Tuesday, August 4, 2015

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

"Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth -- musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies -- the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that 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."

Okay, first of all, yay for Jolie being amazing and helping out with reviews!! Especially as my time here is pretty much reaching its end, so best of luck to her and anyone else potentially recruited. And I know, it's been forever from me, but in all honesty, this book was a long project of a read--the better part of a month or two, at varying levels of dedication. But dear lord was it worth it. This book is unlike any other I've ever come across, and the sheer amount put into it is staggering. It's very psychological, and there are stories within stories that reach a level of scrutiny that makes you forget it's not true. The experience of the man, Johnny Truant, who found this crate of papers and writings is chronicled through sporadic footnotes, and all levels of the story are mind-twisting. The text crawls up the page, sometimes upside down, fragmented, mirrored, tilted... you get the idea.  A simple Google image search for 'house of leaves' gives you a pretty fair impression. 

The experience of reading the book is very... organic, if that's the right word. There's nothing slick or processed about this--it's gritty and believable, in the best and worst way. Even the way it fell into my hands mirrored that--it was a title mentioned to me by the strangest assortment of people (including an astrophysicist, a friend, and a dancer) over a gradual period of time until I couldn't help but buy a copy. That's some of the beauty of this book. It feels secret somehow, passed around from person to person, and the story itself extends that feeling.

I loved it. It was so brilliant and twisting and terrifying and analytical, and the ways the text would start to shrink on the page did a brilliant job of evoking the claustrophobia of the house, and just wow. There are symbols and codes embedded, and nothing presents itself completely without effort. It's the type of book that you could read so many times and each time peel back another staggering layer of it. It's a huge undertaking, and if the possibility of a dark, fractured, spine-chilling, human ensemble of a story appeals to you, I so urge you to go check it out. I'm so glad I did.

There's a copy at Kettleson in the new adult fiction section, and I super highly recommend it. Five stars, no doubt about it.

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