Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blog 7: Prompt 3

            The most immediate conclusion I can draw from page 42 is that Danielewski is trying to make a point that much literary critique tries to analyze the deeper meaning behind the words rather than ever taking the words at face value. In a way, it strikes me as reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. While literally nothing more than a urinal, the art community has been debating the value and potential meaning of it for nearly a century. Some will claim it’s meant to be thoughtful rebellion against the art of the period and cite background information in their favor; others will argue that it’s simply part of a toilet and should only be seen as such. Of course, my analysis will involve trying to see this passage for more than it says, but I do this out of necessity. Page 42, to me, seems to be stating that because literature is thought to take more effort than finding a toilet, critics will assume that every single line is masterfully crafted to express some sort of deeper meaning and never to straightforwardly express an action or event. Truant seems to take the side of reading literature only for what it directly states and make no assumptions of intention or authorial emotion behind it.
            Reading House of Leaves from the perspective I’ve drawn from page 42 helps make a little more sense of the cascades of citations and footnotes as well as Zampanò’s attempts to find every instance of supposed filmmaking genius within Navidson’s recordings. Truant, a man who’s rapidly going insane, is more likely to see Navidson’s story for what it is: a man living in some bizarre house that never ceases to change its form. Zampanò is inclined to find evidence of every second of the recordings to be intentional and entirely fictional—the ultimate found footage thriller, and not a documentary.
            If we see Don Quixote as just a piece of 17th century literature, one might say, “Written in the seventeenth century, written by the “lay genius” Cervantes, this enumeration is a mere rhetorical praise of history…” However, if written by a man who’s trying to live and completely rewrite Don Quixote, one might say, “History, the mother of truth: the idea is astounding. Menard, a contemporary of William James, does not define history as an inquiry into reality but as its origin.” [1] However, both these responses are derived from the same exact line, but seen in a different light. How Zampanò and Truant see Navidson’s story isn’t merely about what is presented, but it instead primarily focuses on the supposed intention of the work. While some may see a Jackson Pollock painting as nothing more than splatters on a canvas, which is all that it outwardly presents itself as, another may derive some deeper meaning behind it all and value that at one hundred forty million dollars. [1] The value is based less on the work and more on the man behind it.
            A review by Steven Poole states the following: “Danielewski thus weaves around his brutally efficient and genuinely chilling story a delightful and often very funny satire of academic criticism.”[2] It seems like one major point of the entire novel and not merely page 42 is to poke fun at literary analysis and critique. As the footnotes grow in length and the book becomes more and more difficult to read, we can almost see this as the piles of nonsense interpretations some people try to apply to every single work of art they encounter. A toilet presented as a work of art doesn’t need to have some deep meaning behind it; sometimes a toilet really is just a toilet. With page 42 and Truant’s statement about how the lines are completely identical, ignoring the artist behind it, we can see this as Danielewski telling us how to read his novel: read it for what it is. Sometimes we do need to reread it to discover some hidden meaning, and many of the small details within the novel are intentional, but sometimes things are a little more straightforward and we should take them as such if we can’t immediately discern any other meaning. This doesn't mean, however, that this is always the case, nor should we assume so, but some people dig too deep to find an interpretation that goes beyond the author's intentions.



1 comment:

Adam said...

The first paragraph is interesting and dense. I guess I'd like to understand a little more clearly what *your* reading is (which isn't to say that simply figuring out what Johny's reading is doesn't have merit).

The documentary vs. found footage thriller distinction is interesting. But does Zampano really see it as a documentary, or more as a work of philosophical dimensions which demands thorough interpretation? Still, I get the point - for Johnny this is something like the Blair Witch Project; for Zampano, it's something very different. But what is it to you?

I like your use of visual art here. Jackson Pollock, like Duchamp, is a *good* point of reference. But at some point you need to really engage directly with the text at hand - it particularly bothers me that there's nothing here yet focused on Borges as such.

The following is strictly my own viewpoint, so take it for what it's worth. HOL undeniably satirizes academia. But it also engages with academic criticism in a deep and sophisticated way. It might make fun of Heidegger and Derrida - but it also *does* Heidegger and Derrida. Readings which *stop* with the observations that academia is satirized here bother me - because Danielewski's engagement with academia is deep and sustained, while often being quite humorous. It might, in some ways, be compared to Cervantes' satire of chivalric romances - a satire so grand and ambitious that it almost elevates the object of satire. You don't need to agree - but you stop in a way that limits yourself unnecessarily, and which unfortunately doesn't really engage at all with Borges or Cervantes. It's still smart and worthwhile - but you're dodging some of the important stuff.