Thursday, November 14, 2013

Comments/Questions on House of Leaves, Week 3

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...

The first thing that struck me about this reading is the relatively few asides, it focused a lot more on the Navidson Record than the preceding reading sections.

I think I know why but I'd be up for discussion in support or to the contrary. The few asides we do get show us that Johnny has become even more constrained. His attempt to clear his system of drugs and alcohol to relieve his anxiety seems to have backfired and he's becoming more and more like Zampano. He's even blocked his windows and nailed measuring tapes down to be sure his apartment isn't performing the same transformations as the house. In this withdrawn state, the asides get fewer and fewer because he's going out of his apartment less and less. What does everyone else think?

I was a bit puzzled by the sections of text that were supposedly lost to some sort of fire and/or ash falling on them for two reasons. For one, I was surprised at how easily I could read these sections if I put my mind to it. I believe this is because the mind processes words as a whole, not as individual characters. Deos annyoe epxerciene toubrle reiadng tihs ptauriclar sentecne? Okay so that one might trip you up a bit, but the point is we read words as a whole not letter by letter which is why, as we read more, we read faster.

However, my second reason, I realized that if enough people read the passages they might get a slightly different meaning from these sections of text. I guess we'll find out when we discuss!

Sarah Ayre said...

That is a good point Adam! I have seen many of those word plays floating around the internet that show that even if a letter or two is messed up in a word, you can still read the word without too much difficulty. One thing that I found interesting about this section was Truant's repeated use of "Lost." I thought that here ti could have multiple meanings. One reading is the obvious one that the sources or extra phrases have been lost, but another one that I thought was interesting involved Truant thinking the characters themselves were Lost in these parts. This could even reflect his own feelings on their relations. All of this is just guesswork, but I found that part interesting.

Another thing I noticed in this section is the switch between the use of Navy and Navidson. I thought it was interesting that they did not stick to just one name for Will, and that they (Zampano, Truant, and Editors) switch back and forth. I'm not sure if this indicates a familiarity with Will, as it would suggest, because he isn't always discussed fondly. Did anyone else notice this, or have any other thoughts on it?

The last thing I want to mention is something that has been bothering me this entire book, and I just always forget to comment on it: "a lot." I don't understand why it is one word in this story instead of two and it infuriates me to no end. As a little aside, here's a fun blog post that articulates my feelings on this quite clearly:

Ronald Rollins said...

"The last thing I want to mention is something that has been bothering me this entire book, and I just always forget to comment on it: "a lot." I don't understand why it is one word in this story instead of two and it infuriates me to no end."

This is one thing I noticed immediately, as well as "should of" instead of "should've." The point of this is that Truant isn't supposed to be a highly educated man. He's intelligent enough to write down his life story and comments on the Navidson events, but he focuses more on the events themselves and less on his writing abilities. He's the kind of person who cares more about making a point and less about how he does it, because he knows it isn't worth the effort it'd take to revise since, really, we know what he means (as annoying as it is). It makes me think back to the point where he says his job at the tattoo shop is basic and doesn't take much work, but he does it so well that they're not going to bother firing him and looking for someone else.

Carmen Condeluci said...

Although the furthering of the summary of the Navidson Record is the driving force of the reading, the formatting this time also presented some interesting relevance to the story. Throughout chapter 12 (page 275), the text jumps from the top of the page to the bottom, which I believe signifies from which perspective that particular paragraph centers on. When the text is at the bottom of the page, it focuses on Navidson, his thoughts, and his eventual stranding at the bottom of the staircase, while the text at the top of the page concerns Tom and the pulling out of Reston. As Navidson "sinks" the text on each page becomes more and more sparse and stretched out. However, I am confused as to what the text being upside down could signify, as I theorized that it might have been representative of the staircase twisting downwards, as it requires you to constantly turn the book to read it, but the novel never mentions this, only "stretching", "expanding", and "dropping".

Near the end of the reading, the striked, red text and the topic of the Minotaur surface, once again forming a shape. This time, I believe the shape to be a sword, although the burned-out text destroys the midsection and tip of the blade. The shape is offset by Johnny making it explicitly clear that Zampano has attempted to eradicate anything about the Minotaur from the book, a recounting of Holloways descent into insanity and paranoia about a creature stalking him within the house, and another footnote by Johnny likening his descent into madness and paranoia to that which Zampano suffered from. The placement near Holloway definitely holds some significance, possibly a message of the futility of brute force (as the sword is broken, and Holloway is hunting the "creature") towards the madness imparted on him by the labyrinth of the house, and I am interested to see if my reading of the sword holds any water in our discussion.

