Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Kind of Face You Slash - Day 1: This Is Not For You

In a recent New York Times article about Stephen King and his family, King and his son, the horror writer Joe Hill, are described discussing "what novel should be considered the MOBY-DICK of horror."  The answer they settle on is one of the more curious, both in its impact and in its very existence, horror fiction phenomenons of the last thirty years.  That I don't extend that time-span even further might indicate something to you, but in any case the novel King and Hill chose is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.  As someone who worked in a bookstore in 2000, when House of Leaves was released, I can attest to the mixture of puzzlement and fascination with which Danielewski's debut novel was greeted -- co-workers (and I would do this too) would wonder aloud at the strange layout of some of the pages, and the occasional use of colored ink (how much and of what variety depended on which edition of the book you bought, or anyway were looking at).  I didn't know a lot of people who'd read it, except the woman who I would eventually marry, but I snagged me a copy with every intention of doing that very thing.  I think I got distracted by a TV show or something because I just got around to it recently, but I'm now in a place to object to King and Hill's, to my mind, careless vaulting of House of Leaves to such heights.

I do not, by the way, object to the question.  What novel could reasonably be named the Moby-Dick -- an extremely specific choice, even if it seems like a cliche', and Melville's masterpiece furiously resists being compared to very much of anything -- of horror is a subject that, some version of it at least, concerns me as well.  In any case, I suspect that book has yet to be written, but all that aside, what I do know is House of Leaves ain't it, for a host of reasons, not least of which is that Danielewski was very clearly, very nakedly, not trying to write the Moby-Dick of horror novels; he was trying, aching, to write the Infinite Jest of horror novels.  Now, an argument could possibly be made that if I want to be such a hard-ass about this it's not at all unreasonable to dub David Foster Wallace's thunderous breakthrough work the Moby-Dick of addiction novels (and never mind, for the sake of this post, that this little parlor game grossly simplifies both Melville and Wallace), so therefore, by virtue of its quite striking similarities to Infinite Jest and of it being a horror novel, House of Leaves at least lands itself in the running for the Moby-Dick of horror.  But listen, I'm not interested in passing something through to the semifinals because of a technicality -- this is a meritocracy.  And more than anything is this:  Moby-Dick is a strange book because it is a strange book.  Infinite Jest is a strange book because it is a strange book.  House of Leaves is a strange book because Danielewski, free of malice and with no wish to deceive, has read quite a few strange books in his day.

It is, of course, spectacularly unfair to hold any writer, let alone a first-time novelist, as Danielewski was at the time, to the standards of Wallace and, for fuck's sake, Herman Melville, but when the biggest name in horror fiction outside of Poe and Lovecraft -- and let's be frank, possibly even including those guys -- and perhaps the most critically-acclaimed young writer in the genre open that door, the impulse should be to grab the knob from the other side and pull back with all your strength.  I'd like to think my pointing this out has as much to do with returning Danielewski's novel back to the realm of reasonable expectations as it does with my own ambivalence towards it, though in all honesty that idea has just now this second occurred to me.

But perhaps I've spent too much time on this question.  I think I'd hate to meet the person who thought otherwise.  Anyway, however much further I might wish to take this, I would only benefit by explaining to the uninitiated what House of Leaves actually is.  It sets itself up to be many things, but essentially we have two main stories.  The core of the book is called The Navidson Record, and this purports to tell the story of Will Navidson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, and his family -- Karen, his wife, and Chad and Daisy, his two young children -- as they move into a new house on Ash Tree Lane, somewhere in Virginia (it's never said where exactly, but apparently in the southern portion), and the insanity they find there.  Which is that one day Will discovers a hallway in the house that hadn't been there before.  Not only that, and more alarmingly, the length of that hallway is greater than can, or should be able to be, contained within the house.  Measurements of the outside of the house and measurements of the inside confirm that this new space is quite literally impossible  And yet.  Navidson films everything, and he doesn't begin recording his experience with the new house after this shocking discovery, so that The Navidson Record, as described to the reader, is meant to be a full portrait of a family, not just a family under duress, though a family under duress is mostly what we get, and no wonder.  This story is framed by, and shot through with, the story of Johnny Truant.  Johnny Truant, an alcoholic, drug addict, and dissolute Los Angeles tattoo artist is the keeper of the manuscript that is The Navidson Record.  He is not the author of The Navidson Record (nor is Navidson or anyone in his family), but he is the one who found it among the possessions of a recently deceased old man, who lived in Johnny's apartment complex, named Zampano.  Zampano is the author of The Navidson Record.  He was also blind, and had a series of young female students and social workers who helped him transcribe and gather together his words and research for The Navidson Record.  But Zampano's dead by the time Johnny gets the manuscript, and Johnny, for motives obscure even to himself, takes it upon himself to complete the process of turning this massive thing into a book.  Along the way, The Navidson Record drives Johnny mad. (On top of all this, there's an unseen and never named editor, or group of editors, who have tightened up Johnny's work.)

