Sunday, November 11, 2018

House of Leaves | Mark Danielewski

In an early letter dated February 14th, 1983, Pelafina Heather Liѐvre gives her son Johnny what can be considered objectively good advice for while he’s in the foster system: “Whatever you do, don’t despair. You are exceptional and require the company of the equally exceptional. Never feel compelled to accept less. Time will grant you a place. Time always does. Trust me” (589-590).

Perhaps advice hidden within a story hidden within a story (and so it goes), "Whatever you do, don't despair" is particularly apt for HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Danielewski. At its bones, the story follows The Navidson Record, a film made by photographer extraordinaire Will Navidson about a very strange house he moved into with his partner, Karen Green, and two young children, Chad and Daisy. 

Sometimes black hallways appear that don't make sense within the veritable dimensions of the house. Within these hallways is a growl. 

The Navidson story is told to us by Zampanò, an elderly man who wrote a comprehensive account of the film and performed detailed research around and about Navidson (and really anything to do with him). Zampanò's story is told to us by our narrator, a friend of Zampanò's neighbor who finds Zampanò's notes scattered about the latter's apartment post-mortem. 

If this sounds convoluted, it's because it is; HOUSE OF LEAVES feels like seven books at once and it twists and blackens and repeats itself and lists itself and turns itself inside out for your reading pleasure. There are appendixes and footnotes and footnotes for those appendixes and for those footnotes. You will twist this book and flip it and bookmark it until it is just scraps of colorful torn paper and you will not be able to put it down. It won't let you. I had to keep reading. You will have to keep reading.

In my graduate applications, I tell prospective MFA readers that I chase a Leftover Feeling in uncanny stories, an attraction to the unheimlich sparked by my American Gothic literature class. This is how I felt after HOUSE OF LEAVES. Beyond the extraneous bits that wind on and on and prove themselves not extraneous at all is the cold feeling of a lock clicking when no one is due to be home. Beyond the blank pages and drawings of a rope pulling up Reston's body out of the abyss of a house is a tightened chest or a huff of choked-back air or a vast, vast emptiness. 

Whatever you do, don't despair.

No comments

Post a Comment

© ReadingHannah | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig