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House of Leaves

Sam Link
Oct 25, 2016


House of Leaves

Genre: Horror, Romance, Satire, Postmodernism

Author: Mark Z. Danielewski

Published: 2000

Length: 709pp

Summary: I DON’T EVEN KNOW. Johnny Truant finds a manuscript analyzing a film known as The Navidson Record in the trunk of the dead blind man Zampano and makes commentary on it accompanying the commentary made by Zampano, while branching off into his own story – which may or may not mirror the Navidson’s story. Moreover, there is no proof The Navidson Record exists, and none of the research cited by Zampano can be found by Truant – who, by the way, is unreliable and may have invented Zampano and The Navidson Record completely. And, in case you were wondering, what happened to the Navidsons was not good. I recommend this book, but know you’re not in for a typical narrative structure.

Your house, or your apartment – the place you live. You know it, correct? Every corner and nook, every door and shelf and eccentricity of your home is familiar and constant.

Now imagine that a door appears between two rooms, connecting them with a short hallway - short, but longer than the thickness of the walls; more than a simple doorframe, but not by much. The outside remains the same. You measure the inside, and discover your home is now a half-inch larger inside than the outside dimensions allow.

I hope you’d leave. I would. And after reading House of Leaves, I’m always checking my house for new doors.

Johnny Truant is a tattoo shop employee – not a talented artist, just sweeps up and fills up the ink bottles when needed. His past is largely unknown, and he has huge scars on his arms that his friend Lude spins into stories to pick up girls at bars. When Truant needs a new apartment, Lude tells him that an old man in his building died recently – and, thus, Truant discovers Zampano’s manuscript, an academic critique of The Navidson Record.

Will Navidson, his partner Karen Greene, and their two children move into a new home in rural Virginia. After a trip to Seattle, they return to find a hallway connecting the children’s rooms, and that the inside of their house has expanded. Then a hallway appears off the living room which extends into, seemingly, eternity.

Then things get progressively worse for everyone.

Johnny Truant becomes increasingly obsessed with Zampano’s paper, and fears an unseen horror behind him at all times. The darkness within the Navidson’s house continues to expand, ultimately causing multiple deaths.

However, it’s a really romantic story. Also, Truant lets you know immediately that he’s not a reliable person, so whether anything he tells us is true is also up for debate.

Danielewski’s sister, the singer-songwriter known as Poe, wrote an album titled Haunted which serves as a companion to House of Leaves. It may help clarify the events, or it might not. Danielewski’s unique blend of literary styles and brilliant use of typography communicates the claustrophobic, troubling content, while also maintaining clarity between the multiple narrators.

So, what’s the book about? Family, love, and parents – and, no I’m not kidding. The satirical takedown of modern academia, the horrific tale of the five-and-a-half minute hallway, the tormented past of Johnny Truant are all tied together with the love of family and the support of parents. Several years before writing House of Leaves, Danielewski’s father, Tad, died. Tad Danielewski was a filmmaker of some repute – much like Will Navidson. Both Mark and his sister were estranged from their mother – much like Johnny Truant. The Navidson children are close friends and playmates – like Mark and Poe were as children. Ultimately, it’s family ties, family history, and familial love that bring what survival and salvation there is in the House of Leaves.