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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

House of Leaves (2000) by Mark Danielewski


Book Review
House of Leaves (2000)
by Mark Danielewski

   Like Donnie Darko or Infinite Jest, House of Leaves is a love it or hate it proposition, an 800+ page book containing a half dozen different narrative voices, typefaces, page layouts and the most footnotes in a novel I've ever seen outside of the aforementioned Infinite Jest, which, now that I think about it, used end-notes, not footnotes.   The two major narratives in House of Leaves are about a purported documentary film about a house that contains infinite space inside of it AND a story, told in the footnotes, of a late 20th century LA hipster type who discovers the manuscript about the documentary film in the bedsit of a Bukoswski like deceased hobo.

  I was astonished- astonished- to learn for the first time of this book via the 1001 Books project. Not because I particularly liked it or anything like that, but just that it very much seems like something someone I know would have read or told me about.  It may be simply that it was published at a time- I was in law school in 2001- when I wasn't really tracking on new books.   The copy I read- a 2nd edition, is the cleaned up, big budget version that includes not only the novel but a companion piece, called The Whalestoe Letters, which are letters written by the institutionalized mother of the LA hipster type who authors one of the two major narratives in the book.

  At times, the "infinite house" at the center of House of Leaves, and the explorations within, seem to comment on the eccentricities of post-modern criticism: People wandering around in an infinite darkness, unable to derive any specific meaning from their experience.   Such postmodern fuckery was hardly novel in 2000, when House of Leaves was published, but Danielewski brings a certain counter-cultural swagger that obviously appealed to the readers who made it such a cult hit. 

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