“No one ever really gets used to nightmares.”
“House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski
House of Leaves is one of those books that has showed up on countless recommended reading lists in my life that, for whatever reason (most likely because it was on so many recommended readings lists), I never got around to reading. When I first met my boyfriend, it came up in conversation that, while he was not much of a reader, Mark Z. Danielewski’s mind-bending opus was one of the books that really influenced him. Naturally, one of the first things I did was order it and start reading it in a gamut to impress him. And I was not disappointed by the experience.
It’s really no surprise House of Leaves makes so many recommended reading lists, especially because it’s a very intriguing departure from the typical form of telling a straight story. It’s a story within a story within a story, as you have the core base of one narrator telling us a report on a film (which, in itself, is another narrator telling a story about the house), and, around it, the story of our main narrator, Johnny Truant, told in footnotes within the original report. The layers are certainly interesting, and the different tales are so varied and capture your attention in different ways. The story of the house itself is, in my opinion, the best one, and, in discussing it with my boyfriend, I truly started to appreciate the brilliance of it. Simply put (which barely scratches the surface), the house on Ash Tree Lane is not your normal house, being far, far bigger on the inside than the outside and potentially housing a malevolent force. For me, the most terrifying and creepy section of the Navidson Report was when they first started to notice the changes, these little subtle, barely perceptible differences happening right under their noses. For my boyfriend, it was when they start exploring the vast nothingness within the house and find themselves lost. There are so many different elements to the book that someone is bound to find something that strikes to their absolute core and leaves them shaken and afraid.
Therein also lies one of my issues with the book, which rather deftly supports its intricacies. The same thing I find appealing about it is the same thing that prevents it from skyrocketing to the top of my list of favorite books. When you throw in a little bit of something for everyone, do you innately lose the ability to be fully effective for someone? I think perhaps, to a degree, this book proves that, yes, you do sacrifice a stronger oomph when you put in an oomph for everyone. I love what House of Leaves is trying to do, but sometimes it feels like it’s doing it a little too much…or merely for the sake of doing it. There are parts of the book that managed to grip me so perfectly that I was pretty sure I was in love. Other parts of the book, though, I felt were tedious and unnecessary (reading through the Appendixes at the end felt like a complete waste of time and it effectually ruined to feeling that the previous end had given me, for example). I think if I’d have just read the core of the book, I would have been content and quite pleased, but the extra stuff (and I always have to read the extra stuff) pushed it towards the territory of the droll.
With all that said, I would be willing to put House of Leaves on my own list of Books to Read. It’s a great ride through a multitude of psychological and scary concepts, told in a unique and intriguing way. If anything, I love the book for the mere fact that, while reading one passage, I realized with a thrill that the passage I was reading was the same passage that provided an voice-over in a Poe song I was obsessed with in high school, having no idea that the words were from this book. Turns out I was influenced by this book even when it came out, though, at the time, I wasn’t in the least bit aware of it. Now that is eerie!
Books read: 020/100.