Meanwhile, we learn that the events described in The Navidson Record are driving quite a few other people mad, too.  Will and Karen's marriage, already strained, becomes seemingly broken as Will becomes ever more obsessed with the hallway.  And the hallway grows, and grows, and grows, and drops and drops and drops, and widens.  To the point that calculations (there's a lot of math in this book) show that at one point the bottom of the stairs (there are stairs now) is so far down that it should be at the center of the Earth.  And then beyond that.  Late in the book, not to give anything away (I'm not giving anything away), rock samples from the walls in this portion of the house are tested in a lab, the results of which test indicate that these rocks are older than the Earth itself.  The scientist who runs the test assumes the samples must be from a meteorite, possibly found in Antarctica.  Will brings in outsiders to help him figure out what in the hell is going on in his house, including Billy Reston, his paraplegic friend, Tom, Will's twin brother, and a trio of explorers, led by a man named Holloway Roberts, whose initial expedition down the hall and down the stairs will be the catalyst for much of the more conventional horror elements in the book.

With House of Leaves, Danielewski is searching and straining to exemplify the standard implied by the concept of a work of art's form matching, complimenting, and being inseparable from its content.  To do this, he borrows from Wallace (who didn't originate it, but did, let's say, maximize its potential) the idea of incorporating footnotes, most of which contain the story of Johnny Truant, told in the first person and printed in Courier font (there are a lot of fonts in this).  And Zampano's book -- The Navidson Record, I mean -- is not simply a retelling of the events in the Navidson house, but is also a critique and quite academic analysis of Navidson's film, which was released (by Miramax), and of the entire family's behavior, with scores of secondary sources brought in, everything from magazine articles to interviews with survivors to 1,400 page scholarly texts, Navidson's film having been something of a sensation.  Among the topics covered in, again, quite academic terms, are architecture, the history of the Morse code for SOS, Theseus and the labyrinth, the psychology of twins by way of a close reading of Esau and Jacob, echoes, the morality of photojournalism, as well as, no joke, a shit-ton more.  Among the real life figures making cameos -- so that they may offer their thoughts on Navidson's film -- are Stephen King, Harold Bloom, Camille Paglia, Steve Wozniak, and Jacques Derrida.  I don't even know how many times I sighed just typing out "Steve Wozniak," let alone "Camille Paglia."

Then there's the occasional experiments in page layout, which I referred to way back at the top.  Observe:
That's just one example, of course.  There's lots more you can do with a page and type, such as:
My reaction to this sort of thing as I read House of Leaves generally took one of two forms.  At times I would think "Oh, so now I have to turn the book sideways."  Other times, when long stretches of the novel flashed by with only a few sentences, or even a few words, per page, a great relief would wash through my body, even when, in order to read those few sentences I had to turn the book upside down, because that was just that much more of the book in my rearview mirror.  To help you understand why this gimmickry impressed me so very little, I'll offer this example:  when the characters are at the bottom of that cosmically enormous staircase, the text is pushed, now hold on a second while I tell you, to the bottom of the page.  If that's not content matching form then buddy I don't know what is.