Abby Peters said...

I thought that the section with the burnt out words was interesting too. Although I think I found a slightly different meaning in it. When the missing part was just a letter or two it was pretty easy to infer the missing parts but the thing is that you can never be completely sure of what the letter was. This was accentuated when the missing pieces were entire sentences or paragraphs. It got much harder to have a solid idea of what those missing pieces were and you were constantly worried if you were missing something meaningful. In a way this reflects the house. People of the house are constantly searching for meaning in its nothingness. Just like those brackets there is no possible way to derive the true meaning but we search for it anyway.
I also had a question regarding the footnotes. Can anyone see a reason why the markings change from numbers to symbols? It seems very random to me and I was just wondering if anyone notices a difference between the two.

Nicholas Flynn said...

I haven't noticed Johnny's errors as much, probably because his sections don't require the same amount of effort as Zampano's. One moment in the Navidson Record that's relevant is on page 320 when the narration slips from third person to first: "He might have spent all night drinking had exhaustion not caught up with me." The narration goes right back to third person after that. Who could that me be? It has to be a mistake, started by Zampano, propogated by both Johnny and the editors' lazy editing. I think we're supposed to think about this stuff, errors and what they mean, who started them and who keeps them going. Tom had that story on page 257 about the monks who copy a word wrong (of major importance to them, celibate vs. celebrate). And on page 84:"it is worthwhile, however briefly, to track the narrative events of the three explorations and recite to some degree how they effect the Navidsons." I underlined effect in my book, thinking isn't affect the verb and effect the noun? I looked it up and though affect is commonly a verb and effect is commonly a noun, effect can be used as a verb. But in a book with thousands on thousands of words, why is it so easy to get caught up in the meaning of a few? It's almost like we're willing to break form in some places, but not in others.

Nikki Moriello said...

This section of the book differed from the previous ones. I think the primary reason why this is the first thing that struck me about this reading was because it was notably easier to get through than previous sections.
I really like the pages 286-296 in the book, which is the part where the rope holding Reston snaps. The whole sequence is not only narrated with Danielewski's words, but it is illustrated by the manipulations in the orientation and spacing of the words. The first oddity in the sequence is when Danielewski questions, "if Navidson is no longer holding onto the rope, what could be pulling Reston to the top?" (286-287). "Top" is the only word placed on page 287. When holding the book normally, the word appears in the top right corner of the page, but, because the word is upside-down, we want to turn the book to look at it, which places it in the bottom left corner of the page. I don't really know why Danielewski would do this because it seems to make sense that it's in the top corner, so why would he negate that by orienting the text upside-down? Perhaps it's just to further illustrate the maddening confusion that the house brings about for its navigators.
Another cool page in the book also forces us to physically turn the book upside-down and read "sinking" (289) as it descends on the page, and "stretching" (289) as the distance between the letters in the word grow farther and farther apart. The effect of stretching the words out creates a sort of anticipation or suspense, I think. The actual act of reading the word takes longer than it normally would if it was printed on the page as plain text, stretching the process out, like the stairs are stretching in the book.
Furthermore, throughout the whole ten pages, each page alternates in orientation. Pages 286, 288, 290, 292, and 294 are right-side up and pages 287, 289, 291, and 293 are upside-down. (295 is crooked, but not completely upside-down.) This forces us to literally tumble the around and around to read it. I think could be just another way Danielewski is creating disorientation for his readers to parallel the disorientation the people in the house feel, but it could also mean something else.

Jason Wald said...

I know this is late, but I wanted to add an idea we did not get to in class.

This summer, I read At the Mountains of Madness by H.P Lovecraft. For such a short story, it was one of the most terrifying books I have read….until the monsters showed up. Lovecraft did a great job of building suspense, using the book as a letter to dissuade further exploration of Antarctica after some mysterious and other-worldly events and discoveries lead to unspeakable horrors. The book, much like House of Leaves, is rooted in the scientific exploration of the unknown. This medium – the pseudo-scientific – is quite a good choice for horror stories because it lends a sense of realism that is missing from most creature/ghost stories. This could be due to the idea that there exist horrors even beyond our most rational processes, processes devoted entirely to obtaining the truth.

Anyway, the similarities are hard to miss. The main difference being that House of Leaves continues to be scary even after introducing the monster. ATMoM, however, lost much of its suspense once the monsters were shown.