Saturday, April 5, 2014

Comments on Danielewsky, Week III

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.

14 comments:

Becca Garges said...

I'm curious about Chad and Daisy's pictures: "The problem was that these wolves did not just stalk quietly through cadmium woods; their teeth drew madder and rose from each other's throats. The tigers did not just sleep on clover; they clawed Sunday red and indigo from celadon hills. And the dragon with its terrible emerald tail and ruby glare did not merely threaten; it incinerated everything around it with a happy blossom of heliotrope and gamboge. And yet even these violent fantasies were nothing compared to what lay in wait at the centre of the drawing…it was nothing more than a black square filling ninety percent of the page. Furthermore, several layers of black crayon and pencil had been applied so that not even a speck of the paper beneath could show through." This and the children's other similar drawings interest me. I guess the black square could represent the lack of light and the icy coldness of the hallway, but as far as we know the children only ever went down the hallway one time. Also, why the animals? Why does this image seem to represent the house for Chad and Daisy? I think that maybe somehow they know more about the house or have a better understanding of it than the adults do, but how and why? Also, the description of the animals (which uses strong vocabulary) contrasted with that of the square (which uses more simple words) is weird. Why use such sophisticated words like "celadon" and "heliotrope" to depict the colors in a child's drawing?

Tom Kappil said...

One strange thing I noticed when reading the section about Tom and Navidson’s relationship (and the parallels to the Old-Testament story of Isaac’s blessings to Jacob and Esau), the author patterned the text in a manner that modeled many Bibles (most Bibles are printed with two columns per page, and annotations or references to other sections on the bottom). Without even realizing it at the time, I changed my rate of reading and how immersed I was with the text from reading it like a novel, to reading like a textbook. Outside of the obvious parallel between with the story of Jacob and Esau, why would the author change the format of the text so dramatically? Reading on, Danielewski really likes playing with the formatting of the text to emphasize a point, or the state of the characters, even to the point where the reader (me) is incredibly frustrated of the upside down text.

Finally, Tom’s behavior while in the maze contrasted dramatically with the reaction that Holloway had within the maze. Tom severely dislikes the area, but he suffers through out of loyalty to his brother, while Holloway ends up going mad and killing his partners due to his own ambition. The maze takes the character of the explorers and tests it, and Tom was able to show that he is a good man. This section of the book also indicates that the house itself has a personality. Perhaps distraught after losing Navidson as a victim, it attacks all inhabitations of the house, succeeding in taking Tom away from Navidson, right after they had reconciled. For some reason, I felt like this was out of character for the house itself, and a strange direction for the book to turn. The narrative so far was relatively plodding, and that pace helped the spooky aura surrounding the house to grow. But the large scare diminished it, and once revealed, it makes the house seem less imposing.

Courtney Elvin said...

With this being the third week of reading House of Leaves, I’ve been finding it easier to worry less about following the footnotes in the correct order. However, this was the first week that I took the time to flip back to the index of the book with the direction from a footnote, though I don’t remember the page. This was not the first footnote that said “see Index”, but it was the first one I listened too. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see as an index for this format-defying book, but from pages 664-705 I was actually quite intrigued. It seems like it is recorded every time and page where these words are used, and it’s quite a comprehensive list. Some words included in the index are even noted to not be used in the text and are marked DNE (does not exist) including: aggressor, arterial, ballerina, bandage, bundle, canine, cartouche, clasps, collagen, collector, confuse, crab, custodian, dazzle, defenestration, degueulasse, denounce, denunciation, detritus, diner, disclose, discombobulating, disintegrate, dispossess, domus (black), donkey, embalm, embarrass, entomb, fiend, flaws, float, galleries, glean, hallucinate, hallucination, haus (black), hippo, house (black), huddle, etc. I can’t seem to find the pattern or reasoning for these seemingly random words to be explicitly included to mention that they don’t appear in the text or if they truthfully don’t appear in the text at all. What is the purpose of the index in general and what is the purpose of the DNE words included?

Jessica Merrill said...

"People frequently comment on the emptiness of one night stands, but emptiness here has always just been another word for darkness. Blind encounters writing sonnets no one can ever read. Desire and pain communicated in the vague language of sex" (Danielewski, 265).

This is an excerpt from an eight page footnote from Johnny. This footnote mostly focuses on conquests of Lude and himself, but then moves to the story of the crazy woman and the Pekinese. The Pekinese story is an different and disturbing story, so I will focus on the quote. This quote, and the footnote itself, are helpful in understanding Johnny and his role in "House of Leaves".

We've discussed in class before that Johnny's footnotes almost always discuss something sexual, especially a one-night-stand. The emotional emptiness/darkness he describes in these encounters parallels the physical emptiness/darkness of the house. In addition, the next sentence, "Blind encounters writing sonnets that no one will ever read", seems to be referring to Zampano and his "Navidson Record". Johnny is reading them, and so are we, but I don't think it was meant to be read by anyone. Lastly, the last sentence describes how he feels about the sexual encounters he describes to us. His desire and pain (about women, "The Navidson Record", Zampano in general, his life that is falling apart), is communicated through sex, and more importantly through his descriptions of sex to the readers. We understand what Johnny is feeling through his stories. Through each separate sentence of this small paragraph, we can understand a little more about Johnny and how he relates to the story and the house.

