Thursday, April 12, 2012

Danielewski and Heidegger

Jacob Pavlovich

Mark Danielewski shows his true genius in the book, House of Leaves. Not only does he show his mastery of being able to tell a great story, but he does it in a fashion like non before. The first major accomplishment that he is able to tackle is story within a story. This might not be extremely unique to him, as one can see this type of writing in Frankenstein. However the way in which he tells these stories is what makes him and his style of writing genius. His style of writing “starts man on a way of revealing”.

The first part of this revealing that I find most obvious is how he places his text on the pages. It is easy to figure out how he starts to place the text when Navy and his rescue team heads into the hallway. When they descend the stairs and finally make it to the bottom of the stairs the text is now located on the bottom of the page. This is symbolically placed at the bottom of the page, to show that this part of the story is solely taking place in the depths of this weird and crazy place that is ever shifting. He uses the placement of the text at the bottom of the pages to reveal the feeling that we are in a place of confusion and drags the reader into the story even more. Danielewski then complements this by placing other parts of the story, intertwined with this section, back at the top of the page. He never places at the top and bottom of the same page however. This creates a clear distinction of where he wants the reader to be. Whether it is in the depths with Navy and Reston or up in the ‘real’ world with the rest of human kind. He only continues this when he describes being shot at by Halloway. He concentrates the text in a small area near the middle of the page, most likely to give you the sense of a bullet coming straight towards you. Then when it hits the second door, the texts states that it was not “powerful enough to do more than splinter a panel”, and the way he wrote this was to scatter the words over the whole pages to give the effect of a splinter. The next few pages describe how the shutting of the doors left the room in complete silence. To accomplish this, Danielewski writes only a line on each page, creating large amounts of white space on the page. Silence, to where words are normally written, there are but few, only a whisper on the page. The final point of his physical text and writing style I want to make is that of when the staircase expands upward. This segment sees the words written on the pages in a variety of ways, but the words themselves are in fact stretching out. The letters start out close to one another, but then by the end of the word, they are a good inch and a half apart. This is another way he just brings the reader into the world of Navy.

The other part of Danielewski’s writing that I find most intriguing is how he tells both stories at the same time, the story of the Navidson Record and that of Johnny Traunt. He begins in a similar fashion to Frankenstein in the way that he starts out with Johnny telling us about the other story. However, Danielewski makes amazing use of the footnotes to bring Johnny’s story to the forefront of the book and makes sure it doesn’t just fall into the background until the Navidson Record’s analysis is over. Not only does this add to the straight up confusion that Danielewski is trying to create, but it also adds to the way how the reader sees Johnny’s story. The random points that Johnny interrupts the main story, makes the reader realize how random and just how insane Johnny is becoming. Personally my favorite part of this is when you are reading a section in the foot notes that extends multiple pages but then randomly cuts back down to where they footnotes are supposed to be. I like this because it throws makes you as the reader more attentive, to make sure you are actually reading the right part of the story and that you are not following/mixing up stories.

All of these things add to a mental mix up that Daneilewski is trying to accomplish. He really puts himself in control of the whole story. Through this process, even though it seems strange to say, he allows the reader to become more engulfed in each separate character with in the novel. Everything that he does is “revealed in order”, however his “order” is more of a disorder. He truly understands though for us to truly enjoy this primitive technology of a book that, you must uncover a deeper meaning than just reading a book. He makes the reader work for it, he is the “revealing” force, in which the reader needs to truly grasp the meaning of this book.


Adam said...

This reading has nothing to do with Heidegger. It covers material that we covered in depth last week, covering many of the basics (text at the bottom symbolizing the shape of the House, etc), while ignoring the fact that Heidegger is actually mentioned and discussed at length in the text - as we also discussed in class.

There's no serious attempt to engage with Danielewski here - let alone Heidegger.

Scott Sauter said...

First and foremost, I would engage the reader by identifying the source of quotes throughout your essay. While he or she may be aware that the essay is attempting to make connections between Danielewski and Heidegger, one cannot ever afford to assume the reader knows the source(s) of quotes. Secondly, I would rework connections made between Danielewski and Heidegger to include more quotes from both authors. With readings as dense as Heidegger's "Being and Time", it is easy to lose focus if one's argument is not rooted in this way. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed your essay and its arguments.