House of Leaves

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House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Fri Sep 23, 2011 10:13 pm

Started a thread for it here. Guess we should start off with a global spoiler warning, if we are going to discuss the book in detail. Just getting started on it, but as I said, I quite like the voice of the author and the tone that has been set.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:23 pm

A brief Wikipedia synopsis teaser (And this is just the story within the story):

Upon returning from a trip to Seattle, the Navidson family discovers a change in their home. A closet-like space shut behind an undecorated door appears inexplicably where previously there was only a blank wall. A second door appears at the end of the closet, leading to the children's room. As Navidson investigates this phenomenon, he finds that the internal measurements of the house are somehow larger than external measurements. Initially there is less than an inch of difference, but as time passes the interior of the house is found to be seemingly expanding, while maintaining the same exterior proportions. A third change asserts itself: a dark, cold hallway in their living room wall that, physically, should extend out into their yard, but does not. Navidson films this strange place, looping around the house to show where the space should be and clearly is not. The filming of this anomaly comes to be referred to as "The Five and a Half Minute Hallway". This hallway leads to a maze-like complex, starting with a large room (the "Anteroom"), which in turn leads to a truly enormous space (the "Great Hall"), a room primarily distinguished by an enormous spiral staircase which appears, when viewed from the landing, to spiral down without end. There is also a multitude of corridors and rooms leading off from each passage. All of these rooms and hallways are completely unlit and featureless, consisting of smooth ash-gray walls, floors, and ceilings. The only sound disturbing the perfect silence of the hallways is a periodic low growl, the source of which is never fully explained, although an academic source "quoted" in the book hypothesizes that the growl is created by the frequent re-shaping of the house.
There is some discrepancy as to where "The Five and a Half Minute Hallway" appears. It is quoted by different characters at different times to have been located in each of the cardinal directions. This first happens when Zampanò writes that the hallway is in the western wall (House of Leaves 57), directly contradicting an earlier page where the hallway is mentioned to be in the northern wall (House of Leaves 4). Johnny's footnotes point out the contradiction.
Navidson, along with his brother Tom and some colleagues, feel compelled to explore, photograph, and videotape the house's seemingly endless series of passages, eventually driving various characters to insanity, murder, and death. Ultimately, Will releases what has been recorded and edited as The Navidson Record.

Zampanò's narrative is littered with all manner of references, some quite obscure, others indicating that the Navidsons' story achieved international notoriety. Luminaries such as Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, Douglas Hofstadter, Ken Burns, Harold Bloom, Camille Paglia, Hunter Thompson, Anne Rice, and Jacques Derrida were apparently interviewed as to their opinions about the film. However, when Truant investigates, he finds no history of the house, no evidence of the events experienced by the Navidsons, and nothing else to establish that the house or film ever existed anywhere other than in Zampanò's text.
Many of the references in Zampanò's footnotes, however, are real—existing both within his world and our world outside the novel. For example, several times Zampanò cites an actual Time-Life book, Planet Earth: Underground Worlds (House of Leaves 125).
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:13 pm

Measurement anomalies abound.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:27 pm

Not just measurement anomalies; compasses and altimeters become non-operable. And then there's the fact that animals cannot enter into the space, maybe because they are not capable of the concept of paradox.

Apart from that, I would love to have been there to hear the discussion between Danielewski and his publisher in which he specifies that all occurrences of the word 'house' be printed in blue. Including the reviews and blurbs.

You can't be serious.
I am serious. It is essential. The color is part of the copyrighted Title.
But it's like printing two books instead of one! Do you even care how much that will cost?
Actually, not a bit. Charge more for the book.
Well, I guess. But what the shit is this inside the endpapers?
Those are hexadecimal characters, which are actually an AIFF audio file of an excerpt from Poe's track "Angry Johnny" when saved as a file in a hex editor. [See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbV8GBnK ... re=related... or the version filmed and directed by the author himself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sBvxqB5VT4]

Here's a thought:

House of Leaves is a metaphor for consciousness, which expands interiorly toward infinity within the unchanging dimensions of the skull that contains it.

