Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Questions on Marcuse/Danielewski, Week 4


Caia Caldwell said...

In class we’ve talked about reliability, and how difficult it is for the reader to trust any of the narrators found in House of Leaves. I found trusting Johnny to be particularly difficult in the final part of the book. On pg. 508, Johnny makes up a story about his “old friends” who are doctors, and take care of him. By making up this story, I found it interesting to note that Johnny knows exactly what he needs—food, sleep, medication—yet he is doing none of that. Even though I knew Johnny was making this section up—as he later tells us—I truly wanted to believe that he was getting help.
Yet when Johnny stumbles across the band whose lyrics include the “Five and a Half Minute Hallway” I really begin to question whether or not to believe him. Did this band exist? Also, is he really traveling all over the U.S.?
Perhaps the more likely scenario is that he is strung out in a dingy motel a couple blocks from where he got evicted. My question I guess is, how is the reader supposed to take and absorb Johnny’s increasingly unbelievable antics? All the girls he was supposedly having sex with was unbelievable enough, but this final section of the book has gone beyond the previously set standard for embellishments.
Increasingly as I read I became more and more frustrated with Johnny. He seemed uninterested in clearly reporting what was happening in his life, and I became annoyed trying to sort through his lies. Or maybe there is not separation from the lies and the truth, I don’t know.

Brandon said...

I found the ending of House of Leaves to be quite interesting. It reads so traditionally, with a description of an average happy Hollywood ending and a seemingly normal fate for people who underwent such an unusual experience. I'm also curious about the December 25 epigraph at the end of the final chapter. Is it somehow symbolic of a Christlike redemption for Navidson, or a "rebirth" of his attitudes? Or could it be about Christmas being a general time for family gatherings?

Dana Edmunds said...
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Dana Edmunds said...

The discourse between JT's footnotes and Zampano's text becomes very rich after the discussion of Navidson's second dream, about the snail shell that provided food for an entire town. Navidson climbs into the shell, which represents the staircase of the house, mentioning even the construction of the "house" around a logarithmic axis, an infinite fractal, and the tight passageway that Navidson almost gets stuck in.

What I find really interesting about this part is Slocum's concept of growing up, relating Navidson to Oedipus: "How extraordinary to find in those ever expandable brackets such a telling correlation between the answer to the Sphinx's riddle and Navidson's crisis" (401). Up until this point, I wondered whether Navidson was an allusion to Oedipus ( in Greek, Oedipus means "swollen foot"), and also whether the growl of the house came from the spiral staircase, the same way you put a shell up to your ear. JT's footnote explains that Zampano purposefully misspelled "parenthetical" to really say "a parent-ethical question about how to relate to youth." Then, on top of this, we have Derrida's discussion of the ear cavity, and an editor's note that further alludes to myth, including Ariadne's thread and the stages of life that Oedipus describes in his answer: "upright, walking, dancing." Derrida explains the concept of the labyrinth-house and the spiral walkway by comparing it to "the anamnesis of the choncha resonat[ing] alone on the beach." Anamensis is recollection in Greek, and in plato's philosophy refers to remembering what happened in a previous life. In these pages, Danielewski is connecting the house to the slow repression of history (I am picturing here the growth of the snail shell, the slow burial of space in order for growth), but I am wondering exactly what he's saying about nature's tendency to be "phrased in terms of supply and demand, benefits and costs...all set against a backdrop of environment and history." Does Danielewski mean to relate this to the myth of Oedipus and his tragic downfall, lack of historical knowledge, and his fate as a blind, lonely man (like Zampano)?

Ben Fellows said...

I agree with Caia that it is very difficult to trust Johnny. This also makes me wonder how much of anything he has been telling the reader is to be trusted. I suppose if the whole thing is a lie in the first place, the reader has to take it for what it is, just good storytelling by a character that avoids the truth behind stories by making up more interesting versions.

From there, the reader has to start wondering how much of any aspect of the book is real. Did Johnny invent Zampano? If so, did he also come up the all of the characters composed in Zampano's retelling of the Navidson Record? It now seems somewhat suspicious that Johnny was so capable of restoring pieces of writing that Zampano tried to hide. If everything really is made up by Johnny in the first place, then is the reader supposed to read into what is trying to be covered up as things that Johnny actually wants to bring to light? I realize all of this is based on a series of assumptions, but I feel that Danielewski meant to stump the reader and force them to try to figure out his intent.