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House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves (2000)

by Mark Z. Danielewski

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,516223361 (4.15)2 / 332
  1. 110
    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (macart3)
    macart3: Those who read the "House of Leaves" will recognize how the house also consumes people in "The Haunting of Hill House" and the feeling that there is something unearthly inhabiting the house.
  2. 81
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (Liyanna)
  3. 70
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (Torikton)
    Torikton: Danielewski and Wallace both satirize academic writing by playing with footnotes.
  4. 40
    The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (PandorasRequiem)
  5. 30
    At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (Fenoxielo)
    Fenoxielo: At Swim-Two-Birds is the grand-daddy of all meta-fiction and House of Leaves owes a great deal to it.
  6. 10
    S. by Doug Dorst (Kordo)
  7. 10
    Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For a sincere ambition to figure out what the hell is going on.
  8. 10
    The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (ligature)
  9. 10
    How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (sduff222)
  10. 10
    Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (AndySandwich)
    AndySandwich: Gravity's Rainbow = paranoia House of Leaves = claustrophobia
  11. 10
    Chunnel Surfer II by Scott Maddix (aaronius)
    aaronius: Another experimental narrative that takes you different places than ordinary fiction.
  12. 00
    Icelander by Dustin Long (sduff222)
  13. 00
    Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (fundevogel)
  14. 11
    Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber (guyalice)
    guyalice: The mysterious basement and the unending staircase draw parallelisms.
  15. 00
    The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (owen1218, ateolf)
    owen1218: It seems to have been influenced by this book.
  16. 04
    BLAME!, Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei (Anonymous user)

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English (210)  German (4)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (222)
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
In Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire, a madman hijacks a long narrative poem called Pale Fire created by a professor of literature to cope with a significant personal loss. The poem’s style is conventional, with no theoretical axes to grind, the subject is a straightforward. The madman’s commentary, on the other hand, reads an imaginary subtext into the poem that transforms it into a history of the madman’s life of exile (from an imaginary kingdom). The core of the novel Pale Fire is in the commentary on the poem Pale Fire; the ostensible subject of the book is secondary. House of Leaves doubles down; the subject of is a “making of” commentary by the blind Zampano on a non-existent documentary by Will Navidson, a professional photographer. In turn, Zampano’s commentary is edited and footnoted by one Johnny Truant, who may have inherited a touch of schizophrenia from his institutionalized mother. Although the documentary itself is about a labyrinth with antecedents in the mythological King Minos and with the stories of Jorge Luis Borges (the 20th century godfather of metafiction), the structure of the documentary’s narrative follows the conventions of pulp fiction: the macho hunter who goes native, the “coward” twin brother Tom who “redeems” himself by saving his brother’s daughter, the black hole opening behind the wife in peril unbeknownst to her, the rescue of Navidson just at the point of death, the hero photographer haunted by the death of a child (children are exploited to the hilt in the narrative/commentary). A child is also exploited in the footnotes, but the story carried sporadically by the notes is messy, naturalistic, sometimes truth averse, and realistically sad. Unlike Pale Fire, it’s hard to determine the primary narrative thread, and it may well be that the real story is the interplay of the conventional science fiction/fantasy tale with the life story of the editor. In addition to JT’s footnotes, Zampano has provided source footnotes for his cinema commentary. Too many of the footnotes are sophomoric lampoons of academic footnotes; a missed opportunity, since a number of the citations (Martin Heidegger, Freud, the echo chapter) enrich the labyrinth as a symbol, and the story/stories as a whole. The source notes could have functioned throughout as a third commentary instead of deflecting the reader from further exploration and encouraging close-mindedness. In addition the jokey source notes have the effect of dating the work in the popular culture of the 90s. At this time, for me, reading HoL was an incentive for the future to re-read Pale Fire and more Nabokov, to read Bachelard and go deeper into Heidegger, as well as into William Hope Hodgson, H.P Lovecraft and Stephen King, but not to re-read HoL. I don’t regret reading it once, however. Don’t be afraid of the size; a lot of the pages are (mostly) blank. ( )
1 vote featherbear | Sep 7, 2014 |
It's hard to know how to explain the story of House of Leaves, which is deeply layered. I suppose one could start the explanation with what is essentially the core story, Navidson, an acclaimed photographer moves with his family into a country home in order to rebuild bonds and find a calmer, more cohesive life together, only to discover that the house is much more than it seems.

