Not for the faint hearted

Mark Z. Danielweski: House of Leaves

House of LeavesTo say the least. Content and form finally merge into this paranoid yet beautiful book about a family lost in the inner walls of… a house. A house of leaves. You get sucked into this whirlpool of imagination where the realm of a book is transformed into a physical world that you cannot get out of. Here is cutting to the chase: two parallel, uncoverging yet intertwined stories. First is of a family that moves to a new house, only to discover that its inner architecture is designed in a way that it is bigger from the inside than the outside. Did you hear it right? Yes, apparently, the house is dynamic; its internal corridors and walls get bigger by the minute, while it remains intact on the outside. But how big can it get? Well, in order to find out, the family had to patch an adventurers’ team to probe the house’s secret halls. Not such a good idea, given the fact that there seems to be something haunting inside those walls, a creature, or a monster, or some life waiting to be discovered. Second story is that of a young guy who finds the book of a blind writer where the first story is told. Coincidence much? The rest is magic. Although the two stories do not seem very connected throughout the book, they overlap smoothly. We jump from one to the other without losing the thread. The plot is quite linear for such a novel argument. Besides the narrative in itself, what really kept me enticed was the magnificence of the visual presentation. Instead of your usual manuscript, the writer has gone great lengths to use the space of a book in order to create his own world. By underlining, scratching, changing colors, writing horizontally then vertically, then obliquely, etc., Danielewski manages to innovate a new experience of reading. Footnotes à la David-Foster-Wallace are also used at length to criticize academic works where scholars are willing to use any useless piece of information to support their argument, or offer innocuous data that the reader does not really need. It also shows how much of an interference footnotes are to the reading experience.

The book is a paranoia, an exciting one that you do want to experience, at least in the realm of words.

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