Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prompt 2: Corrigan and House of Leaves

Time and Space:
Ware vs. Danielewski

            At first glimpse when comparing the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth to House of Leaves one would think their connections would be few and far between. However, upon further inspection both Ware and Danielewski use particular forms to tell multiple narratives in each novel.  While Ware’s forms of representation are a little more straightforward than Danielewski’s both authors use their forms to express time and space in relation to the characters.[1]  We can contrast and compare each author’s use and how each is effective in their structure.

In Jimmy Corrigan, the first frames are images of space then what would appear to be a zooming in on the planet until we reach Jimmy’s house. Note however, the sizes of each frame are not equal to each other; the frames representing the city are much smaller than the frame depicting the planet and Jimmy’s house. This represents the view through Jimmy’s eyes that at that moment his house is as important as the planet on which he lives; Ware uses size and space to depict importance throughout the book. Another use of space can be seen later in the depiction of the Worlds Columbian Exposition. Quite often there is a whole page worth of space devoted to these images as if to designate their grandeur as well as importance in the history of the character. [2]
            All through Jimmy Corrigan we see Chris Ware use images, color and symbols to depict the passage of time. In the first few pages after we see little Jimmy with the superman character there is a page that perfectly uses all three to represent the passage of time. The image is of the house Jimmy lived in and how it has gone through its life span over the course of seven images. These frames also use the color of the sky to depict the passage of time via seasonal changes. Also Jimmy Corrigan uses the little red bird to symbolize the passage between large gaps in time; this bird can also be seen in the frames between the civil war and modern times almost like a little red time machine that transports the reader to and from the future and the past.[3]
            The theory of relativity states that: space and time are curved by objects with mass. Overall there are multiple forms used by each of the authors in different ways. Both authors effectively use these forms to show spatial references as well as character development over time; as well as draw the reader into the characters lives.


Danielewski, M. Z. House of Leaves. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Random House.

Ware, C. (2003). Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth. Pantheon.

[1] Einstein theorized that space and time are relative to one another.
[2]           In House of Leaves we see a relation to the peculiar and changing spatial dimensions of the house in the Navidson files to the many forms of writing, or lack of, Danielewski uses throughout the book.  One of the first and smaller size differentials is the use of capital letters where they are not needed. Not only does this symbolize the changing spatial dimension of the house but, upon determining that Johnny’s mother embeds coding into her letters, the reader is left to decipher the code in the different sizing of the letters. For example on when Johnny is talking about being in a “whimsical frame of mind” he says: “Where Have I Moved? What Have I Muttered? Who Have I Met?” (Danielewski 77); the first letters of which spell out WHIM. This size differential serves two purposes: it signifies the importance to the reader that they should decipher the codes hidden within the pages, or leaves, of the book. It also causes the reader the unstable state of mind that the narrators share, constantly looking for clues to unscramble even when they may not be there. Another use of space in House of Leaves is throughout pages 136-243; here Danielewski uses large sections of empty space around text to illustrate the aloneness that the reader should feel in relation to the characters in the story. These sections where the text is often in a frame of empty space is also symbolic of the way Ware uses frames to separate his illustrations and draw focus onto each individual field of reference.
[3]           Similarly Danielewski has a few little thematic time machines of his own. First he makes use of ancient languages on a regular basis; his use of Old English and Latin immediately cause the readers frame of mind to shift to the past. More importantly Danielewski uses appendices and footnotes to transition from one moment in time to another. In appendix one the reader is transported through Zampano’s life through his dated notes, while in appendix two they are transported most notably back in Johnny’s childhood through the letters of his mother while locked in the mental institution. A more instant shift in time is seen through the footnotes found all throughout the book; these footnotes as well as transitions in font allow the reader to transition between 3 main points in time. First the Navidson Records as retold by Zambrano is being filmed in the early 90’s; Zambrano’s footnotes cause the reader to jump either a few years into the future when he is simply commenting on sources, or hundreds of years into the past when he is referencing literary works such as Dante’s Inferno. Finally Johnny’s footnotes warp the reader back to  the late 90’s or what would be considered the present if we are more closely paying attention to Johnny’s story.


Adam said...

This is a tough one for me. Some of it is very clever - bringing up and redlining Einstein in both texts is very well executed, and it's a good way of bringing in (if only passingly) what I'll call the technical (if not quite scientific) concerns of both texts. Your use of footnotes to connect the two texts is also clever, although I have mixed feelings about the execution of it.

The danger in this piece is that you spent a lot of time and energy rehearsing things which are familiar (in the case of Jimmy Corrigan) or in some cases obvious (the use of spaces in chapter X of HOL), and note enough time & energy making explicit what you have to say here. You are making vibrant, interesting connections between the two texts, but not in a way that really articulates & advances a clear argument, despite the very real ways in which you are clever and thoughtful here.

Adam Lewis said...


First of all this is really awkward posting AFTER Dr. Johns instead of before him.

I like how you're relating the texts since I, for one, did not see much of a parallel between these two books. However, what is your argument and why should I care? I liked Jimmy Corrigan and so far, I like House of Leaves but I don't see in your blog why, as a reader, I should concern myself with considering one in light of the other.

That being said, it is also a weekly blog and I know I miss a clear argument on my first attempt probably 3 out of 4 times. It is a good start!