Regarding David Foster Wallace, it's not just the footnotes that bring him to mind while reading House of Leaves.  There are little things having to do with language the evoke him as well, though in a comparative way that couldn't have been Danielewski's intent.  For example, the Johnny Truant sections of the book, which are extensive, are where the majority of the "poetry" in Danielewski's prose can be found (Zampano's portion being academic after all), and Johnny being the outlaw junkie gutter cowboy noir poet or whatever the fuck he is, he's presented as being equal to the task of upholding that end of the novelistic art.  The quirk of it is that every time (maybe not every time, it's possible Danielewski bailed on, or forgot about, this idea at some point and I just didn't notice) Johnny should be writing "could have" or "could've" or "would have" or "would've," Danielewski has him write "could of" and "would of."  This brings to my mind the curiously delightful way David Foster Wallace would often begin one of his rich, digressive, endless sentences about not just a thing but what he thought about the thing and what he knew you thought about the thing and what he thought about what you thought about the thing, with ungrammatical, conversational thought-gathering non-phrases like "So but then" and "But then so."  Wallace did lots of stuff like this, and while I was huffing my way through House of Leaves one night I tried to explain to my wife what was unique and so pleasurable about how Wallace achieved this particular effect, though I can't say I exactly nailed it.  It has to do with something that is inherent not just to Wallace's style but to his thought process, which is breathless, all-inclusive, rambling, and desperate to be understood.  It humanizes the author, I suppose is the main thing, or the most easily grasped thing.  When Danielewski does it, on the other hand, he's not capturing speech or thought, because, to pick one reason among many, there's nothing organic about the way it's integrated into Johnny's language.  It's not Johnny Truant, it's a typo.

It isn't as if there's nothing interesting about House of Leaves.  It is in many ways a very odd book, something that is interesting almost by definition, though what's odd and interesting doesn't necessarily get to that point by being a successful.  It's a horror novel (though in one of several dozen bits of meta-ness scattered throughout the novel, Danielewski seems to actually bemoan the fact that House of Leaves will inevitably be remembered as a part of the genre), and the weirdest thing about it as a horror novel is that, stripped down, it's a found footage horror novel.  And not found footage in the way Carrie sort of was, by incorporating magazine and newspaper accounts of certain events, but in the same way, but on paper, that The Blair Witch Project was, or maybe more accurately Cannibal Holocaust, since that movie, like House of Leaves, had elements apart from the found footage conceit.  Either way, it's a found footage horror movie written out, and in a general sort of way Danielewski pulls this off.  Although, House of Leaves also belongs to the subgenre of horror that is about mysterious films, or pieces of film, and the terrifying effects they have on anyone who view them (Infinite Jest had that element too, central to its admittedly somewhat submerged plot).  This concept is absolutely catnip to me, or the human equivalent of catnip, Cheetos Puffs, and I'm powerless, in theory, before any novel that uses it.  But one thing I've noticed about such stories, and this even includes Theodore Roszak's Flicker, the grandaddy of such books and one of my personal favorite novels, is that very rarely does the writer have much of an understanding of filmmaking, and what's difficult about it, what's effective or interesting or inventive.  The most telling moment in this regard from House of Leaves is when Danielewski describes a sequence from Navidson's film -- a film that was hailed as a major work of art when, you know, when Miramax released it -- that is supposed to be just a jaw-dropping piece of brilliance.  And what that sequence is, is Navidson edited together a series of shots, the first three of which are very brief, the next three are longer, the three after that are again very short, and so on.  It's the Morse code for SOS, you see, but through film editing, and it's worth noting that at this point in House of Leaves, shit's about to go down.  Zampano, and I guess the world (well, but never mind, I'll come back to that), were just knocked out by this, but not only is it trite, I could fuckin' do that!  I've never edited a second of film in my life, and I could put together three shots that aren't so long, then three shots that kind of are, and then three more that aren't again.  I think it's no coincidence that Danielewski's way of dealing academically with horror films and documentary films (both of which The Navidson Record is, ostensibly) is to just list horror films and directors who've made documentaries (both lists just an absolute joy to read, incidentally).
My hope was that while writing this post I'd find my attitude towards House of Leaves shifting into something more favorable, or at least more sympathetic.  It's happened before, but it's not happening now, as I sit here.  I'm simply getting more aggravated, because for years on this blog I've begged those who write horror fiction and make horror films to step up their game, to be smarter and more creative and more ambitious, and to not allow formula to suck them dry.  And House of Leaves is certainly ambitious, no matter how derivative it is of David Foster Wallace.  I mean, hell, a horror novel inspired by Infinite Jest?  Sign me up, bud!  But goddamn, what a pain in the ass this thing is.  If I was ever inclined to soften my views on House of Leaves, something happened in one of the appendices (there are appendices; also, there's an index -- "There's even an index!" has been the cry of some. To those people, I would recommend picking up a copy of J. G. Ballard's story collection War Fever and turning to the last story, which is called "Index," and taking note of its structural similarities to that last bit of House of Leaves. I might recommend that Danielewski do the same thing, except I have a feeling it's not necessary) that made any new-found sympathy nearly impossible.  In fairness, Danielewski does set the table for this right at the beginning (and by the way, this is a spoiler) when he has Johnny Truant say that The Navidson Record, that is to say, Will Navidson's film, doesn't exist and has never existed.  Given the nearly 700 pages that were, at that time, to follow, I was prepared to regard this comment as somewhat ambiguous.  But there's a tiny little section of one of the photographs, or photo collages (color plates in certain editions!), near the very end that basically says "Johnny Truant was right, none of this happened, there's no film, no house, nobody died, there's probably not even a real Will Navidson or his family.  Zampano!  What a loony old coot!"  I can't now remember if it was before or after this deadening revelation that we get eight pages filled up with thirty-seven irrelevant, and not even good, poems printed in small type, written by "Zampano," called "The Pelican Poems."  I can't imagine a world in which the answer could make any kind of difference.

