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House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Mark Z. Danielewski

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9,887254287 (4.12)2 / 439
Title:House of Leaves
Authors:Mark Z. Danielewski
Info:Pantheon (2000), Edition: 2nd, Paperback, 709 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)

Recently added byRoman666, jnhk, nate48281, alo1224, Burdiss, momnrod, private library, dannotdan, Dobbys_Archive, jtchapman
  1. 150
    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. 80
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (Torikton)
    Torikton: Danielewski and Wallace both satirize academic writing by playing with footnotes.
  3. 91
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (Liyanna)
  4. 50
    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. 30
    Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (fundevogel)
  7. 30
    Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (AndySandwich)
    AndySandwich: Gravity's Rainbow = paranoia House of Leaves = claustrophobia
  8. 20
    S. by Doug Dorst (Kordo)
  9. 20
    The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan (ligature)
  10. 20
    Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For a sincere ambition to figure out what the hell is going on.
  11. 10
    How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (sduff222)
  12. 10
    Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Great experimental works where you get something different from the book depending on the order in which you read its pieces.
  13. 10
    Chunnel Surfer II by Scott Maddix (aaronius)
    aaronius: Another experimental narrative that takes you different places than ordinary fiction.
  14. 00
    Icelander by Dustin Long (sduff222)
  15. 11
    Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber (guyalice)
    guyalice: The mysterious basement and the unending staircase draw parallelisms.
  16. 11
    The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (owen1218, ateolf)
    owen1218: It seems to have been influenced by this book.
  17. 04
    BLAME!, Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei (Anonymous user)

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English (243)  German (4)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All (254)
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)
Starkly disappointing. Firstly, I read the book in Spanish, and thinking that my disappointment was due (poor pitiful me!) to an incorrect translation, I bought a copy in English. No way; same downfall.
Perhaps it was due to the wrong moment, mental attitude or an excess of expectations, I don't know; but when I read such grateful reviews, all I can think is "Is it the same book?". An instance: Johnny Truant and his constant obsessions with junk (in the sense of drugs), sex and nihilism. If I were reading W. Burroughs, A. Miller or A. Ginsberg, it would fit with the context; but in this case (a horror novel, I suppose), it is as if someone were watching the painting of an apple and thought "Is it sweet or sour?" Who cares?! Johnny wants junk, Johnny wants to have sex with this and that, Johnny has a lack oh hopes, who cares?! Take me to that darn house and deep down in that darkness! ( )
  Roman666 | Jul 21, 2017 |
Wow. Where to start?

Very little can clearly and definitively be stated about Mark Danielewki’s book; it is dense and confusing, it is playful and frustrating. It is a work of either genius or a huge illusion of smoke and mirrors. I certainly lean toward the former.

The story of the main text is that of a supposedly famous film by Will Navidson, a celebrated photojournalist, settling down from his travels on assignment around with world with his partner and children in a house in Virginia, only for a strange hallway to open up in the house that seems to defy both the dimensions of the building and the laws of geometry. It is this central plot that leads the novel (some would even argue with that noun although, while he plays with the form and stretches it, a novel it certainly is) to be filed under ‘horror’.

This text, however, is being presented as an unfinished manuscript by a blind author Zampano, discovered and edited by one Johnny Truant, an Angelino apprenticed at a tattoo parlour in the city. Johnny’s footnotes become longer and more invasive, appearing often to have little to do with the text and frequently running on for pages at a time - on top of footnotes by the mysterious Zampano, so Johnny’s footnotes are often secondary, and become increasingly nested, to the point of absurdity, in some cases leading to appendices which are footnoted “missing”.

This textual confusion is furthered by the inclusion of many quotes from cultural arbiters and experts - interviews with Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick, criticism from Jacques Derrida and Camille Paglia and Hunter S. Thompson - and many others more obscure and, indeed, entirely fictional. Actually, while this film is written about as being a defining cultural moment, Johnny himself has never heard of it. The text and Johnny’s footnotes are presented in presented in different fonts and, as the impossible labyrinth within the house is explored Danielewski introduces increasingly bizarre text layouts - text directionality changing on the page, being printed upside down, notes embedded in the middle of the main text, words being as important for their pattern on the page as their meaning.

So, what is the book about? It could be read as the story of the impossible house, although the reader would have to ignore a massive amount of the book (there is actually a wonderful radio adaptation which does an admirable job of dramatising this aspect), the hallway and labyrinth to which it leads can be read as a metaphor for the problems in the relationship between Navidson and Karen - but Johnny’s story is even more interesting and obscure. One of the appendices is The Whalestoe Letters, correspondence from Johnny’s institutionalised mother, which makes (some) sense of some of his own background. Do the rest of the appendices add to the tale? The odd poetry and notes and quotes and sketches? I don’t know, but it all feels like it belongs. Is everything David Lynch includes in a script meaningful, or is he sometimes just fucking with us? Even if he is, if it still adds to the stor, it still belongs.

