as thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves
Moments before the wind."
- Untitled Poem (Pg. 563)
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is not a book to be taken lightly. Even in the beginning it warns “This is not for you.” It is not for the faint of heart or a quick weekend read. Be prepared to commit yourself. This book is a story within a story; a psychological drama/thriller, horror, paranormal tale. It’s about The Navidson Record, an incomplete, highly “researched” manuscript of an event that never happened, written by the old, blind man, Zampano, then found and organized by Johnny Truant, a LA tattoo artist apprentice.
The Navidson Record is a series of short films documenting a strange house on Ash Tree Lane; a house that appears normal on the outside but inside consists of extra closets appearing overnight, a five and a half minute hallway, a spiraling staircase going nowhere and an ever changing maze that nearly consumes everything and anyone that enters. It’s also about Johnny Truant’s sanity spiralling out of control from his obsession with the manuscript.
Like I said, this book cannot be taken lightly. Whoever finishes this book deserves a certificate of completion. It is intense, engaging and frustrating. I hate to admit that I almost gave up a couple of times. But I refused to let this book beat me. At times it would bore me, with the “expert” commentary and theories of The Navidson Record. But Johnny Truant’s journey and the frightening experience of the residents in the house on Ash Tree Lane totally make up for those dry areas. There are footnotes for footnotes in this book. Appendixes, incomplete exhibit instructions, you have to twist and turn the book to read some passages. I actually took out a mirror just to read a list of movie titles and decoded a letter written by Johnny Truant’s mother who was committed to an asylum. It is that engaging.
I think this book is broken
You’re doing it wrong!
Now you’re just showing off
I’m proud of myself for not giving up. And if you’re brave enough to read (and finish) it, a high five to you. Let me know if you ended up nailing tape measures to the floor and if you had odd dreams of dark mazes like I did.
* This book was read for the R.I.P. Challenge and will also be included (eventually!) in our office newsletter.