I'm certain there are many, many people who can defend this novel, and can do so quite intelligently.  It's not lost on me, for instance, that there's a rather large element of satire at play in the academic material; it's pretty hard to miss, unless you believe that even way back in the 1990s (the "events" at the "Navidson" "house" are meant to have "taken place" in 1993) scholarly film and behavioral analysis was published in People or Ladies' Home Journal.  And a lot of people over the years have cited House of Leaves as being genuinely frightening, and indeed there are bits here and there that are almost ingenious, one in particular that occurs at the very end of The Navidson Record, and then another one later when Johnny Truant's story stumbles towards its conclusion.  But even in those cases, and even before Danielewski backtracks over everything, he backtracks over those things -- one which might have happened but didn't, and one which couldn't have happened because nothing in that part of the book happened.  If such moments are frightening in the moment you read them, does it not matter that the author takes them back?  It's like jumping when a cat screeches out of a closet in a slasher movie and saying later "Well it was scary before I knew it was just a cat, so it's still scary now."  Anyway what I'm getting at here is that there's something that sometimes occurs when reading a book, but which is not often dealt with in criticism, and that is the reader experiencing complete disengagement from what he or she is reading.  In ordinary life when this happens, the reader usually sets the book aside (barring the die-hards, I mean).  When one is obligated or for whatever reason compelled to plow through to the end, unless the author rights the course to the reader's satisfaction, that disengagement grows into an insult, and possibly an injury.  After several hundred pages of disengagement from House of Leaves, I'd say my sympathy's all used up, and my only thought about Danielewski at this point is, "Be ambitious on your own time."

24 comments:

Jules P said...

This has got to be one of the best, most even-handed reviews of House of Leaves I've ever read. I remember quite clearly how polemic it was in the horror community when it came out - it was very much a book people either loved or hated - and I always came down on the side of defending it as something distinct and necessary at that juncture in horror fiction. That doesn't mean I didn't recognize its faults, though - and as you point out, there are a lot of them. (You went pretty easy on the Johnny Truant stuff, all things considered; *man*, some of that annoyed the hell out of me.)