Some of Danielewski’s influences are clear - I see Borges and Calvino and Alasdair Gray, and I know there are many, many I miss - but the book is so beautifully constructed, so much its own thing (and so knowingly self-referential) that reference spotting never spoils the ride. I have no doubt that this is a work of utter genius to which i will return, if only to see what I’ve missed on a first reading.
( )
  Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
I tried, but the quadruple layers (Navidson's film, Zampano's fake critique, Truant's story, and the editors' comments) of the story muddled each other too much. Truant is the most problematic since his footnotes rambled and took me away from the more intertwined threads of Navidson and Zampano. But even Zampano's criticism distracted from the central horror plot.

I'm a little disappointed I couldn't stick with this book long enough to get to the really weird pages of almost no text on a page, insets that overlap the main page's text, multi-directional text, and collages of fonts, colors, and editing marks. But it just seemed like Danielewski was trying too hard to be subversive. I like more humor with my metafiction, thank you very much.

Attempted May 2017: finished introduction, stopped around p. 50 ( )
  Bodagirl | May 20, 2017 |
What a book! What an undertaking to create something that caresses so many forms of media. If I was wearing a hat, I'd be taking in off right now. House of Leaves is the epitome of the sublime.

Secretly hoping for an 'Exploration #6!' ( )
  M.Rudd | Apr 27, 2017 |
Do the words meta, post-modern, or experimental make you cringe when used to describe books? Then turn back now. I feel the need to say that up front because many people seem to go into this book expecting a horror novel and wind up wasting their money. Just take a look at the genres that goodreads lists this as. Horror, fiction, fantasy, and mystery. With inapt labels like that, it's easy to see how people could get the wrong idea.

This is not a horror novel, nor is it a mystery novel or a fantasy novel. This book is, among many other things, a personal story about the author's parents presented as experimental literary fiction that's thinly veiled as a horror novel. Confused? Good, stay that way for now, and don't think too hard about what I just said. I'm not that into horror novels, and I generally like post-modern and experimental stuff, and I knew what I was getting into when I bought this. Know what you're getting into, that's all I'm trying to say.

Here's the basic concept as clear and concise as I can tell it. There are essentially three narrators that will be addressing you, the reader.

1) Zampano, an old blind man
2) Johnny Truant, a thirty-something druggie
3) The "editors"

Johnny's friend, Lude, knows Zampano because he lives in the same apartment building. The old man, ominously, tells Lude he's going to die soon, and does. After the body is gone, Lude and Johnny sneak into the apartment to take a look around at Zampano's things. They find a crazy manuscript, which Johnny takes home with him.

The manuscript is a non-fiction book/dissertation about a documentary called "The Navidson Record." The Navidson Record is about a famous photojournalist named Will Navidson and his family moving into a new house that is bigger on the inside. When I say non-fiction, I mean it. It reads like a textbook. On every page there are footnotes about other articles and other books that reference this documentary that, by all accounts, doesn't exist (I'll get to this in a second).

It starts out simple at first. After the family returns home from vacation they notice a hallway on the second floor connecting two bedrooms that wasn't there before. They track down a blueprint of the building and see that there is a space between the walls, although it's not supposed to be a finished hallway with doors. Okay, no big deal, maybe they didn't notice the doors before, it's a new house after all and they had just moved in before going on vacation. Then comes the realization that measuring the house through that hallway results in an extra inch that shouldn't exist, and that can't be explained. Then a new door appears, on the first floor this time, that should lead to an empty back yard but instead leads to a long, dark hallway that extends into an endless labyrinth of cavernous, thousand-foot rooms that leads to god knows where and contains god knows what, and the exploration of this door is the main focus of the documentary.

So Johnny finds this manuscript, reads it, edits it, adds his own footnotes relating to research he's done on Zampano's life and the manuscript contents (translations of foreign phrases, for instance), but also personal tangents about his own life and stream of consciousness ramblings. In the prologue where he explains how he found the manuscript, he also says that The Navidson Record doesn't actually exist. Johnny's editors also appear in footnotes and in the first say they have never met Johnny Truant in person, only communicating via letters and rare phone calls. Weird, right?

