Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski

Some years ago, award winning photojournalist Will "Navy" Navidson and his family moved into a new house, hoping for a fresh start in life together. As time went on, they noticed something peculiar: their house was larger on the inside than it was on the outside. Just a quarter inch or so at first, nothing to get excited about, really, but that quarter inch quickly developed into a foot; a few yards; and then into endless miles and miles of twisting corridors spreading out beneath the foundation.

Navidson, who always faced the world through a lens, assembled a team and gathered his video equipment to film their explorations of these eternal hallways, and the profound effect that this house had on their lives. Somewhere along the way, a five minute excerpt of these tapes was leaked on VHS, and it became an underground phenomenon, followed by another excerpt and even more acclaim. Eventually the entirety of the footage was unearthed and released theatrically by the fine folks at Miramax. It harvested much attention, and became the subject of countless analyses . The question on everyone's mind was: is it real?

One such critique was authored by an aging man known only as Zampano, exquisitely researched and even more amazing when taken into account that he was blind. It never saw print, however, as Zampano fell into a special kind of madness and succumbed to death.

Enter Johnny Truant, who found the battered and disheveled manuscript of Zampano's and made it his life's work to get it in order and see it completed. But Mr. Truant can find no mention of the strange film anywhere outside of Zampano's work, and none of the articles cited within seem to exist, which leaves Johnny asking the same question as the supposed viewers of the supposed film: is it real?

Peppered throughout the book are footnotes written by Johnny himself, documenting the effect of the manuscript on his own life. And it seems that special kind of madness is slowly creeping in.

None of this is real, of course. It's all an epic, sprawling piece of fiction by Mark Z. Danielewski. But it's so densely layered, and written by so many authors (all of them Danielewski) that you'll find yourself asking the same question: is it real? You'll be as tempted as I was to pull out a pencil and start scrawling your own footnotes atop the already existing ones--which I suspect was the authors intention.

The text winds, spins, rises, climbs, falls, etc., all keeping pace with the action in the story and the heart of the house. The text is practically a character of its own, and graphically this book is a work of art. Despite its 600+ page length, it held my attention firmly right up until the end. Only the appendices and addendums at the end occasionally seemed superfluous, but that's just more material to get lost in. Besides, that's the great thing about addendums...they're at the end. Meaning, you can skip right over them or skim right through them if you want, without really missing anything important.

But then again, somewhere among the fine print might be the answer to the question: is it real?

I can not recommend this book enough.  I have read it many, many times and always find something new.  If you liked the Raw Shark Texts, then you've got to give this book a read, as well. It is absolutely amazing, and that special kind of madness? I can honestly say I felt it creeping in...just a bit.

Is it real?

Find out for yourself.


1 comment:

What do you got to say about it!?


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