This ties heavily into Borges's "Pierre Menard" story, as it's about the same work taking on different meanings depending on who is telling or reading it. A likely drug addict, young tattoo artist with no aspirations is imparting his own meaning onto a work written by a dead, blind old recluse.

Patrick Kilduff said...

One thing about this section that perplexed me were the blue boxes on a bunch of pages, starting on page 119 and ending on 145. I really wish I knew what the symbolism of the words in these boxes, surrounded by a blue border might I add. Some words are in different languages, some backwards, and some are just non-sense all together. I really think this has a meaning, but what? Also, the pages ensuing that look like there were pictures, but they were either removed or forgotten. I wonder what they actually looked like, other than a description of them. A very interesting section of this book.

Margaret Julian said...

I'm really struck by the idea that the house shifts because of the people in it. Maybe this should have seemed obvious, I don't know but I think it's a really interesting point that the book draws. I also read most of the letters that Johnny's mom sent to him and they make the story even more confusing. I still have no idea what happened to his arms, and his mother's deteriorating mind is oddly similar to his paranoia. I also think it's really weird that his name isn't Johnny Truant and he has had names and places changed to protect his parents.

I also read a really interesting blog written by someone who claims to have met the real writer of Johnny Truant's parts, and that he was no credited for his work. I'm not sure that it changes the story but I definitely makes the footnotes on footnotes, in my opinion, a little more interesting.

RJ said...

Of course the layout is the primary point of interest this week. I think fundamentally the blue box pages kind of epitomize the use of graphic design in the book more than any others. In other sections we have kind of the layout reflecting the action of the Navidson Record, the labyrinth section and the later sections which reduce the word count on the page to reflect the speed of the action etc etc - this is really kind of obvious right, he's not doing anything genuinely innovative here, to a great degree - it's kind of a comic book.

But this blue box (bright blue, too, not even blue like the word house) and so on is very interesting because it doesn't immediately have any relation to the content of the text, and the text seems lacking to a great degree in content itself: the endless lists, the reflection of the box on opposite pages, etc etc. But the general idea is architecture here, the lists are generally about architects and photographers who take pictures of architecture and so on. So it's possible what's going on is he's creating an architectural page, emphasizing a kind of three-dimensional construction of the page (the reflected text and mirrored layout) and really using the text as a MATERIAL, AESTHETIC object, rather than a (more or less impressionistic) way to present strictly narrative content, which I find much more radical and interesting.

Robin said...

I am trying to not pass judgement on this book until I have read more of it, but it is getting more and more difficult to do this. Yes, as many people have mentioned before, the layout on the really busy pages is...a topic of interest. However, this is not the layout that draws my attention. I keep coming back to the question does, the author want us to be engrossed in the story/stories? For me, reading is about entering another world; it is usually a form of escapism. I am not bothered with the different plotlines (I somehow managed to get through the first 9 Wheel of Time books with the 1000+ characters who inevitably show up on page one of a 75 page prologue and the next time they appear is in the last chapter where they do something really important plotwise, but I digress)What I cannot get past is how you get little bits of text which is interrupted when you turn the page, and then it goes into the footnote plotline and you get a little bit of that, then to quotes. I feel as if Mark Danielewski is purposely making this book really hard to enjoy.

I am a fan about the crazy layout section that everyone is talking about, although I got some odd looks from my roommates when I was sitting on the sink using the mirror to read the backwards text. It is a bit of a visual overload, but by the time I got to this section, I was so glad to have something to read without turning the page. I like the idea that it represents architecture.

Julia Carpey said...

I thought the layout of the book in this week's reading was the most interesting point of discussion thus far. I could be wrong, but it seems as though the layout follows the story of the book. For example, as things in the house and thus the story become more confusing, the layout becomes harder to follow and holds less logic. Almost like the house shifts with the people in it, the layout does so as well, with the layout being the house and the people being the actual story being told. Like other classmates, however, this does not detract from the confusing choices of layout such as the blue boxes which were found towards the beginning of our readings for this week. There is intention behind a writer's every choice, even if it is merely subconscious intention. And I doubt those blue boxes were placed there with subconscious intention. I'd be interested to hear what the rest of the class thinks about this along with the rest of the layout.