Have you ever seen anything like the world-building in this book?
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:59 pm

Very good world building indeed. I like the style used, which is quite like Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain" (with lots of "classified documents" and such.) As for the metaphor, it sounds like a plausible interpretation, but I need to dig further in. There may be more nested metaphor's to discover. A more simple metaphor may just be that of transitioning from the childhood state (where riddles have answers) to the challenge of facing true paradoxes. Most people seem to have a natural filter for just saying "Oh, well, that's odd." when faced with something like Zeno or Epimenides, but there are some minds that can't help themselves from chewing away at them, like a rat chewing at an iron door. I wonder myself if the tendency to say "well, there just is no answer, it's a waste of time" is the wrong course, and maybe something vitally important is being missed when you don't try to chew through the iron gate of paradox.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:02 pm

Oooh, I just got the part about Hofstadter (supposedly) being interviewed in the book. +100 nerdy geek gravitas points.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:47 pm

Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits was one of my college favorites. Zampano is a character from Fellini's La Strada. I'm guessing Johnny Truant is Angry Johnny. It's weird that some of his footnotes are real and some are made up. Plus, my new sig can now be translated by anyone in seconds with internet access, so no geek points for that. :)

But you get geek points for seeing how the meaning relates to the theme of interior expansion.
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:40 pm

Two words: Public Housing
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:09 pm

You aren't who you were, i.e. your expanding into a new and more complex person.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:15 am

Geek-ka-ching!
Pas de lieu Rhône que nous!
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Sat Oct 01, 2011 1:35 am

Another dimensional breakthrough, this one on page 119/120.
These 2 pages are a single leaf in the book. On 119, there is a square text box inset. On the other side of the leaf (120) is the same text box, but the words are printed such that the reader is looking at words on 119 from behind.

This device causes the reader to pause to figure out what he is looking at. The text itself begins a long list of exhaustive architectural design details. This text box continues on every page through page 145, finally becoming unstable, the last line being "picture that in your dreams", crossed out, in red, followed by a blank white text box whose opposite side is a blank black. Other parts of the page have margin text printed upside down.

The story is still in here somewhere, but with all the three-dimensional stuff going on, and the turning of the book upside down to inspect it like a set of building plans, you have to look for the story and its narrator, find him, and come back to it.

This makes the reader start to identify with the narrator's bewilderedness, and feel like the House of Leaves is drawing him in to be one of the characters in the maze. The story itself, at this point, concerns 3 characters who are in a deep exploration of the depths of the maze, and are lost deep within it.

Footnote 153 cites Genesis 28:17 "How awesome is this place. It is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven". [Note that Jacob said this in response to a vision in a dream (remember above, "picture that in your dreams").]

If Danielewski claimed that this book had been handed to him by the angel Moroni, I might believe it.
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by jwc » Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:05 pm

A metaphor for consciousness, yes. And, as such, a thoroughly deconstructionist work, in which consciousness is incapable of measuring anything as supposedly stable as "reality." This is probably due to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. There are SO many ways this point is hammered away at!
Do I gather you guys are still reading the book? It's been a while now since I read it, so I am not as apt to comment on specifics. But I certainly loved it, and I am attempted to read it through again and make one of those 365 page, rip-out-a-page-a-day calendars: Danielewski footnote for the day.
As for plot spoilers, I don't think anyone need worry. First, the end of the book ain't all that great. More importantly, who cares? After the first 100 pages, if you are foolish enough to think there is an end in sight -- a solution of the riddle -- CLOSURE -- then you and I are reading different books. Hiow could such a book POSSIBLY have closure?
I think the reason the front cover of the book is actually "too short" is that the book itself is growing. And as for the end of the book having closure, I am surprised Danielewski didn't get his publisher to attach some sort of spring mechanism that physically prevented the closing of the book after turning the last page... In my copy, at least, there was a frontspiece page which fell out fairly soon after I began reading. I am convinced that this was intentional, and I suspect that, with successive readings, more pages will fall out, so that in the end, I will have just lots of scraps of paper, in a trunk in my room, rather than a book...
Are you following how the different fonts etc reflect the different contributors? AS in, which is Zampano, and which is Johnny Truant, and which is "Editor" etc? It was the one thing about the printing that actually struck me as somewhat stable...
I take issue with the assertion that all instances of the word "house" are in blue. I think there were some not in blue, but these were the instances in which the word referred to some other house than the one on Oak Tree Lane or wherever it was.
I think my favorite thing of all was his treatment of Echo. The Greek myths about Echo. The physics/acoustics of echo. The psychological aspects of echo. Etc ad infinitum, and then, each use of the word echo echoing all those thoughts...
Anyway, I have one question. I suppose I could get the answer on the internet fairly quickly, but I'll put it here instead -- the assertion that the work first appeared on the internet, and that the physical book we hold in our hands is a sort of reconstruction of that internet version, in which links lead to links, etc. I love the image, because the internet is so non-linear and the book does such a wonderful job of mirroring that non-linearity -- but are we being put on? Did this thing REALLY starty out on the net?
Class Assignment -- list all footnotes in the book, and annotate them to indicate which are "authentic" and which are "real." (Hint: Be sure to bring a flashlight and a big gun with ammo.)

