Saturday, March 29, 2014

Questions and Comments on Danielewski, Week 2

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.

15 comments:

Jessica Craig said...
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Jessica Craig said...

While I was reading, I kept thinking about how Danielewski was able to write narratives authored by two different characters. I started looking more closely at the differences between Zampano's writing and Truant's writing. Are there detectible differences? In other words, if there was no change in formatting (footnotes vs typical book layout) or font, would the reader be able to detect two different writers? One similarity I noticed between two story lines was the frequent lack of comma use. I noticed that some sentence had proper comma usage, but many sentences were missing commas. On page 103: "Thus while representing the emergency signal sent by Holloway's team...In other words his SOS is entirely without hope," Commas are needed after "thus" and "in other words." One page 97: "Instead Reston concentrates all his energies on the radios...The obvious choice would have been to structure the segment around Holloway's journey but clearly nothing about Navidson is obvious." Commas are required after "instead" and before the "but" in the second sentence. There are many intances of this; I wonder why the author, editor, and publisher decided to exclude these commas. On an unrelated note, what is happening with the weird spaces, for example, on page 97-106? Why do they suddenly appear, and what do they contribute to the reading?

Maggie Stankaitis said...

I’ve taken many writing and literature classes in the past in which we focus on the style and form of a piece of writing. Often times the form or style reflects the theme or context of the writing or supplements the writing in some way. Usually there is a purpose for the way a book is composed, or an essay is styled. I have a few ideas why stylistically this book is composed the way it is. The form of the text becomes increasingly more complex and distorted as the house and labyrinth becomes more mystifying and complex. The book becomes a labyrinth itself, as the reader has to read in boxes, follow or at least try to follow the footnotes, go back and forth from page to page. I understand the reasoning for this stylistic choice—to reflect the context, but other stylistic choices are more of a mystery to me. For example on pages 97, 101, and others, there are particular page breaks made up of dots and dashes— why was this chosen rather just using dashes? I also question the purpose of the extra white space between lines on page 100 , “its syllabic sweetness, its immigrant pride, a great American epic word really, starting at the lower lip, often the very front of the lower
(weird open dot)
“lip, before racing all the way to the back of the throat, where it finishes with a great blast, the concussive force of the K catching up”
(closed dot)
“then with the hush of the F…”

What are the purposes of the break between sentences, and not to mention mid sentence?

On the bottom of page 97 there is a little check mark— what is this for? I truly would like to know all of the reasoning behind every stylistic decision in this book.


Jake Stambaugh said...

Something I noticed beyond the super strange formatting and structure is that even within the labyrinth, the explorer teams act in terms of night and day. While it makes sense that the people in the "normal" part of the house are acting in a twenty-four hour cycle, but once Navidson, Tom and Reston enter the labyrinth they still act and think and sleep in terms of night and day, when their only actual way of telling whether it is day or night is assumedly a watch. Why keep the construct of night and day when they are exploring an endless void?

I also noticed that most of Johnny's anecdotes at this point of the novel revolve around him having sex with strangers, some of whom have a small connection to Zampano, women who would read to him and such or who could translate some of his writings. The other notes that Johnny inserts are about his own panic attacks, almost always when he is alone. Why does this haunting panic only come when Johnny is alone? Why does he seek out sexual comfort, and why does this seem to be the one thing that dulls his fear?

Becca Garges said...

I also noticed the weird dots and dashes that break up chapter VIII. My immediate thought was that they had something to do with SOS and Morse Code, which relates to the discussion of SOS and rescue on these pages. However, I don't know much about SOS or Morse Code, so I'm not sure.

Furthermore, I started wondering why each text was chosen for the separate narratives. They seem to be characteristically chosen. Johnny's is much more casual, while Zampano's is a bit more sophisticated - seeming to parallel how they tell their stories. The details in the book seem to be well-calculated and important.

Also, after learning about the staircase spiraling down into darkness, the cover of the novel makes more sense. Perhaps the compass-like image at the center of the spiral refers to the characters' observations that compasses don't work in the house. The labyrinth/maze-like lines surrounding the spiral on the cover remind me of the discussion of Minotaurs and of course the hallways.

Kyle McManigle said...

