Sunday, October 5, 2008
Title: House of Leaves
Author: Mark Danielewski
Pages: 709 pgs.
Rating: 4 out of 5
First sentence: This book is not for you.
I first saw this novel years ago, and it caught my interest, but I never got around to reading it. Finally, about two months ago, I saw it on my brother-in-law's bookshelf, and borrowed it. I was in for quite a ride.
There is both a lot going on in the plot, and a lot of very little. The main plot, if there is such a think, is the story of a photojournalist and his family who move into a house that turns out to be a wee bit bigger on the inside than the out
side. The analysis of The Navidson Record, a documentary made by the photojournalist as his family adjusted to their new home and discovered it wasn't quite normal, is written by an old guy named Zampano, who died in his apartment. His book was discovered by Johnny Truant, a self admitted liar and druggie whose life slowly begins to spin out of control in the footnotes of the book. Rounding out the narrators is "the editors" who occasionally throw in their own two cents. It's a dizzying, fascinating book.
You can't review House of Leaves without mentioning it's unusual styling, a postmodern piece of art. Each narrator has their own font, which really helps the reader follow what's going on and from whose perspective. As the family - and outsiders who become involved in the exploration-delve into the mysteries of the house, they are begin to expose themselves to a dark exploration of their psyche and interpersonal relationships. The text mimics both the action, and the emotional state of mind each person is in. It turns, twists, reduces to only a few words per page...it is a dizzying effect, but relatively easy to follow.
One of my favorite parts, which seems to get overlooked in reviews, is quite simple. Zampano is a blind man, and his book is reviewing a movie. What the?
Another highlight is the letters between Johnny and his mother while she was at the Whalestoe psychiatric institute. The letters are in the appendix, but they bring subtle clues to much of Johnny's narration.