One of the main criticisms leveled at it at the time, though, was that it was a novelty book, too gimmicky to have any lasting impact. I'm pleased that it hasn't turned out to be true, and that we're still talking about it 13 years later. Because as you say, there are some genuinely memorable and affecting parts, and I wonder if they would have stuck with me as strongly had they been part of a more conventional horror novel. (It's also fair to wonder if they might have had even more impact in a less deliberately kooky horror novel; there's gotta be a sweet spot in there somewhere.) "House of Leaves" is certainly derivative, overwrought and even eye-rollingly ridiculous in places; but I'll be damned if there isn't something about it I can't shake. It's a haunted novel for me, in a way, and I'm happy about that. Reasonable expectations all the way.

Also, hey it's October! This is the first The Kind of Face You Slash I've read in real time; I found the blog late last year and immediately read all the archived October posts. I'll probably be commenting regularly this month; I have a lot of Feelings about horror fiction. Looking forward to it.

Jesse Furgurson said...

I'm a sucker for insanely convoluted pomo experimental stuff (and made some mildly-to-extremely embarrassing attempts at it myself in college) but I've never managed to get all the way through this. While a few genuinely smart and creepy ideas are lurking in there, Danielewski isn't a good enough writer to consistently reward you for all the gymnastics he asks you to do to read the thing. If Zampano's language was consistently beautiful enough to make the clumsiness of Johnny Truant's language feel more deliberate (or vice versa), I might find it easier to take, but no, we get clunky academese interrupted with pseudo-poetic rambling. I'm not a speedy enough reader for "life's too short" not to become my dominant thought after 150 pages of it.

John Magwitch said...

For horror's Moby-Dick I'd probably go for Frankenstein, another finely wrought and sometimes slightly heavy-going read, yet one that also engages the reader's imagination as often as not, and deals in some pretty weighty existential matters at the same time. Not to mention featuring some actually horrible scenes of horror.

Dr. Jekyll and Dracula would be other obvious choices, too. House of Leaves, on the other hand? Not so much.

Anyway, a great piece, which has largely reinforced my spotty, mostly negative original impressions of this book without making the whole sound totally worthless. There were, I'm sure, some striking parts here and there, amid all the accumulated show-offy meta-gunk. But, as you make abundantly clear, nowhere near enough to draw me back to make a future reappraisal worth my time.

(Funny you should mention Ballard here, Bill, since there's not only the "Index" connection you bring up, but one of his short stories practically covers the same central themes and imagery as the Navidson story in about ten pages, tops.)

(Also--SPOILER HERE, I guess--am I the only one disappointed there wasn't a literal "house of leaves" to be found in the whole damn book? By which I mean, an actual house built of actual leaves from a tree, or some sort of large plant, at least? That might have been neat. Then he could have followed it up with "House of Twigs" and so on, the whole 3 Little Pigs progression. But nope, no leaves, pigs or wolves to be seen. What a wasted opportunity.)

M Thorpe said...

This is a rather even-handed review, my own negative review at the time I tried to read HoL would have probably gone from "I see where he's going with this but so far not too impressed" and ended like "RARRRRRRRGHHHH!" (kicks over coffee table, throws copy of House of Leaves across the room, a room that turns out to now measure a whole three-fourths of an inch larger on the inside than it is on the outside)

bill r. said...

I'm surprised this is being called "even-handed." If anything, I thought I was gonna be called out for being too negative. Which I guess could still happen.

Jules - I wasn't aware of the reception HOUSE OF LEAVES was met with at the time. That's interesting, I was under the impression that it was pretty widely embraced in those circles, but I suppose that just shows how much I was paying attention.

I won't forget the book either, but that's mainly because as a reading experience, it's unique, but in an empty sort of way. The main "horror" moment that might have stuck with me as effective involves what at one point appears to be Navidson's fate, but as I said...eventually that's all down the shitter.

And glad to have you!

bill r. said...

Jesse - if the book had been good, its convolutions(?) and po-mo meta-shit would've been fine with me. I knew it would be like that, and I still went in ready to love it. But nope! You should know, however, that about half the book goes by like it's a picture book. One night I read 150 pages, another I read 200, because at times there's simply so little to read per page. If that sweetens the pot at all for you.

bill r. said...