I, like Maggie, was interested in some of the subtleties of the writing structure and composition of the passages, as well as a few other things, like the random question mark as she noted. Like other people, I was trying to figure out why the writing was so segmented, splitting things into smaller two or three sentence chunks, but then changing to other weird formatting. I understand the connection between the characters physical involvement and disorientation with that of the reader trying to navigate things like the footnotes in the blue boxes (page 119), or ones that are turned every which way and upside down. Why for some of those was the reverse writing on the opposite side of the page like the page was see through? Why keep the red writing that's crossed out by Zampano? I also had some difficulty in finding some of the footnotes like 183 and noticed some that were out of order like 196 is listed before 189 on page 145. Are these things done purposefully to disorient the reader even more? I found myself trying to follow as much as I could, but ultimately gave up with some parts like pages 133-138 because I just could not follow the flow of the writing and knew I would waste countless time trying to figure it out while driving myself insane trying to get it just right before I entertained the thought that there really isn't anything correctly streamlined about the writing. The one thing that I was really interested by was the segmentation of Johnny's footnotes. The one on page 100 is broken up into chunks like Zampano's writing, even though a few before that, like the one on pages 76-77 was essentially one extremely long sentence. I was curious why Johnny's writing was also broken up when he wasn't the one telling the story of the maze nature of the house? Was this because Johnny himself is spiraling down a staircase in his own mind in becoming increasingly unstable and anxiety ridden?

Also how others have noted, I thought the small sections of Johnny's stories to be strange. He tells stories about all these women he's been with, but he says specifically for some, like the one about the Australian girl starting around page 117, that he doesn't really remember, but then goes into extreme detail about what happened. Did these things really happen or is he just making some of them up? What do we make of his encounters with all these different women? What significance does the Ashley story hold above the others since she claims their first encounter to have been in Texas, yet Johnny claims to have never been there?

Tom Kappil said...

The most disconcerting part of the reading was the rapid change in formatting. As conditions in the labyrinth and Truant’s own mental condition deteriorated, so too did the formatting of the writing. Further into the reading, the footnotes would take strange places, appear before or after they were mentioned, listed sideways, upside down, reversed, or crossed out. In one occasion, the text Truant was able to save from Lampano’s cuts formed the image of a key. When listing house parts in the off-set annotation in the square, I liked how the front part does not align with the mirror image on the back, and the extension to that annotation (next page) does not align with the previous one, reflecting how each rom in the house does not have a distinct and constant forward and reverse. Is the disorganization of the text intended to reflect the inherent entropy in the House? Or is it more of a product of the tale taking its toll on Truant? Secondly, I really want to give the author credit for the dedication in creating such detailed academic annotations, and the accompanying references. Managing 3 separate narratives combined with the academic writing that seems too good not to be real for that duration is impressive.

I really liked the changes in pace, accompanied by the changes in word organization. The fright and speed of Navidson’s discovery of Jed, his death, and Holloway’s madness was extremely well done, and a bit unsettling as well. I don’t think I’ve ever sped through pages that quickly in a book. Some of the changes, outside of the shape of the paragraphs, were harder to comprehend. Randomly, the novel will change the symbols used for annotations, from regular numbers, to Greek letters, to scribbles. That change seems too distinct to be accidental, yet I can’t find a purpose for it.

Tom Kappil said...
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Kevin Weatherspoon said...

While reading House of Leaves I still get the confused at times on how to read certain sections of this book. At times it’ll get interesting then there will be times where I have to keep reading over a certain section to get the idea of it. For instance, when I got to page 110 of the novel, I wasn’t sure on whether to read the red lettering that’s crossed out but I read it anyways even though I couldn’t get the reasoning for it. It talked about Minotaur and the whole myth behind this creature but why is this section displayed like it is? Is it a part of the book where he could’ve erased it but still wanted to have it shown and crossed out on purpose? That’s just one of the sections that sort of confused me and the whole meaning behind it.

Dennis Madden said...

There exists a curious overlap in the writings of Johnny and Zampano. They both seem to demonstrate an above average understanding of physics and physiology, quoted numerous times in the text. Johnny particularly, has no reason to know about the zonules of Zinn, or the complex photoreceptor transduction in the retina involving rods, cones, bipolar cells, and on/off center receptive fields. This information is usually confined to academia, and we clearly know that Johnny has no formal post-secondary education. Though we are less sure of Zampano, the general consensus is that these types of information are not common knowledge.

It is possible that Zampano, unable to see, developed a special interest in the physical mechanics of sound (presumably his primary form of navigation). Subsequently, Johnny’s developed interest of Zampano may have fostered his interest in the complicated visual system. Johnny’s knowledge of retinal physiology alludes to the magnitude of his obsession with Zampano… Johnny must literally be consumed by him. Johnny’s comment that Zampano’s retinohypothalamic tract is still functional while his optic nerve is defunct shows just how obsessed he really is.

All of this relates back to light vs the ‘Other’, especially in the house. The similarities between the adequate stimuli for retinal receptive fields and the structure of the Navidson house on ashtree lane beg more analysis.

Kristen Welsh said...

