Book Review: Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves

Saturday, 28 December 2002

i’m not one who has much knowledge of literary trends in novel-writing but House of Leaves strikes me as a book that could very well be the great work of postmodern literature. which means everything and nothing. as an experimental novel it is a remarkably well constructed thing. i had a bit of trouble getting in to it, but the book teaches you how to read it as it goes along. at my last count there are three and a half stories all revolving encased within each other. starting from the core we have The Navidson Record, a non-fiction film and documentary in the true meaning of the word, of the Navidson’s house on Ash Tree Lane that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. within the depths of this house, or perhaps within the depths of the souls of the people that live in the house dwells the shadowy minotaur. this story is the subject of a pseudo-academic examination of The Navidson Record by the blind Zamp no. this person is dead. but Johnny Truant who knew Zamp no takes it upon himself to organize and footnote this paper, almost at the cost of his sanity. the half story comes from the editors who take it upon themselves to provide translations for the numerous passages in foreign languages.

the entire work is heavily footnoted which effectively keeps the reader from becoming too engaged in any one story at a time. also, 4 different versions of the book exist. in the super-duper de-luxe version, every occurrence of house is in blue and the word minotaur and struck passages are in red. plus, one struck line is in purple and there are braille passages and color plates.

as a film student i was fascinated with the criticism of The Navidson Record. i want to make this film. As for what the book intends to do, i have only slight clues. i need to read it several more times and enjoin myself to the message boards on the book. i suspect that the meaning will be different for each person. if you like to read, then add this book to your list. i loved it.

Spoiled Rotten

Thursday, 26 December 2002

i am spoiled rotten: a list of christmas booty.

  • Cordial Cherries
  • National Geographic
  • Walden
  • Crime and Punishment
  • House of Leaves
  • Norelco Beard Trimmer
  • a coat (middle row fifth one down #4203)
  • a Sony DSC-P51

my buddy neal got a beard trimmer and camera as well.

Altar Boy

Monday, 23 December 2002

i used to be an altar boy. a damn good one at that, i knew what needed to be done at exactly what time and i knew all of the foibles of the priest i helped out. it was dreadfully boring. i did however gain the ability to keep a totally emotionless face for an entire hour. i always took the honor of preparing the censer and incense when we used it in mass. i got to play with fire, and make it smell good. it was the only sexy part of being a server. i did pass out a couple of times during summer mass due to lack of blood sugar and the intense heat that wearing an alb in summer heat without having breakfast would cause anyone to pass out. if you read that sentence again i change something around from the first half to the second half and it shouldn’t make any sense. too many verb clauses? whatever.

Christmas Break

Saturday, 21 December 2002

today, my first day at home, was spent christmas shopping with mother. i convinced her to spend $90 on a coat for me. and apparently i was a good luck charm for finding the gifts she needed to. i’m still a little lovesick, coweyed, moonstruck, but that is only to be expected. apparently, i, he who has too many versions of Lord of the Rings to his name still doesn’t have the one necessary for this class i am taking. i need one with continuous pagination. granted, i have this version, but not this version which is the one we are supposed to have. my version is better.

Her Room

Friday, 20 December 2002

i went over to her room last night and watched her pack a little and drank some wine. it didn’t take much convincing to get her to stop and come sit on the futon by me. we talked, i babbled, things were slightly awkward but so very slightly it was only noticeable if you looked for it. we listend to some U2, some cranberries and much Smashing Pumpkins. our legs brushed against each other. we talked more and she told me about why she and her old boyfriend split. a whole year ago! and i knew nothing until it was too late. last year when we had both been horribly depressed we could have helped each other. we talked more as Adore played and suddenly she asked me what my favorite Pumpkins song was. as i turned to look at her, she was so close to me that my eyes couldn’t focus on her face. i wanted to kiss her then, but didn’t. did she want me to kiss her? we read something about our zodiac compatibilities. we are both scorpios, and for the most part we fit the bill with our personalities, dark and ever-changing. it appeared from reading the book that the only good match for a scorpio is a pisces. everything else destructs due to scorpio’s desire for control or something. pisces are submissive i guess. we both agreed that we didn’t want someone we could walk over but an equal instead. the scorpio/scorpio match mentioned something along those same lines, that the dark passions would either meld seamlessly or the exact opposite. i think we were both thinking about how well we get along together. at least i know i was. as we listend to by starlight, and discussed how beautiful it was, the visiting hours ended i had to leave. we never did kiss, though i most certainly dreamed about it. i wanted to give her a hug, but felt self-conscious and gave her a high-five instead, which made my self-consciousness blatantly obvious. i miss her and too many opportunities. the wine was very good.

