This week began a virtual relationship with my all-time favorite author (Mark Z. Danielewski) of my all-time favorite hook (House of Leaves). And you’re all invited to our wedding.
Actually, I’ve just joined a book club, but it’s led by the man himself, so… same thing?
Before involving myself in the group conversation (which has been going on for months and is finally getting less chaotic), I wanted to pop into my newly-created blog and jot down my thoughts. Chances are they’ll get garbled and even more confused once other people inject their opinions, so mine needed their own fleshing out.
My history with MZD began during the summer of 2003. My college friends liked the musical artist Poe who, as you’ll come to see if you read along with me, is heavily involved in the story (spoiler: she’s MZD’s sister and has an entire album based on the book, among other things). I remember taking forever to find the book because none of my local bookstores carried it and Amazon wasn’t a thing yet. I’m not even sure how I did finally get my hands on it, but I somehow managed to procure and devour it in a couple weeks, regardless.
It’s been so long, though, that I don’t remember the details, despite telling people it’s my favorite book. That’s not a huge problem, though – I fully support books having a lasting impact based on how they made you feel, and House of Leaves is definitely a punch to the feels.
For example, here’s what I remember from my first read:
- Feeling completely insane
- Getting odd looks as I turned the book in circles to read about the staircase
- Being 100% engrossed in the weirdness
- Having an overwhelming sense of place (or absence of place, as the case may be)
The premise? A family’s home is bigger on the inside than the outside. That’s it. Seems innocent enough, right? Maybe a little weird. In fact, I couldn’t 100% understand why the book was classified as horror until I was maybe halfway through. It’s fascinatingly creepy and you can’t forget about it because it takes you to literally dark places. You know there’s a message and mystery behind everything, but you have to discover them (and every person has a different interpretation, meaning the book never actually ends).
It can and will freak you out, although the way it does isn’t obvious. You’ll find yourself doing something completely unrelated and then realize all you’re thinking about is this novel. I don’t feel comfortable describing it as horror, but maybe that’s because it’s more psychological than what you’d find in a typical American horror book/film.
Our reading task for this week’s discussion is to comb through more of the book’s physicalities than to read. Something you’ll notice – as I did – is there isn’t anything about House of Leaves that isn’t intentional, including its design (and the fact the word “house” is always written in blue in most versions). There are footnotes that include lengthy sub-stories and text is often written in shapes that make you spin the book and even read up against a mirror.
It sounds like a huge pain, but it’s so immersive that you forget the minor annoyance. It’s an experience, not a novel.
I’ve prepared for my re-read by pulling together all my colorful markers and post-its so I can go to town marking up my observations:
I also purchased The Whalestoe Letters, which isn’t necessary for the club, but is referenced in the book as a supplement for the truly obsessed (ie: me). I fully intend to read through it when the letters come into play (I had questions about when I should read it and several friends recommended I wait until they’re referenced, then indulge).
So now, I’ll re-enter the house. And the madness. And love every minute of it.
Care to join? Search for “House of Leaves Book Club” on Facebook and be absorbed. Or just click here.