Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Warning: do not attempt to read this book late at night

I'm really excited that we're reading House of Leaves at such an appropriate time to be spooky because that's how I feel almost every time I read it.

I didn't mind the framed narrative, or the different colors, or the weird layout, or the made-up sources until about page 132 where it starts to get really funky because that was the last place where the text seemed to really cut loose for the first time. First, I recognized the structure was off and I was like, okay, I can let go of structure, and I kept reading. Then it was conventional lifestyles with Johnny really digging into the unreliable narrator role by always being drunk, high, or both, and I was like, okay, I don't need a reliable narrator, and I kept reading. On page 132, one of the footnotes ends at "whether" and I can't find the rest of it no matter where I look so now I've reached the point where I'm like, okay, I guess that's the end of the footnotes as well. And for some reason, that kind of seemed to be one of the last straws for me.

I am not a fan of footnotes by any means. I think they're disruptive, they distract me from the flow of the original text, and most of the time I'm not going to look up that extra source so it might as well not be there at all. That's with the majority. These footnotes I've made friends with because they're different. However, when the author decided to take them away or leave them unfinished, it really bothered me. I really wanted to finish reading that footnote - it meant something to me. (What is this book doing to me?) One speculation of this is that up to this point, I've been pretty dedicated to the footnotes because they've told me so much that the story NEEDS to continue. It's not just all extra bologna. And since I've learned so much through them, once I'm unable to, it's very disturbing as a reader because of the lack of footnotes, not because of their presence. Interesting changes...

I think that one of the biggest aspects of this book is to force readers to let go of expectations and all comforts, and it achieves its goal splendidly. I adopted a very passive role when I started because that's just what you have to do to get through it, and every once in a while Johnny or Zampano will throw you an anchoring event in the plot to grap onto while you're drowning in this sea of concepts. The point of the novel is to be uncomfortable. He wants you writhing in that armchair, upsetting your cup of tea, that's for sure.

I'm really glad that someone mentioned the whole scholarly "echo" business because that stood out to me as well. It's so formally written and the tone is so different from not just Johnny's but every character's voice that it made me take a double take while reading. Obviously, Danielewski is playing with form but for some reason I think there's more to this part than that. The concepts of the labyrinth and the echo are so relevant to the entire Navidson record and even Johnny's story (if not more metaphorically) that perhaps Zampano decided to make these entries more scholarly in an effort to convey the idea that these concepts should be taken more seriously. Obviously, not that seriously because the whole thing is just one big mindfuck of a story but you know what I mean. Serious in the appropriate context for the story/ies.

I'm really enjoying everything so far, although the amount of cold medicine I've consumed in the past few days does make the crazy layouts more difficult to comprehend. But maybe an altered state of mind is just what I need to really get this book - we'll see.

1 comment:

  1. You make a really good point for us not to try to read this book late at night. I was midway into our assigned reading last night when I got up to page 119, where the large, obstructive boxes begin. I immediately closed the book and said that I was too tired for this. I knew I needed a fully awake mind to be able to process the crazy that was about to come up.

    I am also not a fan of footnotes. When I was reading Dante's work I was a terrible English major and did not bother to read the notes for it. There were just too many. . . Too many footnotes. . . They really take me away from what I am reading and more often than not do not aid my reading. However, in this book, footnotes take on a whole new meaning where they really interact with the text. At first, I only cared for Johnny's personal notes in this book because they are so widely entertaining. Now, these notes are just as surprising as the rest of the book and sometimes even have crazy symbols, rather than numbers, identifying them. I wonder what else the footnotes have in store for us.