Movie Review: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (here be spoilers)

Thursday, 19 December 2002

after the extreme quality of the first movie in every aspect, this film was a vast disappointment for me. Hollywood had its dirty mitts all over the plot, adding sequences that were meaningless for the story, changing around the structure and timing of the story itself, making characters behave in manners absolutely contrary to the book. Bah!

The Goods

  1. The characters: Gr ma Wormtongue was an excellent performance by Brad Dourif. He managed to capture all aspects, from the sniveling fear, the leechlike presence, and the oily words that sway the minds of men. Altogether good. owyn was also true to the book, which was very nice to see.
  2. Gollum: could be put in the characters category except that he is so much more important. I must say that Gollum is perfect. They manage to make him a sympathetic character so very quickly that it is astounding. His constant switches between Sm agol/Gollum are very effective.
  3. Visuals: Peter Jackson got great art direction for these films, everything is always beautiful. The sets remind me of something you would expect from a theatrical performance. This usually doesn’t work too well in the fliks but it is appropriate and even compelling for this story. The sparing use of color in this film made the instances of hue and brightness much more stunning.
  4. Critters: Wargs were absolutely amazing. Dingos on steroids and the brown acid from Woodstock. The new mounts for the Ringwraiths are also straight out of a John Howe painting. The legs of the Ents were a little longer than I’d imagined but that is just nitpicky after all entstrides are long, they were hoary as all get out and their eyes were just right.

The Livable Changes

  1. The characters: Gimli is just comic relief. Short jokes abound. I’d much rather have him be the loyal, poetic badass that he is in the books, but I guess I’ll have to settle for watching him benchpress two wargs and an orc and fighting with Aragorn on the causeway into Helm’s Deep. omer’s actions aren’t quite the same as in the books but the he is the same in spirit.
  2. Gollum: The parallels between him and Frodo, and Frodo’s recognition of what he could become are merely implied in the books, but are quite effective in the film version. In fact, I might even like it better.
  3. Visuals: Why the hell is Rohan so rocky? It is horse country dammit. Oh well. Also, the endless number of vista shots using cranes and copters got to be a little too much but they were still beautiful.
  4. Gandalf: The whole exorcism of Th oden was different but not necessarily wrong. I’d never looked at it from the perspective that Saruman was literally possessing him. I’d always looked at it as if he was just really paranoid and afraid after being sucked upon by Wormtongue

The Atrocities

  1. The characters: Faramir. Totally abhorrently incorrect. The whole point for his presence in the book is to serve as the opposite of Boromir and to point out that there are good and noble men left in the world fighting an unpraised and unnoticed fight against Sauron. Aragorn is not the only nobility left. Instead the film makes Faramir a weaker version of Boromir who is too suspicious to make his own decisions. He is not Dun dain, he is a chode. Th oden. Since when is the King of Rohan an impotent defeatist wastrel? Since when was his decision to protect his people a bad one. In the film he has 300 armsmen and yet is encouraged to ride out and face certain annihilation by 10k Uruk-hai. He was a smart man to go to the Deeping Coomb. Jackson overemphasized the disparity in numbers between men and orcs. even if Th oden had 1,000 men the odds would still have been 10:1.
  2. Plot changes: Haldir showing up at Helm’s Deep with a couple hundred elven archers is nice and all but it never happened. the elves are leaving for a reason, because it is time for man to grow up and take control over their world. I don’t like the whole intent behind them showing up. The whole scene where Aragorn gets tossed off the cliff is unneccessary and is only there to motivate the weirdo dream sequences with Arwen which in turn are only there because Liv Tyler wanted Arwen to have a larger part. She-elf is just supposed to be pretty and elvish. owyn is supposed to be the badass one. The timing of the whole thing is cattywampus; omer is not 300 leagues away (900 miles? my ass.) What about Erkenbrand and the rise of the Eastfold? There are THOUSANDS of Rohirrim not hundreds. The film ends halfway through the Two Towers. What about going to Isengard and confronting Saruman? What about Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas reuniting with Merry and Pippin? What about the Entdraughts? What about the Huorns destroying Saruman’s army as it flees Helm’s Deep? Osgiliath???????? WHEN IN THE FUCK DO FRODO AND SAM GO TO OSGILIATH? Where is Minas Morgul? The Two Towers are not Barad-d r and Orthanc, they are Minas Morgul and Orthanc. Why is the Witch-King not a sentient force of evil and instead just a vehicle of fear on a cool winged lizard?

In summary, despite the extremely well done aspects of the film, the unneccessary and unmotivated plot changes merely give evidence to the Hollywood tendency to overemphasize. The result is a world where extremely few men and most of them discouraged and suspicious except for say Aragorn are pitted against the ginormous might of Sauron. This is turn puts much more emphasis on the success of the Ringbearer at the cost of developing the coming final stand of the Men of the West. final grade: B