That explanation just barely scratches the surface of this book, however. The story begins with Johnny Truant, who learns of the death of a man named Zampanó and discovers a chaotic stack of papers in the man's empty apartment. As he starts to put them together, his life starts to fall apart.

The papers involve a heavily footnoted critical analysis of what may or may not be a documentary called The Navison Report, which reveals the story of the family in the house with dark, abysses in its corners.

At every layer, there's the chance that the person recording the story and their own story could be falsifying, shifting the meaning, changing the story. Yet, despite all this layering, I managed to still connect with the Navidson family and feel for their ordeal. The house lost none of its unsettling terror and there was more than one night I found myself staring into the dark of my room thinking about this book, body tense with anxiety and fear.

Since the book is told through Johnny Truant and his assemblage of discovered papers, it's a bit disjointed as parts of it have been torn up, burned, or lost in some form or another. The assemblage sometimes unfolds in knots of disjointed text and footnotes that barely seem to make sense, at other times, almost all text seems to vanish from the page. In each case, the nature of the text on the page parallels the experiences of the family and companions who attempt to explore and discover the secrets of the house.

This is a book that certainly will not work for everyone. The layering, the disjointed text takes more work to get through, and might cause some to loose the thread of the story and connection with the characters.

For me, this book worked perfectly. I adored it and will definitely be buying it again, so I can read it again. ( )
1 vote andreablythe | Sep 2, 2014 |
This is by far one of the most... difficult books I have ever read. Not because the story was personally difficult to understand, but there is so much going on that it's hard to keep track of it all. Technically this should be a good thing about a book, but this wasn't the case.
The main story is about a house that is inexplicably larger on the inside than on the outside. One a side way, it also tells the story about Johnny Truant, a guy that has his own story to tell and, at least as far as I could understand, had nothing to do with the house (except for the fact that he was reviewing the comments regarding a book that has been written about it). So far, so good. The problem is that at a certain point of the book both stories diverge to the point that I was asking "so what the hell does this guy's problems have to do with the house?". As the book goes, there are just so many references and excerpts of this guy's story that you simply don't know what the hell is going on.

What is interesting about this book is that initially the story is written in the format of a documentary, with Johnny's comments in the footer, plus lots and lots and lots of references to other books. As the protagonist of the House's story Will Navidson goes deeper into the house, the book starts to lose the format of a "regular book", words start to take different shapes and this gives the story an interesting air of "insanity". At the same time, Johnny's story starts to take a lot more space than just the footer. They start to take whole pages. The story becomes "distorted".

The thing is: I just could not understand what was the need of adding so many references. At a certain point of the story, I simply gave up reading references on the footer because they broke too much the flow of the story, helped me get lost, tired me and made no sense. Some parts of the book were in French and in German and translation was not provided for ALL the passages. The same thing goes for Johnny's story. I wasn't really attracted by him as a character. In fact, I almost felt like skipping all of his parts of the story.

I don't know, maybe I'm too insensitive and cold. Maybe I don't really want a story, maybe all I want are facts. I wanted a scientific explanation for what was happening to the house. And the fact that I did not get this (at least not clearly) frustrated me.

After reading this book, one thing I'm sure of: contemporary literature is just not for me. ( )
  aryadeschain | Aug 26, 2014 |
House of Leaves is about a lot of things - on one hand, the relationship between brothers, between mothers and sons, between husbands and wives. On another labyrinths, both real and imagined, physical and mental/spiritual. It’s about the written word, the authority it has over us, the power to interpret and create, and the terror of empty blank space.

It’s about a lot. I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting off the top of my head.

