Friday, November 8, 2013

Comments & Questions on Danielewski, Week II

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.


Adam Lewis said...

I am still finding myself lost trying to keep track of the asides of Zampano and the footnotes of Truant. I've been trying to read one to a stopping point before going back and picking up the other for some chance of keeping everything straight.

I found the odd page layouts in this part of the book to be intriguing at first but soon found them easy to ignore as lists. Okay, I get it, the construction of the corridors doesn't line up with anything in common architecture or building. I see this more as an example of the old man's Graphomania than anything that we really need to be reading.

I've been reading an e-version of the book at home but I still find myself checking the print version to make sure that frame is supposed to be empty and that one is supposed to be black. It is a bit disorienting trying to keep up with everything going on!

Carmen Condeluci said...

Throughout this section of the book, the pace seems to speed up considerably, with the Navidson's repeated excursions into the the depths of the house becoming more and more perilous, as well as Johnny beginning to more obviously regress into insanity. I found that the increase in action also lead to more confusing and ridiculous formatting, even to the point that some pages were near unreadable. The lists and the sideways text perplexed me, but what I really couldn't understand was the constant block of text that had mirrored text on opposite pages from page 119 to 145. It is just another seemingly meaningless list, but I can't help but ponder what the placement, and moreover the mirroring of text, is supposed to mean.

Furthermore, the text on each page becomes more and more sparse as the action present in the depths of the house increases, eventually resulting with there being as little as only one word on page 195. Spreading out the content of the action at hand serves only to detract from its importance, which is strange, as Zampano builds up this moment only for it to be ruined by the formatting. Although on par in idea with the rest of the book, the weirdness in formatting found here was especially jarring, and I'm interested as to how it will benefit or detract from the multiple narratives presented throughout.

Jason Wald said...

About the blue-lined blocks of text:
They’re windows (!?). Imagine looking through the paper onto the other side (from 124 into 123 for example). These ‘windows’ of course start at the passage (literally next to the words) when Holloway “succeeds in scratching, stabbing, and ultimately kicking a hole in the wall.” I realized this abut a page into that footnote (144). From that point on, it became clear, or at least possible, that the entire layout of the pages in this chapter/section were modeled after a labyrinth – literally the words retelling the story of the house are set in the shape of a labyrinth (this brings up an important issue – Zampano knows the ending. Every page’s content is known to him. Not only does he know the outcome of the storylines, he now seems to be actively shaping the reader’s expectation of what is going to happen. Even weirder, we get glimpses of his insanity now – the people who physically wrote the book for him commenting on the strangeness [this of course leading to another aside: the only time we get mention of someone helping Zampano, even finding credibility in his ramblings, is also the first encounter we get of Zampano destroying his work. I don’t quite know what to make of that] Also, it should be noted that for the first time, a source is said to be false [see the Ken Burns footnote]). Footnotes circled back into other footnotes, back to the main text, which then jumps to a footnote tree pages away – only to be marked with a little letter (x, k, etc.) that reappears earlier/later.

Sorry about the wall of text there.

About Mr. Truant:
A shift happened with him for this week. I usually enjoyed his rambling asides (even though I ended up skimming his long-winded, run-on descriptions [though that very well may have been the author’s intent {that brings up a question, which is hard to put into words but basically sums up into, does that make bad writing (which most of Johnny’s rants are, at least formally) good? In other words, does authorial intent matter?}]) though this time, I found myself wanting them to stop because Holloway’s expedition was so much more engrossing. Also, his sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle is getting quite boring to read about. He reminds me of that one friend we all know who tries acid for the first time in college and then can only talk about how great of an experience it was. After a while, it gets tedious and quite honestly, a little immature. We get it. Drugs are fun, and you’re good with the ladies. If these seemed to serve as anything other than memories, maybe they would be more interesting.

I think the cover of the book is a map of the house. The big Fibonacci/golden-ratio-type-image on the cover could be the Staircase and the rest of the design the preceding rooms and passages. Going off of that, the spine is clearly a roll of film.

Carl Santavicca said...

I would have to agree with Jason that the book is meant to be a labyrinth; I think that the book is meant to be synonymous with the the house in the film as well as the apparent mental decent of Johnny or any insane person. One particular passage that was struck on page 114 summed it up for me:
"Or in other words, like the house, the film itself captures us at the same time as it frees us, to wander, and so first misleads us, inevitably, drawing us from the us, thus, only in the end to lead us, necessarily, for where else could we have really gone?, back again to the us and hence back to ourselves.
In this passage the portion "like the house, the film itself" could easily be replace with " the book." Judging by Johnny's Mom's letters as well as Johnny's hallucinations this must be what it is like to be insane; all the while it is your own mind in which you are captive, both wandering and misled.

Sarah Ayre said...

This part of the book was definitely a trip for me, but as to where, I still cannot say. The idea of the text as a labyrinth occurred to me as soon as I saw the foreshadowing moment Carl mentions. After finally reaching the part of the book with the blue squares and texts on either sides in the margins, I was pretty certain that's what the text was trying to convey. It's interesting to note (at least I found it interesting) that the text on either side and in the blue boxes are just lists, mostly of boring and monotonous things. Therefore the labyrinth of text is mostly just asinine information, not at all important to the storyline at all. To keep reading the story with any semblance of order you must navigate around these pockets of extra and unnecessary information to get out of the labyrinth the story has created. Weird.