I thought the scene where Wax kisses Karen and Karen does not even attempt to fight back was very interesting and telling of Karen and Navidson's relationship. I was under the impression that Karen and Navidson were trying to work out their relationship, but it does not seem that way at all to me. The way that Navidson introduces the kiss strikes me as extremely odd. Navidson says, "It's too bad. I love her. I wish it didn't have to turn out like this." He seems, to me at least, to be apathetic about Karen. Sure, he says he loves her, but he seems very accepting of the fact that she cheats on him all the time. Do you think he loves Karen? If so, what do you think his reaction would have been? And why didn't Karen push Wax off of her when he kissed her? Does she love Navidson? However, Karen does eventually walk out of the room, so that may be her way of showing that she still cares for Navidson. I think that there is something between Karen and Navidson, but that it is not love, or else they wouldn't treat each other so worthlessly.

Jessica Merrill said...

Johnny has confused me thoroughly throughout this week's readings. He has becoming more abstract in his stories, often jumping from one thing to another with no transition, or even a possible connection. He's also been rambling more often. I think these are signs of his growing insanity, which he admits to multiple times.

One aspect of this insanity is especially interesting. Johnny mentions many times that he does not want to leave his home: something seems to be keeping him there. He tells us that his home is simply an apartment that, before finding Zampano's writings, he would spend the most time out of as possible. But after reading about a "movie" where a house has so much control over a family, he seems controlled by his house as well. Instead of taking the story as warning, he stays in his home more often. He lets his feelings of needing to stay inside take over. He does not try to escape the grips of an apartment that is nowhere near as powerful as the Navidson's house. If he knows that the houses have the ability to drive people crazy, why is he submitting to his home?

In addition, he knows that the story Zampano is telling is fictional. So he should know that houses can't have control. But his is surely having an effect on him. The Navidson Record seems to be getting into Johnny's head more than he is aware of. By the time he realizes that he is afraid of his house, it might be too late to change it.

Courtney Elvin said...

This section of the novel becomes more disorienting and complicated in the way that the narrative layers are woven together as well as the events occurring in each of these narrative layers. One theme that I was able to notice throughout this section was the theme of the ocean and ships. This was something we discussed last class as a possible reasoning for why the word “house” is blue. But the theme of the ocean and ships also fits in to the idea of exploration, particularly with the footnote/incorporation of Magellan and Hudson’s voyages in history. A connection I drew between the team’s voyage and Magellan’s was initially that Magellan’s crew made it all the way around the world to return, but he did not. It seemed relevant to this passage because this is where Holloway first starts to lose it and stray from the group. Also, when Naividson and his team go out on the rescue mission, on 155 a source says, “The Great Hall feels like the inside of some preternatural hull designed to travel vast seas never before observed in this world”, yet another nautical reference. Reston mentions feeling seasick a few pages later. Overall, these nautical exploration references I can explain as supporting the parallel of expeditions being lost in the vastness of the sea and the complications that come with that.

Kurt Wichman said...

After reading more into this novel, I realized that this course is a series of confusing stories and novels and video games that are disorienting and mind boggling. House of Leaves, like others, doesn't differ. Further reading proves that House of Leaves is exceptionally confusing and in depth. The story goes on to tell stories within stories with complex ideas. The breaks in sentences and awkward settings only add to the complexity. Before making this post I couldn't put my finger on a specific term to describe the story thus far, but just from scrolling down the posts, numerous people use the word "labyrinth", and I realized that is exactly what this is.

Brendan Demich said...

A question that came up in my mind for the reading this week was wondering about the significance, if any, of the setting of the novel. Johnny tells us that he was couch hopping around until landing in a studio in Hollywood. The remainder of Johnny’s investigations circles around the California area. Considering that there is a large focus on the impact of cameras and digitalization, I am doubtful that the setting is coincidental in any way. There is even minor discussion on the difference between the ghosts of Hollywood films and documentaries. For what reason would Zampano live in the midst of the technological phenomenon that he is opposing?
Also, is would there be any relevance to the time that Johnny’s story takes place (End of 1996)? I tried to find anything that would be relevant. I found a few minor connections between that time period and event in Johnny’s stories. I noted from first investigation is there is an interesting discussion about Johnny’s landlord making up a story about a 757 crashing into the apartment building. The parallel comes in with a 757 crashing off the coast of Lima, Peru in October 1996 (as well as a few other significant plane crashes). Also, I found an interesting connection in a famous bird expert, Tony Silvia, was convicted for smuggling parrots. I found this connections interesting, but relatively insignificant to the story as a whole. But I feel like because there are these connections, there should be other connections to the setting as a whole.