House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski

Can one’s trauma be as big as to manifest itself physically, garrotting, scalding, and destroying everyone around? What if the trauma is not real? What if nothing is real? Or if the real is nothing? When a family of four, in hopes of getting their lives together, moves into their new house on Ash Tree Lane, they are yet to discover that said house will be the matter of this and many other reviews. Moreover, they are yet to discover the impacts of the house on each one of them as well as on the reader. Following Ariadne’s thread in the Exploration of hallways of themes, meanings, and symbols in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.

I’m so glad that you decided to come.

Let’s enter the house, let’s move in. What, you don’t like the house? You don’t like that now we have an extra room? You don’t like that tomorrow we will have a whole new basement? Don’t be silly, don’t be scared.

Before getting into the tryings of articulating the meaning

No secret that House of Leaves is mostly known for its structure and being ergodic. Notwithstanding, the structure is not only about the layout of hard copies and the book’s empty pages.
The book exists in the fictional world it tells us about in the same shape and form as it does in the real world. Fictional characters, events, books and other works go alongside the mentions of real people and their accomplishments. This alone makes us believe that we are reading an actual, bona fide manifesto. The novel opens up with a little foreword from the fictional Editors followed by an introduction by, not-any-less-fictional, Johnny Truant from which we learn about (even more fictional) Zampanò, his works and writings about (you’ve guessed it — fictional) Navidson and his record. As follows, we are left with this hierarchy:

Mark Z. Danielewski
    The Editors
        Johnny Truant — implied author of the edition we read.
             Zampanò — implied author of the edition Johnny Truant reads.
                   Will Navidson — The Navidson Record.

Labyrinths, trauma, schizophrenia, and what else you have

One of the recurring themes of the novel is labyrinths on their own and in their relation to Greek mythology. A leitmotif of the daunting feeling of being lost and disoriented guides us through the maze of the narration. This, on its own, opens up an allowance to different and many interpretations.

…as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

p. 563

However, how is it possible that a house, an inanimate object subjected to the laws of physics, is prone to shapeshifting and mutation? To abate the debate, the house will be taken as one of the main characters of the novel.
Firstly, the discussion that is already present in the book, which is of the house representing the inner world of its inhabitants; as the characters wane, morphs the house.

However, not only do we see the deterioration of the characters of the Navidson record, but we also witness Truant’s falling into the disgrace as many events of both stories are interlinked, setting us to come up with other theories. As we descend further into the maze, we find more ties on the thread binding different characters and the Greek Minotaur together. While Zampanò extensively insists on the importance of the metaphors and connections between Crete’s beast and Navidson record, Johnny Truant incorporates some of the Minotaur’s features into the persona he chooses to show the reader. And here we start falling into the madness. The writing mimics the structure of a labyrinth; each chapter becomes a visualization of the topic of that chapter. If you want the novel to be a representation of trauma, it will be the representation of that one particular trauma you’ve been meant to address. If you want the story to be of fear and terror, it will be of the most gruesome events. What else you have? Schizophrenia? It will or would or have been or will never, while always being about schizophrenia. The schism of the narration and mental intoxication.

What is it all about? Doesn’t really matter, decide for yourself.

A bit about the author author

In March 2000 Mark Z. Danielewski publishes his House of Leaves while the same year his sister, Anne Decatur Danielewski, known as Poe, releases her album Haunted, which features some recordings of Mark and Anne’s father, who has passed by the time of the creation of both HoL and Haunted.

Hey now, can’t you feel me longing? 1

❒ Both works form a symbiotic relationship, flowing one into another. The grief that comes in tides 2 pushes through again and again, making suffocation and choking a challenge between yourself and yourself.

Other so-called theories; conclusions and calling labyrinths “a pathetic excuse to talk about the book”

Beware the spoilers. (Not sure though if it is possible in the first place to spoiler this book).

One of the main themes (yet) that hasn’t been addressed is the theme of obsession. Sure, the characters go mad and obsess over their beliefs; however, the genuine obsession the novel tries to show is the obsession of the reader. How the reader, be it intentional or not, tries to find something more to that that there is. To expand a little on the topic, I believe it’s fair to tweak the chart presented above:

The Reader
     Mark Z. Danielewski
        The Editors
            Johnny Truant — implied author of the edition we read.
                 Zampanò — implied author of the edition Johny Truant reads.
                       Will Navidson — The Navidson Record.

All this is about how we attempt to (over)analyze the blue curtains. And let ‘em, the blue curtains, be; but they are not blue and not curtains, and they don’t exist. Or do they?

☽ Johnny, are you here, my dear?
Do you exist, my sweet child?

Please write me back. I’m desperate to know the answer.

For your further Exploration:

  • The Garden of Forking Paths (Jorge Luis Borges, 1941)
  • La casa de Asterión (Jorge Luis Borges, 1947)
  • El hacedor (Jorge Luis Borges, 1960)
  • 2 Piranesi (Susanna Clarke, 2020)
  • MCMXCIV (Joseph Brodsky, 1994)
  • The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1892)

Could’ve Gone Mad (Poe, Haunted, 2000)
1 Hey pretty (Poe, Haunted, 2000)

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