John - I think "the MOBY-DICK of horror novels" needs to be a little more...insane than FRANKENSTEIN, etc. In terms of power and influence, sure, but MOBY-DICK's wild and long digressions into strange philosophy and whaling law and so much more that I can't remember now, I think that's why King and Hill went with HOUSE OF LEAVES. There has to be a head-spinning all-encompassing aspect to it. But quality obviously has to be a big part too, and that's why I don't believe HOUSE OF LEAVES is it, and that such a book probably hasn't been written yet.

(PS - I took your recommendation and bought A QUESTIONABLE SHAPE. If I have time and space, it may wind up here this month, though I haven't started it yet.)

bill r. said...

Oh, and yes, John - I would have liked it if the title HOUSE OF LEAVES had meant anything at all.

bill r. said...

M Thorpe - See, that's what I'm saying! I kind of thought that's the sort of review I'd actually written! I even considered going back and softening it a little, since I finished it so late at night I thought maybe I was loopy. But I wasn't, and didn't.

lrobhubbard said...

Your review, while very fair and even-handed, is way more than this overrated Piece-O-Shit, deserves. It still puzzles why otherwise intelligent people lend this thing credence - enduring it the first time, it read very much like a grad student making a comment on horror fiction, and not a good one at that. The typeography/formatting gimmicks are just that - gimmicks. As for the plot - anyone who didn't grow up on a diet of OUTER LIMITS, POLTERGEIST, ALTERED STATES and a host of other media might find the plot somewhat original.

And there are people who STILL take this guy seriously - witness reaction to his last publishing gimmick, THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD.

Taidan said...

Great review. And if you thought this was overwrought and disappointing, just check out THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD. Just out of curiosity, have you read anything by Russell H. Greenan?

bill r. said...

lron - Jeez. Does EVERYBODY hate this book? And frankly, I'm starting to think I *did* go too easy on it.

I was sort of curious about THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD, though...maybe not now.

bill r. said...

taidan - I have! I read IT HAPPENED IN BOSTON? and thought it was pretty terrific.

Taidan said...

I'd recommend most of his other stuff, particularly THE QUEEN OF AMERICA and A CAN OF WORMS. Looking forward to the rest of your "Slash" posts.

Susan T. said...

Just to balance the scales, I did enjoy the book and will offer a mild defense -- but I don’t disagree with any of the criticisms from Bill or other commenters. I had a few advantages when I read it, the first being that I'd never heard of it before I picked it up. I was browsing in a bookstore in 2001, saw it on the horror shelf, flipped through it enough to see the formatting wackiness, and thought, "Well, that's different." I bought it on a whim with no real expectations. If I’d seen it compared to Moby-Dick, I’d have said, “Wow, who said that? …Oh, Stephen King, I see.” and never looked at it at all, so Bill’s being much more open-minded than I would be. (Granted, this is not a high bar.)

Then I read the first chapter or two, put it down, and the next time I picked it up I finished it in an overnight marathon. Because I'm a night-owl with poor self-control. Any book I read in (mostly) one sitting is going to stick with me, and anything spooky is going to benefit even more from that kind of immersion.

A possible third advantage was that I played a lot of text adventure games growing up, so I read it more like a game with a framing device than a novel. It was fun to follow rabbit-trails through the text, and it was fun to look things up a few weeks later and discover the acrostics and other nonsense. Which doesn't make it great literature, but I had a good time, and I have residual goodwill as a result.

But no, it's not a thing I’d reread to luxuriate in. It’s not up to that. I want to compare it to Primer, if that makes sense. (You tell me; I'm not sure it does.) You could tell the same story in a much clearer way, but how it's told is more interesting than the story itself. As art, it’s hollow. As a formal experiment, it’s interesting?. As a puzzle, it’s a good time! I probably should have started & stopped with that and spared you the rest, actually.

(Just to echo Jules: I'm very excited about this year's The Kind of Face You Slash, since I think I've finally read all of the archives. And as a result I’ve read a lot of spooky things I’d never have run across on my own, so thanks for that.)

bill r. said...

