House of Leaves

by Mark Danielewski

“Darkness is impossible to remember.”

Johnny Truant, partyhound, wastrel, discovers the unfinished manuscript of the recently deceased Zampano containing details of The Navidson Record, a kind of found footage film released by Miramax. The film covers the two underground short films “The Five Minute Hallway” and “Exploration #4.”

“The Five Minute Hallway” shows a man facing an open doorway in his house, the hallway extending perhaps 10 feet past the threshold of the door, and with full continuity on camera the man exits a window to left of the door, crawling outside the house, and enters another window on the right side of the door, thereby revealing a spatial anomaly. The hallway should not exist; the wall should be solid. Investigation by Navidson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer in the video, reveals the interior dimensions of his new house exceed the exterior dimensions. Navidson checks, rechecks, checks again, then starts calling people to help investigate. “Exploration #4” is part of the investigation.

The wider, longer release by Miramax contains much more extensive footage captured by Navidson during the handful of explorations, and Zampano’s manuscript is an in-depth study and breakdown of the whole affair. Johnny Truant is attempting to put together and understand the loose pages of Zampano’s studies, and his own story is told in tandem with Navidson’s as he follows the incredible tale down the rabbit hole with his sanity challenged in the process.

You move through the parallel stories containing nearly 500 footnotes of both vital information and references and dozens of pages of appendices, all the while reading backward, upside down, even holding the 700-page-plus monstrosity up to a mirror and repeatedly flipping all around the book while Navidson attempts to protect his family and Johnny learns and reacts to what happened. When it gets weird the writing style mimics the story, although it is mostly linear. If you find yourself tempted to just move on instead of rooting around for the information the author wants you to find don’t do it! Payoffs abound if you stick with it and dig and you won’t get the satisfaction if you don’t put in the work, so take the red pill.

Even considering the monsters lurking around here not everyone who picks this up will finish it. It’s more than worth it if you do, but you may end up leaving a little of your own sanity behind. House of Leaves is a maddening, labyrinthine spiral of frustration and awe.

“Do not entrust your future to the limits of your stride.”

5 stars

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    1. I agree it’s a masterpiece–one that any serious reader needs to experience.

      Some comments from a friend of mine about the author’s personality caused me to hesitate for a while, but eventually I realized if we limit ourselves to those whose creators agree with our ideals, politics, religions, etc., we’d never read anything at all.

      The book is a must.

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