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:29 am

Welcome, to the Drabblecast wing of the House of Leaves, jwc.
In fact, I just noticed with surprise a footnote reference to the House of the Rising Sun. I did notice one other footnote reference in which the footnote was in red and the word house was also in red. But I wodered if this was not a printer's error. Footnote 212 is in French, the first instance in which "maisons immobiles" is used. (The s is not blue.)

I had the happy thought that this is an advanced kind of pop-up book. Danielewski may have started with the idea that he'd make his work three-dimensional. But then he learned about string theory and thought "Why only 3 dimensions?" The result is an 11-dimensional pop-up book.

Your speculation about whether the book was first circulated on the internet by a cultic group of readers which included strippers and tattoo artists has got to be too self-evidently coincidental. I went to see Dralion the other night. In the beginning of the show, they select an audience member for the clowns to interact with. The audience member becomes part of the show.
Spoiler:
At some point we realize that he is actually a cast member impersonating a clueless member of the audience. But not until the show is almost half over.
Let us speculate: which would be more in character? That the book merely claim to have been popular with strippers prior to publication, or that it actually happened? Either way is equally appropriate in my opinion. But the claim is art, while the alternative is nature. The question evokes Bernini's Apollo and Daphne. To look at it is to wonder if Daphne turned into a tree, or into marble. But either way is to appreciate an expression of genius.

As to your choice of whether to reread, I hope you will. ROU and I are commenting as we read. I am at about page 150. It would be most appropriate for you to do this with us, since Holloway had two companions on his 4th Exploration of the 5 1/2 minute hallway. We must insist, however, that non of us carry a weapon. 11 Dimensions can be dangerous for agoraphobes and acrophobes.
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Oct 03, 2011 5:12 am

i'm about 50 pages behind you. So don't be concerned about those creaking footsteps following you down the hallway.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Mon Oct 03, 2011 5:30 am

I'm not sure that I'm up to the task of separating the footnotes based on authenticity, and for the sake of my reading enjoyment I'll just assume that all of them are (just like the Mongolian Death Worm and the Nandi Bear,) real.

I like your observation about the non-linearity of the story and how this more accurately reflects the true state of things than an a), then b), then c) approach.

Think about how much our own modern lives are like that, (not just in these internet days of social networking and gatherings of strange people on multi-threaded forums,) but how it has always been this way.

We find ourselves many people participating in many storyline threads. We are sons to our parents, fathers and mothers to our children, lovers to our mates, subordinate to bosses, or in authority over others. All of these relationships having different connections and places in our lives.

I wonder if the "All the Worlds a Stage..." passage in "As You Like It." would have been less linear if Shakespeare had lived in the internet age, though.
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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Mon Oct 03, 2011 6:29 pm

I have reached the bottom of the stairwell with Navidson's rescue party (Navidson, Tom, and Reston - three again). The stairwell took Holloway 4 days to descend, and Navidson takes 5 minutes. The point is that the stairwell is familiar to Navidson, and new to Holloway; and that things are always bigger when they are new to us. You thought your childhood home was bigger because you were so small. But no, it was bigger because it had not yet become familiar.

What a tasty morsel of an idea!

And ROU, the next 50 pages go very quickly since many of them seem to be intended for you to stand in front of rather than read. The comments on the side of the page like the overheard voices of other people in the gallery that you listen to to get a glimpse of what they think the painting "means".

