Thursday, October 31, 2013

Questions & Comments on House of Leaves, Week I

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

16 comments:

Adam Lewis said...

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading House of Leaves. It has gotten varying reviews and no one I know has every even heard of it!

The author really pulls no punches starting the book (novel?) off with an introduction with reference to drugs, schizophrenia, sex, death, and horrific images.

As I read, I'm never sure which part I should be following more closely, the "actual" story of the Navidson family and their creepy, constantly altering, paranormal house or the rants, raves, and confessions of the, sometimes pages long, footnotes.

So far, I am intrigued and I suppose I am looking forward to figuring out where this thing is heading if it is in fact heading anywhere and nowhere at once.

Carmen Condeluci said...

I knew that House of Leaves would be an unconventional book, but I was not prepared for its extent. Between Truant's three page footnotes and Zampano's seemingly meaningless rants, I found it hard to keep any sort of plot straight throughout these first few chapters. It would seem as if the reading of the study on The Navidson Record is meant to be paused when a footnote appears, but the footnotes are often ridiculously long and commonly have nothing to do with what they reference. Truly, I found myself struggling to find where exactly I had left off when I previously jumped to one of Truant's footnotes. Still, Johnny's tales of his slow descent into insanity and his excursions in bars and clubs with Lude are a welcome change from the utterly confusing nature of Zampano's analysis of an apparently fake film. In this way, the conversational and crude tone that Truant employs is as jarring as it is refreshing.

I also am confused as to which narrative I am meant to take as more important, similar to what Adam spoke to above. Zampano's analysis seems to be nothing more than filler to lead to either a rant by Johnny or lead into a expostional segment about the actual (but fake) film by Zampano. However, it is still very early on in the book, so I am interested to see if Zampano's academic study becomes something more than a vehicle for the narratives of either Truant or the Navidsons.

Jason Wald said...

House of leaves has been on my reading list for quite some time now, so to be able to read it and then discuss it is great.

That being said, and it seems like I might be the only one out of the first three, I really like the unconventionalism. Truant’s footnotes are always entertaining, if not always relevant. I’m going to predict that whatever the hell is haunting Navidson’s house is slowly but surely haunting Truant. That, or in a Lovecraftian way, reading the book ruined Truant’s psyche (or maybe it is the mental disease from his mother – there’s a lot to work with).

Overall, I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is going on. The book (written by Danielewski) is a footnoted (by Truant) version of Zampano’s scholarly critique of the film The Navidson Record. If the physical copy we are holding is supposed to be Truant’s copy of the Record, then it seems to be implied that the movie in question doesn’t actually exist in the world of Truant and Zampano (who do not exist, by definition, in our world). If so, then the book is a fake movie review, about a fake movie, in a ‘real book’ (to Truant) all taking place in a real physical book (by Danielewski).

Carl Santavicca said...

First let me say that prior to reading this book my experience with footnotes was slim; I usually just gloss over them as a citation in a chemistry journal article, and rarely do i pay them as much attention as I was forced to do in House of Leaves. At first i treated the footnotes in House of Leaves like I did any other footnotes; that was until I got to the the massive ranting footnote that begins on page 12 and continues to page 16. My guess is that the author was attempting to illustrate that the importance of what is happening to Truant as well as the story of Zampano.
I was wondering if anyone else noticed that the word house appears in blue throughout the book; Im sure there is some significance to this as it appears that way on the cover as well. Does anyone have thoughts on what this may mean?

Sarah Ayre said...

House of Leaves is a novel that cannot simply be read, it must be experienced. The complex narrative nature of the book, the different levels of narration and the constant interruptions of the book invite the reader to actively take part in the story. I think this helps explain why people have difficulty choosing whose story to follow: there are so many different stories and narrators that it is nearly impossible to tell whose is the most important. I think this is because none of the stories are more important than the others, and House of Leaves is about how these different stories and narrators interact as much as the different stories they tell.

Personally, I have enjoyed the book so far, and I have felt that Truant is the main narrator in the book that I follow, but as the book goes on his stories become more difficult to follow. I thought this represented the effect that reading the story had on him, which was interesting, and (as I'm sure Danielewski intended) made me wonder if I would start to have these crazy thoughts as well... So far so good though. I think I really enjoy this book because even though there are some freaky parts (such as what is happening in the Navidson project or Truant's random feelings that something is following him) they are usually only brief moments of intensity broken up by long passages of analysis. This helps me personally because I do not enjoy scary or freaky things at all.

Carl, I did notice the blue "house" too, and I thought it was interesting that not only was it the word in reference to the title, but any time a word has "house" in it, even as just a part of it, the word "house" is blue. My first reaction (thanks to social media) was to click on the word- were the book not in print form- and to see what came up. I think it would be interesting to see the significance of the word and when it appears, but as to why it is in blue, I am not sure. It is strange to see the different colored word back then when blue text did not (potentially, I couldn't say for certain) the same connotation it does now.

Ronald Rollins said...