House of Leaves is one of the most interesting and unique books I have ever read. Does that mean I liked it? Eh . . . sort of. As a literary novel it succeeds at being unique and multi-layered, capable of generating hours worth of discussion and debate. As a horror novel - which it is frequently billed as - it fails simply on the grounds of not being scary. In fact it is awfully draggy and I found it quite a chore to get through large parts.

The conceit is that a young man named Johnny Truant came into possession of an unpublished manuscript - a collection of loose papers and letters - written by a dead old eccentric calling himself Zampano. This is House of Leaves, which reads like a non-fiction account of a documentary, The Navidson Report. There is no such documentary, which Truant admits in the introduction, yet Zampano treats the subject as seriously as though it were not only a real documentary, but one that inspired numerous academic articles, books and interpretations, all of which he quotes extensively.

Truant also adds his own footnotes to the text, long stream-of-conciousness ramblings about his daily life, in which he spends a lot of time at bars, getting drunk and high, and trying to hook up with a stripper he is infatuated with. He is also terrified by mysterious feelings and experiences, to the point where he quickly finds it extremely difficult to leave his house.

Zampano’s writing on The Navidson Report slowly reveals the story of the fake documentary, and it is a fascinating one. A well known and respected photographer named Navidson moves into a house with his young family and begins what is supposed to be a video journal about them establishing their lives. However, things take a turn for the bizarre, as the house begins to change on its own. It starts innocuously when the Navidsons go away for a weekend and come back to find a new closet in their bedroom. But then a hallway appears where no hallway could possibly fit. In the hallway is a door to another hallway, and beyond that another and another, leading into a dark, cold labyrinth.

Now, neither Truant not Zampano are reliable narrators. Truant suffers from hallucinations which may or may not be the result of his drug habit or mental illness, and has difficulty holding onto reality. Zampano may not be any more reliable - after all, he is writing a non-fiction report on a non-existent documentary, quoting sources which could not possibly exist.

I found the book to be very interesting. I will admit that I quickly grew tired of Truant’s rambling notes (I’ve never been a fan of stream-of-conciousness) and the Navidson Report is fascinating, but Zampano’s tendency to get bogged down in minor tangential details, while interesting in what it reveals about the complexity of the delusion (if that’s what it is) does get dreadfully boring at times.

About 100 pages in the formatting starts to get very weird. On one hand, this creates an even more immersive experience, but it also makes it difficult and sometimes cumbersome to read.

In the end . . .

The best part (I thought) were the letters from Truant’s mother during her stay in the mental institution. My theory of the whole thing would be that Zampano was never real and everything was made up by Truant, that Karen with the pink ribbons in her hair was meant to be his mother, the growl in the hallway the misremembered roar of his father protecting him, and the maze, the twisted chaos of his and/or his mother’s psyches and/or the institution she was placed in. As Truant says on page 20: “We all create stories to protect ourselves."

other favourite quotes:

”Oh god what constant re-angling of thoughts, an endless rearrangement of them, revealing nothing but shit.” (p.498)

”Come morning I found the day as I have found every other day - without relief or explanation.” (p.504)

I’m glad I read it. It’s different and it isn’t something that would translate at all well into any other medium (movie, audio or ebook.) With so many novels being published these days that read like thinly-disguised movie pitches it is shockingly refreshing to see something that is so aggressively A BOOK - a big, complicated, creative, weird book. I love it for that. House of Leaves can not be a movie, or anything other than a book, it tells you that right in the title. After all, remember that leaves is another term for pages in a book. ( )
1 vote catfantastic | Aug 16, 2014 |
When I read I will often have a thought or read a line and think "that needs to go in my review." The first half of this story I was too lost to think that way, the second half too enamored.

This book defies the conventions reading, it requires you to be more involved, more absorbed.

Danielewski was quoted somewhere as saying that if you wanted to see the movie you had to read the book because he would never sell the rights for a movie. Enjoy it like a really deep, complicated movie.

