Blook Back: House of Leaves

The idea of a narrative within a narrative, related by another narrator and supplemented by another, more isolated narrative had my post-modern impulses twinging with delight from the getgo. When I discovered the three-dimensional way in which the story is told, dancing out from the footnotes in bold courier and painting whole pages with a manic brush, I thought I was in love.

And indeed, House of Leaves is a very evocative book. The titular House at the story’s core is menacing in a very visceral way — a Lovecraftian horror rendered more pedestrian, and thus more frightening, by its grounding in a Virginia suburb. I read reviews and spoke with friends who remarked that the endless hallways and inkly blackness described therein haunted their dreams and left them permanently altered in some way.

Indeed, the first night I settled into House of Leaves, I found myself eying my closets with suspicion and steeling myself against the dark before going to sleep.

As I progressed further into the novel however, the frequent DFW-esque interludes by Truant and the relentless spoofing of academia in the nonsensical and entirely fictional footnotes began to grate on me. I imagine that was the point, after all — Danielewski commenting on how an academic approach to the unknowable removes one impossibly from the reality it tries to describe. It just felt unnecessary.

We’re already operating with a third-hand account, narrated and put together by a protagonist with pronounced schizophrenic tendencies. My skepticism and distrust of both Truant and Zompano already well in place, the academic torpor just pushed things over the top and removed what could have just been a fun, creepy, potentially slightly philosophical trip from the experience.

For that reason, I can only give it four stars, to reward it for its engaging premise and three-dimensional artistry. I can only envy the other reviewers who seem to have ignore the footnotes and somehow distilled The Navidson Record from the surrounding noise.

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