Not necessarily related to the content of the book, but one thing I noticed about House of Leaves is that I'm reading it at half the speed of other novels and I'm not even intending to. The way its laid out forces me to flip back and forth to make sure I'm reading it properly and it also forces me to take in every little detail. I think Sarah sums it up pretty well by saying House of Leaves needs to be experienced, not read.

Joseph Hastings said...

So far in House of Leaves there are many things going on. The main thing that stands out to me is not necessarily about the story, but it is about the text. Throughout the book, starting in chapter II, whenever the word house appears it is the color blue. This is also how it appears on the front cover. Other than just connecting the word throughout the book to the word on the cover, I do not see a reason for the color blue.
Also as I am reading I find myself more interested in Truant's foot notes than with he actual story. I really enjoyed reading about the stories that Truant makes up in the bars. I find myself reading and being excited and trying to guess what is coming next just as the actual character are.

Caleb Radomile said...

I've never read a book like House of Leaves. I'm not sure how I feel about, it's pretty confusing, but it's growing on me. One concept I noticed that Danielewski utilizes is having a story within a story. The author is telling a story about Navidson, who goes on to have his own stories in the footnotes. It goes even further at some points like when Navidson in the footnotes is telling a fake story to some girls in a bar about his money troubles. I'm pretty sure this is a form of self-reflexivity. I'm also trying to figure out the point of the extensive foot notes. I feel like there is an easier way to convey the stories so the reader doesn't have to backtrack.

Abby Peters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abby Peters said...

I’m really enjoying House of Leaves so far. I think that the format of the book is very interesting. The footnotes give it a way to weave the stories together and have them play off of each other. I like how it seems like there are three interconnecting stories at play. There is Zampano’s, Johnny’s and the Navidson’s. The strange thing is that you never quite know whether any story at any given time is a real or fake.
Like some other people have mentioned I was also wondering about the meaning of the word house only appearing in blue. Especially since in the appendix of the book it also has house [black] listed as DNE.

ajq5623 said...

So far while reading House of Leaves one thing has struck me as incredibly significant. The entire novel revolves around posing the question "What is real?". This question is not a subtle piece of the novel either, it is literally in every page I've read. I am constantly questioning whether Johnny's, Zampano's, or Navidson's stories are made up. Even if they did "happen" how are these stories being embellished by all the voices that they are being passing through before reaching the reader? We see Johnny making up stories (i.e. Pit Boxer) and we see a story of a family being taken as truth when in reality they're all in front of a camera which distorts their behavior. Not to mention that Lude's career revolves around changing the reality of how people look or that some of Zampano's references were in a foreign language then were translated by some random person into English. Johnny puts lines like "Probably not even real" on their own line in his footnotes. To top this all off I'm sitting here dissecting the "realnesss" of every part about a novel that is fictional and fundamentally unreal. Now I'm questioning whether this ink blot on page 17 is "real" or being reproduced as part of Zampano's papers. Seriously does anyone else see this ink blot (p. 17 line 10)?

Tolu Dayo said...

House of Leaves like all the other works that we've read is very intriguing, its once again completely different from any other book i have read before. And going to what Ronald said, I did also find myself flipping back and forth between the pages, and getting through the book has been really slow for me, but I am getting a clear understanding of the book by doing this

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

House of Leaves is definitely an unconventional piece of work. There are footnotes ontop of footnotes which confused me along with the constant switching of narrators. Usually when I encounter footnotes I just glance over them and continue with the main focus of a story, but this novel forces me to acknowledge them. It's taking me longer to read this content than any other work we've read, I'm constantly flipping back and fourth to see if I'm reading it the correct way!

Jared DiSanti said...

House of Leaves is a fascinating but frustrating story. I've had to flip back and forth several times just to try to make sense of what I am reading. I think that the book is designed to do this just like it was in Jimmy Corrigan. The way the book is read almost has as much to do with what is said on the pages. The most interesting part of the book to me is the fact that the word "house" is always written in blue. I understand that the House on Ash Tree Lane plays a large part in the story, but the fact that the word house, even when it's part of another word is in blue makes me wonder what Danielewski is trying to accomplish with this.

Nicholas Flynn said...

As it's still early in the book, and I've taken to Johnny Truant's suggestion to skim at least parts of Zampano's writings, right now what I'm most concerned with is Johnny's place in the novel. One particular passage trips me up more than others - on page 8, with the 11th footnote, Truant writes that this isn't "the first and definitely not the last time Zampano implies that The Navidson Record exists." What I don't understand is why here? Why is this the moment that Truant reminds us that the documentary doesn't exist? It seems like he just got finished explaining all the mysteries about Zampano. Are we really so quick to forget in Johnny's estimation.
This might also be an oversight on my part, but I have a hard time at this point understanding th enature of Zampano's work as Truant found it. He tells us Zampano was as blind as a bat, and that his books were in braile. But then he also tells us that Zampano was constantly scribbling. How could he scribble, and produce anything legible for anyone to read if he couldn't see. Later in the passage, Truant uses the phrase "dictating long discursive passages" which might imply someone took down the notes for him, but it isn't made clear. I wonder how we're supposed to read Truant if Zampano's writings are just illegible scribblings, and who is the true author of this work.

Nikki Moriello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.