Brendan Demich said...

As a continuation of the discussion on the female voice being suppressed, the transcript of “What Some Have Thought” by Karen Green (pg 354) includes some very interesting details to this point. But first, it’s important when reading these to remember that this is the fictional work of Zampano. In these fictional interviews, Karen interviews 12 men and 7 women. Minor male domination, but relevant at least. Some more interesting analysis of the voices is how a large portion of interviews end with the interviewee making a pass at Karen. This was done by a handful of the male interviewees and even one, possibly two, of the women. Some more subtle than others, for example Hofstadter’s explanation of Zeno’s arrow could contain a subtle hint of flirtation.

Another interesting interview was with the poet on page 360 (or “A Poe t. 21 years old. No tattoos. No piercings”). Clearly the space between “Poe” and “t” was not an error and this interview could be considered as an interview with Mark’s sister. Also, from the pictures I could find of Poe, she has not tattoos or piercings. Some interesting feature of this interview are that her name and title are not bolded like all other interviewees and that when she uses the first-first person pronoun “I”, it is always lowercase. Obviously, Zampano and Mark are viciously suppressing Poe here, almost to the point where she could be glazed over. Her actual interview is important, but that one is way over my head.

The final thing I have to say about the transcript is that in the closing remarks, the women, in one way or another, only get to say one word or a few if they in some way are not acting as a women. And then Johnny footnotes this with his story of house Thumper’s voice got cut off.

Jessica Craig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Craig said...

Truant's relationship with Thumper seemed to be omnipresent throughout his narrative yet their relationship always still seemed to be subtle. In the first half of the novel, Truant is almost chasing after her but then on page 365 when Thumper finally reciprocates interest, Johnny suddenly loses interest. "It's too late. Maybe, it's just not right." Johnny comments that he doesn't know Thumper's real name and realizes he never asked. He then returns his attention to the Navidson Record. The purpose of the relationship seemed unclear to me before but I wonder if this instance points to a turning point in the novel where Johnny has completely separated himself from reality and is so consumed by Zampano's work that he considers it a source of truth and wisdom and guidance. I wonder what else Johnny's relationship with Thumper reveals throughout the novel and what her possible absence from the rest of the novel might indicate.

Maggie Stankaitis said...

Besides the creative and distorted layout and style of the book, now I’ve become a little more interested in wondering and knowing what is the point of this book? In reality, there are no factual points in this novel and in the intertwining narratives. The reader himself is the only one who can decide what is true— is Zampano’s review real? He is blind, anyway, so how was he able to review the movie? Is this story of the house “real” to the book? Johnny Truant is fairly psychotic and increasingly losing his sense of reality so what of his account is real? This book is really about playing mind tricks with the reader. The book itself, yes, is fictional… but what in the fictional book is real to the story and what is not? Does that make sense..? I think what adds to the confusion is indeed the unconventional and strange layout of the book, but the content itself is strange, unconventional and difficult to understand.

Kristen Welsh said...

What I found interesting happens at the very beginning of this section – the biblical reference to the story of Esau and Jacob. For starters, I thought that it was interesting the way that Johnny relayed the story to the reader. I found it to be a very casual interpretation on such a highly religious and serious text, but I think that it worked. Not only was Johnny’s version easy to understand, but I thought it characterized him well, since Johnny was never one to explain anything seriously. He doesn’t really come off at the type to take anything too seriously either. Do you find any significance in what Johnny says at the ending of his retelling of Jacob and Esau: “Years later the brothers meet up again, but don’t hang together for long. It’s actually pretty sad”? I think that this may have something to do with how Johnny lacks real and substantial relationships in his life. He feels bad for Jacob and Esau because they lost their potential to have a special brotherly bond – something Johnny can only hope for. Do you think there are any other implications of his retelling?

Also, it is very interesting to me the striking similarities I see between Tom and Will and the brothers in the bible. I believe that Tom most resembles Esau and Navidson most resembles Jacob. Navidson seems to be the more outgoing go-getter of the brothers, but he is also more conniving. This correlates to how Jacob tricked the father into thinking that he was Esau. Tom, on the other hand, rolls with the punches like Esau does, and is more laid back. Do you find any other similarities between the two brothers? Do you think that this comparison helps to shed a new light on Tom and Navidson’s relationship? If so, how?

Jake Stambaugh said...

The inclusion of so many real celebrities reviewing Karen’s edit of the movie feels like a strange addition. These accounts are obviously fictional, but even Johnny discounts them as fictional, saying that only Hofstadter responded to an inquiry, and all he said was that he never heard of Navidson, Karen, or any of the other character. This doubly fictionalized representation of real people is a strange addition. Stephen King wants to see the house, recognizing that it’s real; Woz doesn’t really know what to make of it; Hofstadter sees it as a physical manifestation of infinity. Why, in a book about stretching the truth and false citations, are these figures represented, and why give them these opinions?

