House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
A man named Johnny Truant is writing a book, but it’s not an ordinary book. It’s supposed to be the grand work of a man named Zampano, who watched a video about an intriguing house, but Zampano was blind. Something came for Zampano, something with claws, and Zampano was gone.
Johnny has his notes and works on finishing the book, but Johnny has his own problems. His life seems to fall apart. He starts having terrible nightmares, that end up infecting his daily life, his job, and his love life.
The story of the house soon emerges. There’s a man called Navidson, that’s his last name actually; he’s a fairly famous photo-journalist. His long-time partner is named Karen. They move to Virginia with their two children. The house is nice enough, but Navidson wants to document his life, his marriage. He puts cameras up in the house. One day when the family is away a new closet appears in the master bedroom. It wasn’t there before. The inside of the house is exactly 1/4″ larger than the outside of the house. They think that maybe some errant carpenter broke into the house and played an elaborate prank on the family, but nothing was ever caught on the cameras in the house.
Another day and a new hallway appears. It’s a full five minutes long. It’s the first time Navidson puts out a video about the strangeness of the house. He soon enlists his brother and a few friends to investigate the hallway. It’s cold. It’s dark. The hallway expands. They find a stair case. The team mounts expeditions into the interior of the house. They hear growls. The house changes almost right before their eyes. There is something in the house.
Karen has not wanted her husband to go into the house, but his curiosity just cannot be subsided. He goes anyway. Karen leaves.
Meanwhile, Johnny’s life keeps getting more complicated. He loses time. He doesn’t know where the weeks went. He thinks about his mother. He thinks about the strange house. Should he go find it? On his journey, he meets other people who have heard of the five-minute hallway and the house. There’s a book.
Even though Karen has had a lukewarm feeling towards her husband at times, she feels that she cannot live without him. She goes back to the house to search for her husband.
What I liked
This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read. It’s got a mystery, multiple mysteries actually, but it’s written in a strange manner. There are footnotes galore and most of them aren’t real. The things they reference aren’t real things. They’re false quotes. They’re made up. Some of the footnotes are real though. The narrator’s story is actually told through footnotes, as well as Zampano’s story. Some of the footnotes have footnotes. Some of the text is backwards. Sometimes, you have to turn the book upside down. There’s even code in the book.
I love this idea of a structure that can change itself on its own. Structures are man-made, and therefore, man defined. Something changing without us changing it is unfathomable. This is why something like an artificial intelligence that goes rogue is so scary. Artificial Intelligence’s are created by man and therefore shouldn’t be able to act on their own, but if they could, wouldn’t that be scary? Getting back to the story, a house cannot change on its own because it’s a house. It has a defined set of blueprints. There is no deviation of those blueprints. A house changing on its own would basically be like your dresser deciding that it needed an entirely new row of drawers and they just appeared. It’s impossible, or at least highly improbable. If it actually happened, it would be incredibly scary. Mindbending.
What I didn’t like
This book was so difficult to follow. My boyfriend gave me this book and I was determined to read it. It’s a very interesting book, but constantly switching back and forth between footnotes can be a bit exhausting. It takes more work to read than a normal book. This is not a book you read lightly. If you’re looking for something to read at a more leisurely pace, this isn’t it, but still very interesting.
If your house suddenly grew a new room, what room would you hope it was?
Would you be scared if your house sprouted a new room?