Friday, April 5, 2013

Questions/Comments on Danielewski/Marcuse Week 3

As always, post your questions & comments in response to this thread.

6 comments:

Taylor Hochuli said...

An interesting event in the book House of Leaves that confused me slightly was Danielewski’s treatment of Navidson’s journey in the hallway. After Navidson is cut off from the main group by the expanding staircase and is left with the murderous Holloway, he works his way back up the stairs and makes it back to the living room. However, his journey is skipped around and briefly summarized in a footnote. I can see why the focus was on the family and their reactions to the loss of Navidson, but so little attention was given to the actual return trip it makes it seem much less important. No considerable thought was given to how Holloway’s pack appeared, how the staircase shrank without Navidson noticing, and how he was able to actually survive while so low on equipment. The small comment about Navidson thinking about Holloway when the pack appeared seems important given the nature of the house, but only a paragraph is devoted to it whereas multiple paragraphs are given to the original expedition crew about their interactions with the house. Perhaps this was on purpose since it is not a major event in the novel or its brevity has some meaning as to its importance. Either way, I found it odd to ignore this event in the household. I am also confused by the effect of the ash on the Holloway tape. Many segments of the section are blotted out with brackets like these [ ] and litter the entire section. The tape itself is not broken up as much as the section. It could be a representation of Holloway’s mind falling apart or ripping sections out of the section just like “Holloway [who was] ripped out of existence” at the end. These don’t seem valid enough to completely take apart a section and blame it on ash.

Marcuse’s treatment of science and metaphysics bring up an interesting point about their relationship. Marcuse notes that “metaphysics precedes the scientific” and this does seem to be the case in history. Metaphysics functioned to bring up ideas about the universe that were not always able to be tested. For example, the Aristotelian universe needed to exist before the telescope began the more scientific study of astronomy. However, I would argue that science is very connected to metaphysics in today’s world without reaching the “break” of science. Just as metaphysical discussions on space and time were required for Einstein to discover special relativity, metaphysical ideas guide scientific research. Today, string theory is in a sense metaphysical and it is currently trying to be proved by physicists. Perhaps more integration like this might help Marcuse’s case about finding a “free and pacified existence” like research into solving world problems for mankind rather than creating new weapons. Incorporating higher ideals into science seems like the better option than reaching a limit of science and having a “reversal of [their] traditional relationship”.

Brian DeWillie said...

There were two things I found interesting in Marcuse this week. The first was the so-called "marriage of the positive and the negative - the objective." I thought it did a good job pointing out that everything might not always be as simple as its surface value and once we get past a sort of honeymoon stage (or the opposite) of viewing the object(s) we can see both positive and negative values in things. The second thing I liked was a quote near the end about privacy. "Can a society which is incapable of protecting individual privacy even within one's four walls rightfully claim that it respects the individual and that it is a free society?" This is really relevant today with laws and bills calling for the ability to listen in on phone calls without even being aware that it is happening. The technological advances that have led to the ability to be able to do this leave the nation being less free while the parties doing the listening claim it protects their freedom.

For House of Leaves, I thought the section describing when Reston is being hoisted up was pretty cool. I thought the way the text was laid out matched what I pictured was happening in the book (or maybe I pictured it that way because of how it was written). Either way, it has been one of the only times where the odd layout of the text has added something for me rather than disorient me.

Roger Sepich said...

As someone who positively views most aspects of life, the part of this week's reading that intrigued me the most was Marcuse's analysis of some things that could be viewed both positively and negatively depending on what kind of outlook one takes. I thought he made some very good points, although I'm struggling to understand the next paragraph and decide whether he feels that the world should be viewed in a more positive or negative way.

What does he mean when he says, "But this interrelation, if comprehended, shatters the harmonizing consciousness and its false realism"? I think that he is arguing that any positive view on the world around us is a form of "false realism", but I could be completely wrong and I would like to discuss this more with everyone else.

Karen Knutson said...

I, like Taylor wonder what Navidson really did to get out of the hallway, or why even the hallway let him out. I guess its the house's way of fully rejecting something? Because I thought Navidson was a gonner. In my mind, he was done. So why bring Navidon back? To let Karen and the children finally get out of the house? Also chapter XVI is creepy, Like why are there a bunch of X's with the word Synthesis? and techniques? and it doesn't even matter because there are almost 20 pages missing. I wonder what would have been in those 20 pages.

Janine Talis said...

A lot of people seem to be focusing on Navidson's missing journey. I admit, I find it confusing as well. It was determined from the amount of time that the penny took to fall to the bottom of the stairs that it was an impossible distance, not to mention the hallway connecting to the part of the house where the family resided completely cut itself off from the part where Navidson was. Still, it just seems to be one of those things that we're supposed to notice and think "that's not quite right." It just forces us to question the story.

What I cannot stop thinking about is the death of Tom. It seems to me that the house had the capability to kill anyone in that house, but everyone was able to escape. Tom was the only one the house actively dragged back, literally dragged back. I wonder if this is somehow connected to Tom's time alone while the others searched for the missing explorers. Tom did what he could to keep himself entertained and sane, calling the monster "Mr. Monster" and making shadow puppets on the wall. He fell to humor in order to make the threat of the house and monster smaller and easier to deal with. Maybe the house didn't appreciate being mocked or made small.

Jackson Crowder said...

I'm reading David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster in readings in contemporary nonfiction right now and it is proving every bit as frustrating as House of Leaves and for the exact same reason. Like Danielewski, Wallace likes to play with page orientation and footnotes to the point of being disorientating. This mirrors the big problem that I have had so far with House of Leaves. I find myself getting so caught up with understanding how to read the book that I feel as if I'm missing much of the story. Similarly, I find that I am not getting the full effect of DFW's writing because of his insistence on being innovative. Innovation and experimentation as it relates to writing is a good thing but writers need to know when to get out of their own war. Danielewski and DFW are, in my opinion, perfect examples of this.