Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blog 7- Option 1

The Difficulty in House of Leaves
            Most books have the same set up: page after page of nothing but text to be read left to right from the top to the bottom of the page. House of Leaves is not like most books however. This book is very unique and challenging, it presents many difficult passages to the reader and even in some cases the text is upside down and sideways on the same page. The main story of House of Leaves is surrounding the actual house and how it is ever changing. This idea itself is plenty confusing to the reader and on many occasions I find myself reading the same passage over and over to finally comprehend them. One passage however stands out to me. On page 112 and actually it is in the footnotes of the book, the concept of an objects center is talked about.  
            At this point in the book the mysteries of the house are well known and the dark hallway has been ventured into 4 different times. Holloway is now on his fourth exploration and currently in the middle of descending down the spiral stairway. Many questions remained unanswered from their previous journeys, mainly what is the dark vast place surrounding Holloway? Searching for the answer is when we find this confusing footnote originally written by Jacques Derrida whom questions structures. Originally written in French makes it difficult in itself, and we also have writings from two different times. Truant is able to translate the passage to English, and assuming that the passage is translated correctly, we are given many ideas. First off, “The function of a center is not only to balance, orient, and organize a structure but above all to make sure that the organizing principle of the structure would limit what we might call the play of the structure” (Danielewski 112). Also, “A structure with no center is unthinkable” (Danielewski 112). Then later on it is written that “The center is both within and outside the structure” and even “The center is not the center” (Danielewski 112). So what does this mean?
            At first glance this passage was very difficult for me to understand and still so after reading it many more times. I feel I had much more difficulty understanding this than the average person. When thinking about centers of objects, one thought led to another for me. Where does a center start? Where does a center end? And even what is even the point of a center? But, each and every time my math and science background would take over and say that a center is a point in the exact middle of an object, equal distant from every side, and even the focus point of an object; nothing more than a single point. Then I took into consideration the actual story that I was reading. How the house was continuously changing and how the hallways never ended. Thus we can never find out where the center point of the house is. The house goes on forever and so does the center point. The passage means that the center actually encompasses the entirety of the house because it is never ending. The center is not the center because the center is the whole object not just a single point.  To me, just as stated in the passage, an object with no center is unthinkable and that is what made this passage so difficult to understand.              

            This passage is not related to the actual story about the house and the exploration, so why even include this passage into the book? The fact that it makes the reader question what a center is relates to what the characters are feeling while exploring the hallway. The hallway appears to go on and on, never ending and never leading to anything significant. Characters start to go insane and lose their minds questioning what the vast place actually is. We as the reader cannot experience the endless hallway physically but we can imagine the hallway. The idea that the house’s center is not an exact point but actually the entire house, drives me crazy making me feel slightly like I am inside the house.  I start to question things, things that I would not normally question. The difficulty is there just for that fact, to be difficult, to make the reader think more about objects as a whole not just a lone point. The house certainly has to be thought of as a whole because there is no end point. It is clear that no end point to the hallway will ever be found either. Thinking of the house of a whole and not just thinking of a single point is the purpose of this passage. 


Adam said...

Minor note - only the last sentence out of the first paragraph does anything.

That being said, you pick a brutally difficult passage. Good! Still, the 1st two paragraphs should have been done as one.

I don't know why you think you have *unusual* difficulty with this passage. Your reading of it is fine - you're working toward the messy idea that the house is so unstable that the concept of center doesn't neatly apply to it. (It might be helpful to remember that science - I'm think especially at the subatomic level - has its own paradoxes, which are at least in the background of Danielewski's use of Derrida). "The passage means that the center actually encompasses the entirety of the house because it is never ending." - that seemed good, in particular, by the way. I wonder if there's more to be said about that?

Your last paragraph is beginning to make good connections & ask good questions. The better version of it would have done something like (just as an example) claiming that particular characters - Johny? Karen? - lack a center because they are unstable enough that their centers become their whole.

I think this is probably your best draft. I'd have liked to see you make explicit connections with other parts of the text, and to trim down the first two paragraphs - but what I mostly see is interesting, clear thinking about difficult material.

Sarah Ayre said...

One thing I would recommend is definitely reading your sentences out loud before you submit your draft- just to make sure all of them make sense because there are a few with wording that is difficult to follow. I can see what you are trying to say, but if you say it aloud how it's written it becomes a bit more confusing and can detract a bit from your argument. Just a general suggestion. (And this is mainly referring to the first two paragraphs)

I like the idea and passage that you chose. I remember this passage being confusing to me, but as most of House of Leaves is, I took it at face value and kept going. Seeing how someone with more of a science background understood this part is interesting insight. Your third paragraph contains a very logical approach to the house, which I think is one of the things I really like about it-it makes sense.

Your last paragraph is a continuation on the third, and also brings up some important points. I think it may be useful to point out that your reading of the passage may be a direct reflection of your background in the fields of math and science. For example, you could ask the question: Is this the only interpretation? No, but as someone who believes so firmly in the logical principles my math and science backgrounds have instilled in me ... etc. I think that saying your reading of the passage is the way to read the passage is a mistake, because the book itself effects everyone differently.
Something that may be interesting to note and take into consideration is how our viewing The Navidson Record as a documentary effects how we read the passages. Because we are asked to extend our disbelief in most movies, we trust documentaries to generally hold as true stories. Since you've already pointed out your analytic way of reading this passage, you could mention how you read the book as a whole and how is either messes with your preconceived notions or supports them. Just another thought.
Something else that you mention only briefly is the fact that this passage is originally in French. Is there some significance to that? I don't know the answer, but it's another thing you could explore.