"House of Leaves" ...anyone else read this book?

OK, first there will probably be spoilers in this thread.

Second, did anyone else read this book? I searched for previous threads, but came up empty. I finished it over the weekend. I’m not quite sure what I thought…when I started it, I loved it, but in my mind, it kind of sputtered. Definitely an interesting book though. What did you think?

It’s been about 2 or 3 years now since I read it last – I’m planning on reading it again on my honeymoon this August. (I know, real romantic reading material…) I was personally blown away by the book. It’s interesting trying to explain it to people… “Well, it’s this book written from the point of view of a guy who finds a book written by a blind man about a movie which likely doesn’t exist that details a family living in a house that is larger on the inside than on the outside. Oh, and the word house is always in blue and the book will scare the bejeezus out of you.”

Yep, twice. It’s in my top 3 of favourite books ever, even if I was slightly disappointed towards the end, and there was no transcript of the ‘Last Interview’. Fantastically written though, I found it incredibly convincing, to the point where I wasn’t sure what was real or made up. Some parts are inspired from real life though, like Navidson’s award winning photo.

I lent my copy to someone though, and never got it back. I may well go buy it again, but the colour version this time, rather than the paperback B&W version.

I’m sure someone will link to another thread, as I know its been discussed here before. Theres apparently another book by Danielowski as well which continues the haiku/poetry parts of it, called ‘The Pelican something or other’

Exactly…I tried to explain it to a coworker and it was very difficult. It went something like:

‘so it’s about a guy who wrote a book that was found by another guy, who had it published?’

‘yeah, but there’s this house…and it’s freaky as hell’

‘who’s house?’

‘the guy in the movie’

‘what movie?’

‘the movie the book’s about’

‘i thought the book was about a book’

‘it is, but the book in the book’s about a movie…oh forget it. I’ll just loan it to you when i’m done.’

I read it and loved it! It really got to the heart of the labyrinth/monster duality we all must face. I was especially drawn by the discussion of whether the house is the monster or the labyrinth, and whether Navidson himself is Theseus or the minotaur. Zampano tries to drag you through some contortions of logic, but if you pay careful attention to the film[sup]1[/sup] then you can tell where Zampano (and Johnny) are fabricating their own tales.

Thumper is presented as a red herring, another one of Johnny’s “sea stories”, but she makes an interesting cut-out for the narrator’s (Johnny’s) mother to hide behind–their shadows are congruent once Johnny begins to analyze Navidson’s plight and uses the house as an excuse for his own soul-searching. The parallels between Johnny’s childhood and the parental excesses of Navidson[sup]2[/sup] are very revealing, especially when you consider Delial and Thumper as archetypes of the “temptress”, perhaps even acting as the Ariadnes in their respective stories, condemned never to know whether Theseus has returned. Once selected passages from the Whalestoe Letters[sup]3[/sup] have been translated and decoded, it all comes together really well.

An exegesis of the author’s sister’s companion album[sup]4[/sup] (especially the lyrics to "Five and a Half Minute Hallway) confirmed my analysis to my own satisfaction, but YMMV. The film is really key to my understanding of the house.
1 - The Navidson Record, available on Beta (VHS and DVD out of print and out of stock) from amazon.com. eBay users may be able to acquire bootleg copies that do not include “The Five and a Half Minute Hallway” footage.
2 - see earlier chapters regarding the “pork chops”, and later regarding Navidson’s son and his incident with the truck.
3 - Appendix C, 3rd. ed., IIRC
4 - “Haunted”, Poe, available from amazon.com as well. Extended version out of stock.

Wet blanket time: loved the concept, hated the execution! That kind of furiously post-modern style doesn’t seem to work as well with a long opus (for me). If he’d kept his narrative more concise, all those metaphysical tricks and conceits -fictional footnotes and whatnot- would’ve stayed intriguing for me throughout. Instead, I was pretty well exhausted by page 100.

Really neat idea, though. Just brilliant.

… so I’m guessing you didn’t enjoy (or wisely avoided) Infinite Jest?

Blimey, why don’t you just beat me with a bag of oranges, Jurph. :wink:

No, I know I’ve missed some great writing with this intolerance of mine. Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon and Don Delillo’s Underworld were both given to me in hardcover and I’ll likely use them as weights the next time I have to throw a body in the river.

Jurph, I’d like to point out that liking House of Leaves doesn’t mean you’ll like Infinite Jest.

I thought House of Leaves worked a lot harder to earn its authorial indulgences, whereas Infinite Jest was nothing but indulgences.

Perhaps some day I’ll force myself to finish Jest, but I couldn’t put House of Leaves down - I read most of it in a theatre where I was doing a play at the time - during the play. Because I couldn’t bear to leave it in the dressing room.

I highly recommend reading it while sitting for long stetches alone in the cool black area behind a set of a house. If you like being right freaked out, that is.

I too thought it kinda sputtered near the end, but only with Johnny’s story. I lost interest in him after a while - there’s where the post-moderism started to show it’s cracks, I think. Also, if I recall correctly, there’s a scene with Johnny near the end that the editor couldn’t possibly know about that broke the book’s continutiy for me.

Okay, maybe not a strict one-to-one correlation, but I think House of Leaves is a good acid test for whether you can stomach the (IMHO) equally complex but (not up for argument) way the hell longer Infinite Jest. That is to say, if you did like House of Leaves, then there’s a chance you’ll like Infinite Jest; but if you didn’t, then you should probably use the book for something more practical. For example, keeping it in the trunk of your rear-wheel-drive car to avoid slides in the winter, using it for bicep curls, or hiding a good blunt weapon on your bedside table.

Point taken.

But softcover books make lousy bludgeons.

Speaking of “other books one might enjoy, if one enjoyed House of Leaves”…what are some other books I might enjoy if I enjoyed House of Leaves?

I’ll look into Infinite Jest.

I read it. I wasn’t terribly impressed, however. I think I gave it a “B-” for the 50 book challenge last year.

  1. The people who told me that it was “the scariest thing they ever read” are obviously doing a lot more crack than I ever suspected. It’s not even a horror novel! It’s part science fiction, part insane person’s journal, and, with the exception of one page, no parts remotely frightening.

  2. The people who told me that it “was like nothing else I’ve ever read” obviously missed Pale Fire by Nabokov. The whole let’s-tell-a-story-in-the-footnotes had already been done and done better. So all that leaves as “unique” is weird page layout. oh wow, how impressive.

It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it doesn’t deserve half the praise it gets. However, it is pretty cool that his sister included parts of the book in the songs for her latest cd.