Let yourself get lost in it for awhile, but don't fall into a void. Don't try to make it logical, don't try to make it real. Just enjoy the way it smashes together fact and fantasy, emotion and logic. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
House of leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski runs to 710 pages: 13 pages of introduction, 535 of text, followed by three appendices and a 42-page, triple-column index.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K Bell (Aug 4, 2009)
... let me say right off that his book is funny, moving, sexy, beautifully told, an elaborate engagement with the shape and meaning of narrative. For all its modernist maneuvers, postmodernist airs and post-postmodernist critical parodies, ''House of Leaves'' is, when you get down to it, an adventure story: a man starts traveling inside a house that keeps getting larger from within, even as its outside dimensions remain the same. He is entering deep space through the closet door.

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Danielewski, Mark Z.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Santen, Karina vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuenke, ChristaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vosmaer, MartineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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This is not for you.
First words
I still get nightmares. In fact I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I'm not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Some deep shit -- for readers with thick skins and wide open minds. A schitzoid, barely sober tattoo artist tries to amass his intellect upon the fractured manuscripts of a dead, blind man. Said documents purport the fictitious story/ filming of a photographer's family and their shape-shifting, undulating house. Add in some wanton sex, a need for fumigation, two rambunctious kids, creative typesetting and some unspeakable horror -- and there you have it... HOUSE OF LEAVES.
Haiku summary
One creepy closet,
Holds plenty of shoes, coats and
Navidson Records

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375703764, Paperback)

Had The Blair Witch Project been a book instead of a film, and had it been written by, say, Nabokov at his most playful, revised by Stephen King at his most cerebral, and typeset by the futurist editors of Blast at their most avant-garde, the result might have been something like House of Leaves. Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel has a lot going on: notably the discovery of a pseudoacademic monograph called The Navidson Record, written by a blind man named Zampanò, about a nonexistent documentary film--which itself is about a photojournalist who finds a house that has supernatural, surreal qualities. (The inner dimensions, for example, are measurably larger than the outer ones.) In addition to this Russian-doll layering of narrators, Danielewski packs in poems, scientific lists, collages, Polaroids, appendices of fake correspondence and "various quotes," single lines of prose placed any which way on the page, crossed-out passages, and so on.
Now that we've reached the post-postmodern era, presumably there's nobody left who needs liberating from the strictures of conventional fiction. So apart from its narrative high jinks, what does House of Leaves have to offer? According to Johnny Truant, the tattoo-shop apprentice who discovers Zampanò's work, once you read The Navidson Record,
For some reason, you will no longer be the person you believed you once were. You'll detect slow and subtle shifts going on all around you, more importantly shifts in you. Worse, you'll realize it's always been shifting, like a shimmer of sorts, a vast shimmer, only dark like a room. But you won't understand why or how.
We'll have to take his word for it, however. As it's presented here, the description of the spooky film isn't continuous enough to have much scare power. Instead, we're pulled back into Johnny Truant's world through his footnotes, which he uses to discharge everything in his head, including the discovery of the manuscript, his encounters with people who knew Zampanò, and his own battles with drugs, sex, ennui, and a vague evil force. If The Navidson Record is a mad professor lecturing on the supernatural with rational-seeming conviction, Truant's footnotes are the manic student in the back of the auditorium, wigged out and furiously scribbling whoa-dude notes about life.
Despite his flaws, Truant is an appealingly earnest amateur editor--finding translators, tracking down sources, pointing out incongruities. Danielewski takes an academic's--or ex-academic's--glee in footnotes (the similarity to David Foster Wallace is almost too obvious to mention), as well as other bogus ivory-tower trappings such as interviews with celebrity scholars like Camille Paglia and Harold Bloom. And he stuffs highbrow and pop-culture references (and parodies) into the novel with the enthusiasm of an anarchist filling a pipe bomb with bits of junk metal. House of Leaves may not be the prettiest or most coherent collection, but if you're trying to blow stuff up, who cares? --John Ponyicsanyi

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

One of the most acclaimed fiction debuts of 2000, national best-seller House of Leaves influenced, and was influenced by, the music of POE, Mark Z. Danielewski's sister. Her highly anticipated new album, Haunted, which includes many songs inspired by House of Leaves, will be released in September 2000 by Atlantic Records.… (more)

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