House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A young family moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story—of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun, yet effortful read. Those who appreciate a book with hidden secrets, enjoy a very cerebral venture when it comes to consuming a book, and if you have the drive and time, may like this one.

I read this one for SunBeamsJess Book Club buddy read.

The Story
I loved the time and setting, very real life, timeless capture of 1990s in the here and now. Took me back in time. I don’t know if I would have appreciated this book as much, or stayed as engaged as I did if I hadn’t had this type of connection with the references in the book.

Content-wise a fair amount of pop culture and social commentary references which I loved the most about the book. Everything from Dante’s Inferno, War of the Worlds, Outdoor Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Science News articles, VHS. 90s perception of L.A. and plenty of self help book references. The Real World. Dr. Drew. America’s Funniest Home Videos. X-Files, Home Improvement. Pay phones. Kinkos. Radioshack. Macintosh Quadra. Film photography. Plenty of song lyrics.

Lots of satire. It definitely plays on recollection, sourcing material, and nostalgia. Sort of this cataloguing of story.

A depiction of simple reality. Some parts playful. Some parts grotesque.

It required a bit of concentration and there’s only so much analysis that even I, as someone who enjoys puzzling, could devote to figuring it all out. Several times I felt I can’t be expected to read through the nonsense and jabber, but then the journey would click for me as intention and purposeful or I’d come across something interesting within the main story or side note tangent that would recapture my enjoyment of the book. Even when it came to learning about radiometric dating. So I definitely felt a bit lost at times, and I’m sure I missed a few, trying to piece the cohesiveness together within all the chaotic content and the overall stylistic qualities of the book.

The book evokes this draw into bandwagon sensationalism. This feeling of wanting to be the popular and smart kid in school “Oh I get it all” while struggling internally or too shy to speak up or for lack of admitting incomprehension. As depicted by actual algebraic formulas as contained in the book coupled with that sinking feeling of hoping not to be called upon in fear of not knowing the answer.

Camcorder style as self-referencing. Stories within stories with a meta element at times. Not really elegant but depicts the complexities of life as well as perspective and how documentation plays out at the same time. Depicts this relationship of a person and scene with the recording along with film commentary and review. A behind the scenes look at cinematography as written art form and emoting through the camera, through a filmography lens. Touching on the production value of the piece. Multiple layers of stories. Bringing mind’s eye to the forefront. Subtleties even speaking to realism and the misconstrued, censorship, and ethics of journalism.

I loved the novelist commentary. Consistent each with their character. Read like comedy sketch. Sort of a review of all sorts of people and things that have existed in this world. Peculiar and creative leisure, stylistic in their own right.

Some of the footnotes and in body references were silly, fun and interesting, satyrical, read like Mystery Science Theatre 2000.

There’s psychologically thrilling bits with mother’s letters. A closer look at the unwell as told through aspect of live documentary. Coupled with pathological nature of certain behaviors such as magazine hoarding, OCD tendencies, and word salad.

I felt it to be bit too cerebral and much too exhausting to be remotely scary in the horror type way. Especially when it came to interjections of lack of seriousness. Then also with reminiscing drug culture and trips while indulging in more bourbon and cannibis.

Favorite aspects were the sea journeys, Magellan and crew.

The Writing
Overall, provides an interactive experience with the book itself which was certainly clever.

Live documentary with lots of tangents.

Plays on words, often connected word search. Some puzzles were satisfactory, others as crummy as “Drink Your Ovaltine.”

Some logical, sometimes more scholarly, some dreamlike sequence, much in unedited form. Reminded me of dream telling actually. The most extreme of the bizarre, the weird, materialized into the self-indulgent side of modern art. The kind that some will joyfully exclaim how life changing and most authentic, truest self expression of human qualities and to others more like puke on canvas.

So it felt refreshing for me at times to read and quickly be able to flip through the pages with larger blank sections.

Stories told in tandem, riddle like quality, speaks to enjoyment and interpretation of art in all its forms including the differences in typography.

Incorporates etymology, Greek mythology. It’s like having the dictionary and Wikipedia at your fingertips, within the book as you read it, which was a bonus as I often do this anyway.

On the flip side, a result, became part exhaustive essay, part book report. Much even self-referenced University Press articles which emphasized the point. So much so it was like reading my 8th grade book report, reworked sentences from limited sourcing material, mostly being from our family set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

Tone
Overwrought. Often felt like academic flare. Sometimes silly and playful. Sometimes serious.

Descriptions
I liked the spin on established stories, funny and fresh, teetering ridiculousness, such as Daddy Isaac and venison.

Characters
The voice, as stylistic choice both in story and presentation really came out in this one. Through the actual narration and dialogue, including grammatical errors and casual vernacular.

My brain definitely needs a rest after this one.

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