house of leaves: challenging the emptiness?

Spending quite some time on it, I eventually finished reading Danielewskis House Of Leaves”, a book surely to get hold of one as soon as you dive deeper into it. Overally, I have to say that this has been one of the most intense literature trips I’ve been on ever since reading Paul Austers “Book Of Illusions” but nonetheless the House is another kind of beast in many respects. In some way, Danielewski in his first novel successfully challenges our perception of reality in virtually every possible way:

  • Mixing fiction and non-fiction writing, a purely made-up novel packed up in a fake-scientific essay on “The Navidson Record”, a reality-horror movie completely fictional yet described in an outstanding accurate and detailed way.
  • Merging at the very least three different narrative threads (the story of “The Navidson Record” itself, the writings of Zampano on it, plus the thoughts and stories of Johnny Truant collected in liner notes along the “real”(?) story of the book makes you, finally, end up with a book you will be capable of reading at least three times in a completely different order, depending on whether, how or not to make your way through the different stories. Somehow you virtually can get lost along the way as, except for the conception putting it all together, there’s not that much in common between the three of these stories…
  • The core essay surrounding “The Navidson Record”, as well, is armed to the teeth with footnotes referring to a vast load of books, articles and essays, some of them really existing, some of them made up as well as the story itself. Merging realities again, and proving that Danielewski seems to have spent an outstanding amount of time researching virtually everything ranging from physics (what size of room do you need to have an audible echo?), history (implications and ideas of the Minotaur legend and labyrinths in history itself) to the ethical effects of photography and media (considering “Delial” as well as emphasizing the role of “polished” and “raw” video footage and their perception as “real” in days of imaging technology available to virtually everyone) or aspects embracing philosophy, remembering dealing with the uncanny in ‘the House as well as referring to the works of Martin Heidegger. Challenging to the mind, definitely.
  • Overally, “uncanny” indeed is what describes a lot of aspects of this book rather well, describing vast extends of dark, absolutely empty space, extending to boundaries unreachable even to the protagonists of “The Navidson Record”, eventually almost destroying them while trying to get to the core of the labyrinth starting at the living room wall of the house on Ash Tree Lane. Not sure though whether it is uncanny because of its very size and darkness or because of it being completely absurd and beyond any rational comprehension.
  • Completely letting aside the story as such, the typography used throughout the book challenges everything you might have seen so far in a printed book… Not that it makes reading really easier, at least it definitely does emphasize the mood of the book in many respects…

So, after ending the “main” part of the book, just having the appendixes (mainly the Truant letters) left to read, I am listening to the perfect soundtrack to this (“Hallways To Always” by Ulver, which at the very least in its title references the “House Of Leaves”…), pondering the implications of space and how “The Navidson Record” deals with it – vast, empty spaces, scary and frightening, “unheimlich” because of feeling not just “empty” like an empty room but “empty” like space not showing any signs of ever being claimed, being inhabited, being filled with life by anyone. Perhaps a good ending point – overcoming the uncomfortable feeling emanated by large, empty, unknown spaces by simply “filling them with life”, with laughter and art and inspiration and anything that make them comfortable, tangible, … human? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do after reading “House” for a second time… or a third… or … you know. By the way: No I don’t think the world would need “The Navidson Record” as a “real” movie, there’s hardly a way getting next to the “inner-eye movie” created by reading this book, anyway… ;)

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