What follows is 528 pages of an interwoven, multi-layered story. On the one hand, you have Zampano's non-fiction book about this fictitious documentary, which simmers as a slow-paced "found-footage" horror novel that can be unsettling, thought-provoking, but is likely to disappoint hardcore horror fans looking for adrenaline-pumping scares.

Then you have Johnny's story, told through long footnotes, which is more vague and slow to reveal itself, but the basic idea is that although he knows the manuscript is fiction, the act of reading it causes him to lose his marbles. Whether the manuscript or Johnny's brain chemistry is to blame is up to the reader. Whether Johnny is even telling the truth is up to the reader. And, to be honest, Johnny's parts can sometimes be hard to read because he's just pitiable and depressing and the stream of consciousness prose can wear down your focus. It gets Joyce-esque at times, though only for short stretches, because Danielewski is a nice man who wants you to have a good time, unlike Joyce, who hates you and hates fun. Then the "story" part ends, and you have 130 pages of appendices (which you should read) which include things like:

Zampano's writings which are not a part of The Navidson Record
The obituary of Johnny's dad
Childhood letters from Johnny's crazy, institutionalized, long dead mother

So what does it all mean?

Well, it means a clever and perhaps over-educated man named Mark Danielewski decided to write a novel that experiments with the format of the novel, that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can be and what it can do. While much of it could quite fairly be called a gimmick, and it won't be redefining how all novels are written going forward, it's a gimmick that works, that is unique, that is stimulating, that is discussion-worthy, that makes the world more interesting by existing, and isn't that what good art is supposed to do? It is an unmitigated success at being singular, and because it is singular it will inspire intense love and intense hatred from different people.

It means that while there are answers, you will have to work for them. I mean this both figuratively and literally. On the literal side, there is a letter in the appendices that is written in a simple code, which you will have to translate into a coherent message with pen and paper. And that's a code that is plainly said to be a code. There are other codes that are truly hidden.

Many sections have weird, cluttered layouts that make the act of reading them hard, and make tracking down the right footnote a scavenger hunt. You'll be presented with footnotes that make no sense until you realize the text is broken up over several pages and presented backwards. There are a lot of elements to the story, little throwaway lines and facts that you need to remember, or write down. How did Johnny's dad die. How did Navidson's dad die. Stuff like that. While it's not absolutely necessary, I'd recommend having a notebook handy starting on page one. I have an amazing memory, took notes here and there, and still wish I'd taken more. Like I said, this book is work. It's fun work though, depending on your tastes and personality. I'm an INTP and I loved it. Your mileage may vary.

On the figurative side, the book still won't hold your hand and spell out what it all means in flashing neon. That's up to you to figure out by gathering all the evidence together and deconstructing the book on several different levels by asking yourself what's true and what isn't, what matters and what doesn't, what's literal and what's figurative, what's the metanarrative, what's the subtext. Ultimately it's up to you to decide when you're satisfied with your answer.

While this is nowhere near as open to interpretation as most books you'd label as post-modern or modernist, it is still open to interpretation compared to a typical novel, which isn't open to interpretation at all. There are no easy answers, no definitive answers, but there are satisfying answers that I firmly believe are more or less what the author intended, if you're willing to put in the effort to discover them and have a flexible mind that delights in abstract concepts. Alternatively there are, of course, existing breakdowns of it on the internet that you can turn to for some help, although none I've read have gone far enough into speculation. They present facts and evidence, point out what's true or not, but none of them have drawn the kind of final conclusion that I've drawn. That's how it should be. You should decide for yourself. If none of this sounds like fun to you, I recommend giving this one a pass. ( )
1 vote ForeverMasterless | Apr 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 243 (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)
Well, it's stylish and all, but the substance isn't there. All form, no function. There is a lot going on in this book, and not all of it good. It is a story by Zampano, put together (and footnoted at length) by Johnny Truant, and it's all about a documentary called "The Navidson Record" by Will Navidson. All of it concerns a house, and the word house is written in blue ink throughout this book. The main story is okay, the footnote story about Truant is not, and the endless other footnotes are not worth the time or ink. And all of the stuff at the end is just useless. I kept thinking as I read this that it had better be worth all the effort at the end, that the story was good enough to justify how difficult it is to read. But honestly, it isn't. I really think that if the author had only put in the Zampano story, he would have had something. But he went for this stylish mish-mash format, and for me, it didn't work.
added by sinta.indriani77 | editlowongan kerja (Aug 2, 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 (10 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.
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A blind old man, a young apprentice working in a tattoo shop, and a mad woman haunting an Ohio institute narrate this story of a family that encounters an endlessly shifting series of hallways in their new home, eventually coming face to face with the awful darkness lying at its heart.
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:30 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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