Although Mark Z. Danielewski’s book House of Leaves and Chris Ware’s graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan differ significantly in the amount of traditional writing used to tell each respective story, both books frequently utilize complex visual elements that delve into similar ideas. One of the main themes in both of Danielewski’s and Ware’s comprehensive works is the idea of the “house”. Danielewski always writes the word in blue—and he even uses it in the title of his book—while Ware’s work with the concept deals more with what goes into a house: a family. But there is one section in each piece that I believe presents the reader with a similar image of a house slowly deteriorating into nothing.
Beginning on page 119 of House of Leaves, Danielewski presents the reader with a blue box filled with words. Considering his use of blue when typing the word “house” throughout the book, it is fair to say that this blue box should be viewed as a representation of a home. For 20 pages, the house remains filled with words as a long quote continues within it. During this time, the “house” is always safely protected by a slightly changing, but fairly consistent block of text. But on page 141, Danielewski’s “house” begins to deteriorate. Only about half of the blue box is filled with text, and even the block of words around it isn’t as sound. Flip the page to 143, and now the blue box is completely empty with no protective text surrounding it. Flip again to 145, and the box is gone altogether, replaced by white space surrounded by some new text. On 147, some text is beginning to fill in the area where the blue box originally was, but there are no remaining remnants of the box shape. Flip over to 149, and there are more words where the box was. And by the end of chapter nine on page 151, the entire area where the box stood is filled with a block of text, perhaps a new box-like figure beginning to form in its place.
A similar visual series occurs early in Jimmy Corrigan. All on the same page, Ware draws four main panels of the same place at different moments in time. In the top left, the panel is sideways with a nice new house in the late winter/early spring, presumably waiting for a family to begin living in it. In the top right panel, the house is right-side-up in the summer with two cars out front, showing that a family now lives there, with the nice weather suggesting that the family is likely happy and comfortable. Over time though, as the panel in the bottom left shows, the house begins to show age and only one car is parked out front in the fall. And in the bottom right panel of the page, the house is gone completely in the winter, leaving behind only the tree that stood beside it for so many years to show that this is indeed the same area where the house stood. A small red bird is in the middle two frames, representing a significant change in time, which lets the reader know that the house didn’t dissolve over night, but instead over a period of years.
So what do we take from these two different visualizations of the “house”? There are many different thoughts that can be derived from these different, yet strangely similar images of a home standing strong for a certain amount of time before quickly crumbling away. Although Danielewski seems to give the reader a sense that perhaps a new home is forming, Ware instead ends his drawings of the houses with the last depressing panel of the home completely gone and the tree with no leaves. The overriding sense I get from looking at these visual elements is that both authors wanted their readers to understand a similar concept: that the house and everything in it will stand strong for a period of time, but that at some point that stability will end, and the home will crumble and disappear. This idea can also be representative of many other things, such as life itself, but it is interesting to see two authors working with two completely different means of telling their story, yet they both utilize a similar visual construction to generate an idea related to the theme of each book.