Help yourself to some wine. some cheese. some hordervs (sic).
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by strawman » Fri Oct 07, 2011 6:13 pm

Breaking News!

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/ ... rauthammer

Turns out the universe's exterior dimensions are 0.625000" larger than the sum of its interior dimensions!

Charles Krauthammer is Will Navidson!
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
Spoiler:
Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by jwc » Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:49 pm

OK, I have accepted your challenge and am going to try re-reading.
So thinking you guys are at about pp 150-200, I open the book and setle on pg 167, where I read, "What is boredom? Endless repititions, like, for example, Navidson's corridors and rooms..." and I feel like I HAVE been here before, and I recall that, even the first time through, there were seemingly endless repetitions, and now, I am repeating the whole experience in another repetition... So -- will this be my hell? My groundhog day? Will Strawman and ROU, upon fishing the book, feel moved to recommend it to someone, who will ask that we all reread it with them? and like Sysiphus and his stone, we will forever get stuck in this unfinishable HOUSE?
I remain fascinated by his system of footnotes to footnotes -- everyone is a commenter on everyone else. And in this respect, I think Danielewski is very Faulknerian. Falkner generally doesn't tell his stories from a single point of view. He often uses the device of a modern fellow who is interviewing several others about the past -- or he experiences the past by his interviewee's recollections of stories told by others. That is, everything about the past can only be experienced through the eyes of other story-tellers, each of whom has shaped the story to suit his own paradigm. Danielewski expands this to the present, not just the past. The "experienced or concrete space... has a centre which is perceiving man" (p 169), and so, everyone's experience is different from everyone else's (p174). Yet, as he points out somewhere (a vague recollection from my first reading), there are some respects in which we share a common perception. Take, for example, the assertion (which rings true to me) attributed to Bachelard in fn 213, that while doorknobs and keys are used to open and close with the same frequency, doorknobs are psychologically associated with opening, and keys with shutting. I can speculate as to why this might be so -- we become familiar with doorknobs when we are toddlers first able to reach them -- a time when we open doors, but rarely think to shut them. Keys, on the other hand, we are not allowed to have as children -- we only get access to them when we are old enough to know that their purpose is for keeping others (including children) out -- and so we associate them with locking rather than unlocking. My speculation as to the origins of these associations is beside the main point, however, because the main point is that we tend to form certain common perceptions about things. One can call this the influence of culture, perhaps. But that gets back to Faulkner -- because (especially through language) we learn about our world-space in terms that come to us through the words and filters of others. Our own perceptions are, to a substantial degree, shaped by the perceptions of others.
For me, at least, this raises the image of a Cage. The House on Ash Tree Lane is in flux, not rigid at all, yet it is a Cage which sucks them all in. How can such a fluid, shapeless thing be a rigid-barred Cage? It is because of the extent to which our very thoughts are simple followings of patterns, and we tend to be "stuck" in the patterns of though of that which we have accepted or "learned"-- Paiget's constructions -- because the ultimate exercise of "free will" must be the ability to break free of such patterns of thought-- that is, to think the non-determined thought. To "escape" from the Cage of our personal point of view. Call it an out of body experience, if you will.
It was, perhaps, the gift that enabled Einstein to clear his head of Newton, and that which caused the scientists at CERN to spend months having others double-check their work, because their results CANNOT be correct. They are entirely taken by their pre-existing view that nothing goes faster than light. To believe otherwise is simply unacceptable.
I love the etymology of the words "convinced" and "conviction." Vinco, vincere, victus. When we are convinced of something, we have been "conquered" by it. We have submitted to it, given up our willingness to question its veracity. And, using the same root, we are "victims" of it, "convicts" in the prison created by our submission to the belief in the truth of whatever it is.
"Conviction," then -- of anything -- can it ever be a good thing?

"the after" (p 194)
"math" (p 195)
"of meaning" (p 196).

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by jwc » Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:51 pm

Who cannot love pp 231-238?
I say, they are worth the trees they consume.

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Re: House of Leaves

Post by ROU Killing Time » Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:04 pm

You jumped in with both forelobes. Welcome to the discussion.
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