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.