Susan - One thing I didn't mention that I thought at least counted as clever was in the section that dissected labyrinths, the footnotes began to loop back on themselves, and even get lost. But with that stuff, I never felt like I was reading a novel. It's a puzzle, as you say, but actually I'm not sure it's even that. I'll grant you, though, being disengaged from it as I was there are probably tons of things to solve that I glossed right by without noticing. If I had noticed them, I doubt I'd have gotten much pleasure out of solving them.

I mean, there's the bit with the letters from Johnny Truant's mom, where the real message she's sending is spelled out with the first letters of each word. I kind of liked that the fake letter that was supposed to fool everybody was total gibberish, but the real message was badly executed. It felt like it was stretched and repetitive just so it would be long, and take a while to put together.

But anyway! Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you comment more often!

lrobhubbard said...

bill r - I wouldn't say EVERYBODY hates this book - 'Not enough' by my standards; it's held in high esteem by people like S. King/J. Hill (who should know better) and by those in their late teens/early to mid 20's who apparently think that it's 'DEEP' - much like the same people who like David Foster Wallace's fiction.

bill r. said...

Wait a second. I think I made it pretty clear in this post that I like David Foster Wallace's fiction. Why you gotta take shots like that?

Bob The Wordless said...

I do remember some of the book. I actually did like the Navidson Record part of the tome. The other thing I remember was the Truant character seemed to have sex with every woman he met. Seemed to be a seedy Casanova, or something.

Didn't Daniwhatsisface base William Navidson on a real Pulitzer prize winner? I'm probably wrong (according to my wife, I'm always wrong),but , I think it had to do with a starving child and a vulture.


It's been a while since I read it,but I do remember it was a heavy book, and to keep turning it around, upside down, leaning back til your head touches heels, while drinking a glass of Chardonnay (or in my case,a bottle of Guinness),was a pain in the ass.


I got a similar experience reading David Peace' Red Riding Quartet. Guess I'm not the literary type. Cormac McCarthy even pisses me off.


Anyway, October is here,and I am ready to take in all the goodness that is Kind Of Face You Slash!


Those CAPTCHA things piss me off,too

Andrew Leon Hudson said...

Bill said: I would have liked it if the title HOUSE OF LEAVES had meant anything at all.

I meant to bring this up on the first, but it slipped my mind: could the title "House of Leaves" be a flamboyant synonym for "book"?

I've not read it, but having read your post it strikes me that in terms of the presentation you have a text that plays on the trappings of book as a format; you also mentioned a suspicion that many of the apparently "real" people contained within were not so, that they could just all characters in some old coot's imagination. So, in the sense that a book is a home (or house) to imaginary people, and given that pages can also be called leaves...

bill r. said...

Oh. Yeah. That's probably correct. I still would have preferred a house made of spooky leaves.

Bryce Wilson said...

I think there is a pretty explicit reference to House Of Leaves. I can't remember if it's the epigraph or in one of the poems, and this is going to be a mangled paraphrase since this isn't really a scannable book.

But it's something along the lines of how terrible it is to be someone who looks at reality like a house of leaves. Basically relating back to the Lovecraftian thing of human lives not adding up to so much as an eyeblink in the fullness of time and space. The way the hallway eliminates anything of human origin in the immensity of its space. ETC.

I really like the book. Then again I read it directly after forcing down a Jack Ketchum novel, so getting to encounter something that actually wanted to me to like its characters and feel bad when they died felt like a rare treat.

I think if there's one element of the book you're underrating it is that sense of humanity. I really bought into the family. On a related note I can't help but think you're getting a little hung up on the whole, "The films not actually real." To me it's just kind of a winking reference to the fact that all stories are ultimately made up. Which is the kind of Post Modern Wankery that usually causes my gorge to rise but seemed fairly harmless bit of Borges lite here. Plus it made the insinuation near the end that this thing is forcing its way into existence whether its real or not all the eerier.

Clover said...
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Leslie Lim said...
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