I wonder if this is the form Johnny found the story in, and if so, why did he keep it this way?

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Reading this book is a challenge, yes. But I don't even know if I could pin point a place in the book that is giving me the most trouble. This section of the novel resembled a carnival fun house, yet I personally didn't find any fun out of trying to read it. The text is like a maze, literally and physically as it's laid across the pages. Words appear in a mirror image and upside down. It's distracting at times, I find myself more focused on the orientation and layout of the text rather than its actual content.

Joseph Hastings said...

A couple things stood out to me in this read. First off the blue "windows" of text that start on page 119 and end on page 144 with a black box. I think this is similar to Holloway's journey and how he breaks down a wall and it just leads to more and more endless hallways and passages. The words in these windows are endless. It is just a list that goes on and on and the reader seems to get lost in the text similar to how Holloway gets lost in the hallway. Also the last box is a black box, almost as if you are looking back into the pages of the windows but all you can see is darkness. So really I believe these windows are showing the reader what Holloway is seeing.
Secondly, I too agree with Jason that the cover of the book is a map of the house. The spiral stair case can clearly be seen with increasing diameter and all of the hallways in a mazelike layout. Also the compass in the middle doesn’t have a direction on, you never can know which way is north. This is similar to how a compass does not work when used inside the house.
Overall, this book is very confusing, but at the same time I am fascinated in the book and I find it hard to put down. I find that the unique set up of the book makes it more interesting for me because it is very unique and there is no book that I have read before like it.

Tolu Dayo said...

I found that this section of the book just like the beginiing was a little hard to follow Danielewski's style of writing is one that takes time to get used to. trying to keep track of the footnotes, and Zampano's part is also a little difficult but as tie goes on, i find myself just getting used to it. I do agree with everyone that the book is similar to a labyrinth but I think that focusing on some of the asides in this book is what makes it feel like a labyrinth. there is a lot of unnecessary information like the list of nothing on the sides of the page, once you weed through the non-important things, it gets a little easier to keep up.

Adam also mentions reading the e-book which is the same thing I have been doing, I feel like I might be missing some key visual things maybe?

Caleb Radomile said...

The story is picking up and I'm understanding the material more, but it still has its confusing parts. I want to call attention to the "monster". We've already seen that the house changes depending on the perception and desire of the ones exploring it (the staircase), so what if the monster changes too? At first, the "growling" is perceived to be just the walls shifting, so maybe it would have stayed just that if Hollaway didn't see it as a monster that had to be hunted. He obviously had the intent to hunt when he brought his gun, so that is what he was going to find when he went exploring, even if it ended up being Wax and Jed. Also, I understand the windows tying in to the architecture and what's is being listed and why, but why does it stop with a big black square? What is its significance?

Ronald Rollins said...

One thing that's stood out to me so far is the description of the endless hall. Somehow, the concept of long, dark hallways has always been something I've found rather terrifying. Being in a dark room can be uncomfortable, but walking between rooms has always triggered some odd fear. It's particularly creepy to walk down a school or office hallway after hours and I don't even know why. I feel like the book plays on this rather well by making it nothing more than a long hallway that continues to grow into an uncomfortably large space with nothing else intrinsically terrifying about it. Instead of being slapped in the face with blood stains or something, you're left wondering why it's so scary, and imagining yourself in such a confusing situation is what really makes it horror.

Nicholas Flynn said...

"The appearence of the hallway, however, tests those informal vows. Navidson finds himself constantly itching to leave his family for that place just as Karen discovers old patterns surfacing in herself." (82)
This irony at the center of House of Leaves seems almost too-perfectly constructed. Often when discussing the questions of The Navidson Record's authenticity, Zampano focuses on the physical features of the house, and its seeming impossibility. He doesn't, at least not yet, bring up some of the more melodramatic points in the film, which - at least by reading the account - are probably more impractical. Not only is there the tight irony of Karen and Will's agreement, but characters like Reston who comes up with stock phrases out of Westerns, like "Awwwwwwwwwww shit!" and other witty banter. I think it's interesting that several tropes mentioned by Zampano are ignored by Navidson, ex. the children and the animals as better understanding of the house than the adults. So why bring them up? Why leave these particular moments unexplained?

Nikki Moriello said...

Ok, so reading this book is harder than reading any other book that I've read, ever, but not because of its content, because that's not as confusing as the structure of the book. On the pages with the windows, everything gets super confusing because of the sideways text, upside-down footnotes, and the windows themselves are just a bit disorienting.
I think this feeling of disorientation is created on purpose and is meant to give the readers of the book the same sort of feeling that the everyone has in the house itself. The book has a lot of seemingly unmotivated, strange, structurally impossible attributes (like windows through pages), but they are there and evidently possible, and they have meaning. So it might also be a commentary on how even though the mysteries of the house seem impossible, they are real and they are there for a reason.

Jared DiSanti said...

Many times in this book I am having trouble following along in this book, not to mention actually interpreting what the characters mean when I actually know who is talking about what. The format of the book has changed drastically in this part of the book, I began to make more sense of the layout after reading online that the format was meant to emulate the House itself. For example because of the way the text is reflected through the blue square we can assume that they are windows of the house. I feel that the layout of the text is not enhancing the experience for me but taking away from it. It is a little too tough to navigate especially not having a whole lot of time to read it with a heavy workload for other classes. I enjoy the story when I understand it but am can;t say I enjoy seeing upside down text and all sorts of other things on most of the pages.