Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves: part one of N

there's been enough of a gap between now and the last time i broke open Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire for a book or two or three to slip in, and last night i felt meself suffering from a kind of bibliomaniac's option paralysis trying to figure out which book i wanted to read before turning the lights out. as i'd mentioned in me 'other life', Christopher Nolan's The Prestige was just interesting enough to get me to dig-up me old copy of Christopher Priest's The Prestige, and i went ahead and read--actually, re-read--the first chapter.

Mr. Priest, while being an intelligent, eloquent writer of interesting things, here intelligently, eloquently writing about something interesting, just hasn't ever been able to grab me. i've had the book for some time now, and everytime i read the first chapter (last night must have been the third or fourth time), i think 'hmm, this is good stuff. i wonder what happens next?,' put the book down, pick something else up and get back to it in another age.

last night was different because, having seen the movie, i, ostensibly, had some idea of the sort of egads and plot-and-what-if-whoppings i could expect. so i picked up the book, read the first chapter and immediately got a sense of where the movie might fit into the book, thought 'hmm, this is good stuff. i wonder what happens next?,' put the book down, and picked something else up.

yes, i'll probably get back to it in another age.

that 'something else', as it happens, was Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. the first time i broke that book open, i flipped through the pages and thought 'ye gods. how am i supposed to read this?' and, well, as it turns out, the way to do it is to start from the beginning.

really, there probably isn't anything i can say about this book that could possibly match the way it's already been dissected and picked apart, particularly as i've only read Johnny Truant's introduction and Zampano's first bit about The Navidson Record.



for just about anything and everything there is to say about the book, particularly if you want a taste of what to expect. but don't read too much of any of the threads. i may have done just that, and almost spoiled some things for me which only became apparent upon reading the relevant bits.)

i will say this, however: Johnny Truant sets quite a bar for a reader's expectations, and i really don't see how this book could possibly deliver. on the other hand, Zampano's descriptions of the first bits of the nonexistant Navidson Record have already started to prove me wrong: The Navidson Record succeeds for me where Koji Suzuki had failed, creating 'video images' in my head that were, though far more mundane, were also much more haunting than anything in Sadako's curse. (i mean the Suzuki version, from the book, not the Nakata version from the movie.)

that said, i suppose this book can't help but work for me, as i confess to being a bit of an ephemera whore. of course, i've yet to hit the truly whacked out uber ephemeral bits (just a couple or so footnotes and the narrative/text shift from Mr Truant's intro to Zampano's Navidson Record redux so far), so i could very well be wrong, and end-up hating this book utterly.

at the moment, however, the book has my undivided attention.


banzai cat said...

That's weird: both you and andrew eldritch are reading House of Leaves presently. Coincidence... or the alignment of the planets calling for the end of the world?

Seriously, I know what you mean about Priest's book. The beginning is sorely dry despite the interesting premise. Still, I'm a masochist by heart so will trod further...

skinnyblackcladdink said...

this should really go into a new blog post, a 'part two of N' for this review, but am feeling too ragged, not to mention lazy, to make one.

it's so much more casual here in the comments section, don't you think?

i dismissed House of Leaves when it first came out because at the time, i felt it was drawing too much Harrypotteroid attention, aka hype. recently, Jeff VanderMeer mentioned liking the book, and out of curiosity (and as the hype seemed long-past--so i thought), i checked it out over the net.

it intrigued me so much that i started looking for a copy, but couldn't find one.

around that time (unbeknownst to me as i purposefully kept my net surfing at very low-level, hardly in-depth), a full-color ed was on it's way out. then it hit our shores. very recently. and then i stumbled over a copy, the only one at the bookstore i was in, and couldn't resist getting it.

i'm glad i caved. my pocket is way lighter, but i'm having the time of my life reading it. besides, it's a damn pretty book.

to my mind, it comes across as the contemporary lit (or, if you prefer, 'nongenre') counterpart of Mr VanderMeer's 'Shriek: An Afterword'. but only because of the narrative approach.

ask eld to drop by, leave a comment. and go find a copy yourself. it's one of those 'you have to work at it' books, but for me it's loads of fun. think 'adult activity book'. a choose your own adventure with no choices, which shouldn't be any fun at all, but, surprisingly is.

i could probably make Stephen King comparisons as well to entice you, but you'd probably wipe my ass with my own face for my ignorance on that count, eh?

paul said...

how's the binding of HOL, btw? that was one of the things that kept me away from it when it came out--it looked real pretty, but it seemed like the pages were just about ready to come off the spine before you even got to like page 100.

banzai cat said...

Hah, don't worry I already have a copy (though I think mine is the two-color edition). And I got mine in Books for Less so it was cheaper.

Funny thing is that Poe (Daniel's sister) even made a semi-soundtrack for the book. Haven't downloaded it yet though.

And yes, will eventually get around to reading House since everyone seems to be reading it (hah!). I just have to finish either Priest or Davidson on my official reading list. (My unofficial reading list is far longer.)

skinnyblackcladdink said...

paul: the binding seems to be holding up. the whole thing feels pretty solid, actually, nice slightly glossy pages, but i'll know for sure when i get to page 100. ha.

bc: er, did you mean Danielewski's sister? didn't know that little bit of trivia. should check it out meself.

banzai cat said...


Answering for skinny, I got my copy from Books For Less and though it's a bit battered, the binding was okay. Given how 2nd-hand books normally look less than stellar, that's not so bad, yes?

banzai cat said...

Whoops! Seems like you're here also. Yes, was referring to her. She did good songs that you've probably heard but didn't know like "Angry Johnny" and "Trigger happy Jack" and "Hey Pretty"...

See here:


skinnyblackcladdink said...

yeah, i dig Poe. just didn't know she was Danielewski's sis, and wasn't sure you meant 'Danielewski' when you said 'Daniel's sis'.

thanks for the link. wiki rocks.