House of Leaves

  • Posted on
  • in

I was pushing through the last few pages of House of Leaves at lunch and a coworker saw one of the distinctly typographically "interesting" pages open in front me. "Are you reading House of Leaves? I loved that book." "Well," I said, "frankly I'm hating it." "Hating how compelling it is?" "No, just plain hate-hating it."

The weird thing is that I should love it. I love multiple layers. I love footnotes. I love codes. I love nameless dread.

House of Leaves is a book that purports to be assembled (by "Johnny Truant") from a manuscript left in a box by an old blind man ("Zampano"). The manuscript concerns a documentary ("The Navidson Record") about a house that contains impossiblely large and shifting black corridors, and the terrible things that happens to everyone associated with the house. In Zampano's manuscript, the movie is a popular and widely-discussed artifact. In Truant's footnotes and extensive narrative, the movie does not exist.

Two main things turned me off. There's a lot of random sex. I'm no prude, but this is really gratuitous "Dear Penthouse Forum, I never dreamed it could happen to me..." level stuff.

And there's a lot of hand-waving about how creepy and deep all this stuff is. Without it ever being, to my mind, very scary at all. Late in the book, Truant meets some musicians who have written songs based on a "1st edition" of the book that we are ourselves reading.

"Take a look for yourself," he said, handing me a big brick of tattered paper. "But be careful," he added in a conspiratorial whisper. "It'll change your life."

Yeah, I read that same book. And it didn't.

FuzzyCo grade: C*

* A for effort, for Danielewski putting together this slab of complex text. And A+ for me reading the whole damn thing.