Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is unlike any other novel ever published. A layered effort compiled from the in-universe narrators and their manuscripts, the book acts as an interactive, psychological horror/thriller, the only in its wholly unique genre.
House of Leaves, primarily, is about an academic review of a critically acclaimed documentary, The Navidson Record; however, the author of this work is a recently deceased, blind, elderly man who died in mysterious circumstances. Furthermore, the documentary exists neither in the real world nor in the novel’s. The conceit of The Navidson Record surrounds Will Navidson, a photojournalist, discovering that his new home has internal measurements greater than its external measurements. Later, a room appears in house’s kitchen, which should lead into the backyard, yet it reveals a dark hallway. The fictional documentary follows Navidson’s explorations into the void, and his descent down its spiral staircase, and into madness.
Zampano, the deceased author of the academic review of the film, provides copious footnotes, some of which contain footnotes of their own, exploring articles, real and fictional, discussing film theory, philosophy, imagery, and the cultural impact of The Navidson Record. Johnny Truant, who discovered Zampano’s work, writes his own footnotes, commenting on Zampano’s story while telling his own, albeit as an unreliable narrator.
Furthermore, an appendix to the book titled “The Whalestone Letters” contains seemingly unrelated poems, sections of prose, artistic renderings of the home in The Navidson Record, and most importantly, letters from Johnny’s mother, written inside an insane asylum. These letters contain secret codes and messages, which can be discovered by avid readers.
House of Leaves is most notable for its unique page layout and style. For instance, different characters’ writings are printed in different fonts, certain words, such as “House” and “Minotaur” are colored blue and red, and sections of prose are often arranged to mirror the events of The Navidson Record, giving the book an eerie, poetic quality. The book itself is a maze, complicated and strange to read, delving into metafiction, and entirely unlike any other book on the market.
An immense novel, House of Leaves requires a long time to digest, and must be read as a printed copy. Wholly unique, the work stands as one of the most unnerving books I have ever read, perfect for this Halloween season.
by Evan Davis