Alec Brace said...

For most of the book I have been disturbed in the way the book is laid out with the footnotes and shifting randomly from two columns per page to a normal page and everything else crazy that is done. It wasn't until I read through pages 275 to 295 that I actually felt like the layout was beneficial to my understanding of why it is so different then a normal book. In suspenseful parts of a normally laid out book all the reader has to do is keep reading but here we have to actually engage with the book and continue turning pages to read what happens. The small pause created by this allows the suspense to build up and makes the entire story much more interesting. Not only that, when the weirdness with the staircase starts happening the words are skewed on the pages as well. I really enjoy how the layout of the book is running in parallel with the events happening in the book and this section helped me realize and appreciate it more than some of the other sections.
One thing I'm left trying to figure out is why Johnny's sex stories about himself and Lude are mixed in with the silly jokes/stories being told. The way the book is laid out I feel like there must be some reason the two are together but I'm having trouble determining why. Are those the only stories Johnny cares about to remember and he felt like sharing them along with the other stories or is there some other reason?

Kevin Weatherspoon said...

“But if Navidson is no longer holding onto the rope, what could possibly be pulling Reston to the top? Then as the stairway starts getting darker and darker and as that fainly illuminated circle above-the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel-starts getting smaller and smaller, the answer becomes clear: Navidson sinking. Or the stairwayis stretching, expanding, dropping, and as it slips, dragging Reston up with it. Then at a certain point, the depth of the stairway begins to exceed the length of the rope. By the time Reston reaches the top the rope has gone taut, but the stairway still continues to stretch. Realizing what is about to happen, Navidson makes a desperate grab for the only remaining thread connecting him to home, but he is too late. About ten feet above the last banister the rope sn- -a-“

From page (286-295) this novel is written normally on the even page numbers, and upside-down on the odd page numbers. Also on page (289) the upside-down words is, stretching, and expanding are joining together. I chose to underline the words that are upside-down to make a better understanding. What is the reason for this? Why did Danielewski choose to make this part of the novel in this particular way? Those are the questions I ask myself.

Kyle McManigle said...

There are just a couple little things I wanted to comment on this week. I thought this part of the novel was the most interesting in terms of being engrossed as a reader. I was very heavily emotionally invested in certain parts of different characters stories, as I'm sure some other people were.

First, from the very beginning of the section with the discussion of Tom and Will's upbringing and relationship, I tried harder to pay attention to different groups of words and what they look like. To me, the extremely distinct columns of words describing the relationship represented the parallel nature of the two brothers, but being so much separated on the page still showed that the divide between them is much more than just their relationship, but also the way they learned to deal with life. I thought this was shown a lot during the mission to recover the lost Holloway team. Tom was much more childish in his presentation and how he is introverted. He was very afraid of being in the hall, while Will somewhat embraced it. Tom prods the "ghost" on page 254 calling him Mr. Monster, and entertains himself with shadow puppets of a piggy wiggy on page 260. He also tells himself plenty of jokes similar to things you would here in a high school locker room. Tom is always doing things to not face his situation, here acting more or less like a child, and drowning it in drugs and alcohol in others. Will seems to not flinch, but seek out these situations that Tom hides from.

I then tried to relate two smaller parts with Frankenstein. In discussing Jacob's deception of his blind father for his blessing over Esau and being forced to wrestle with his self-worth, it reminded me of the monster's interaction with the De Lacey. He tried to talk to the kind old blind man for acceptance and hopefully their loving embrace/interaction, only to be sworn off when he was found out for who he really is. Also Johnny talks about how the Navidson Report is his in a way, and he has kept it going (though not completely bringing it to life)such that it would be nothing without him. He admits after that he also would be nothing without it, but this reminded me of the obsession and arrogance Victor demonstrated in his creation of life, comparing himself to God, himself. The construction is somewhat of a parallel.

Also, I just have a few questions. What do we make of the even more explicit talk of sexual experience, in Lude's list? What about Johnny's discovery of Ashley's real meaning, and the "pornstar" Rachel that through the dog out of the window? What about Holloway's past and his suicide? How does this relate to Will's past and contemplation of suicide moving forward into the last part of the book?

Dennis Madden said...

Why are all of Zampano’s readers female? Is this significant to the narrative as a whole? As I continued this weeks readings, I asked myself this question. Because Zampano relied on much information from his readers that was not explicitly defined in text, it makes sense that they would lend significant character to Zampanos writings. Most of them happen to be young and attractive as well, which further ingrains their influence. I wonder how they felt about Zampano’s heavily male-centric narrative.
This idea brought up another question, regarding Johnny’s modification of Zampano’s work. If Zampano had primarily female readers and informants, and they exercised their opinions in his work, then it seems like Johnny’s modifications (eliminating the female voice) might be more severe then previously assumed.