In 2000, author Mark Danielewski was asked to tell “a bit” about his book in an interview. “A bit”? Hoboy. How to tell “a bit” about a book that you have to literally see in order to fully appreciate, a massive, insane story that plays with typography (there are moments where you’ll have to turn the book upside-down in order to read it, or use a mirror, or write down the first letter of every word to read the hidden message – no, seriously) and refers to itself (house of leaves = house of pages = a book, get it)?
Here’s what the author said:
House of Leaves is about a family who move into a small house in Virginia. One day they go away for a wedding and when they come back discover that a space has appeared between the master bedroom and the children’s bedroom. The walls that appear are black and perfectly smooth. Will Navidson (the protagonist) begins to measure the inside of the house and soon discovers that the inside is larger than the outside by a quarter of an inch and that’s where it all begins to happen. What it comes down to is how this family deals with a house that is larger on the inside than the outside and how it begins to influence those who live there and those who hear about it and those who write about it and maybe even those who read about it.
That doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But yes, in its simplest, the House of Leaves has three characters: Johnny Truant, who writes the introduction to this book, finds an old manuscript in the apartment of a blind, old man. The man, named Zampaño, lived alone and was found dead in his own apartment earlier.
Zampaño’s manuscript is an analysis of a film called The Navidson Record. The Record is a documentary shot by Will Navidson, which deals with several explorations of their house on Ash Tree Lane.
And yes, the house on Ash Tree Lane indeed is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Much bigger. Much, much bigger. So big you can get lost for days, run out of food and water, and go mad in the darkness.
And here I thought no novel can ever terrify me.
It was such an experience to read this book. I bow before Danielewski’s patience (it took him 10 years to write this), imagination, and inventiveness. I’ve never read anything quite like it.
(And that’s all I can say, really. In order to fully discuss this book’s use of intertextuality, deconstruction, chaos, self-reflexivity and obscurity, we’ll have to sit down talking and drinking beer for hours on end. My head hurts just thinking about it.)