House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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[Edit: Originally published April 25, 2016]

I didn’t actually know what this book was about until I read the jacket copy upon opening the package it had come in. I knew it was post-modern and about a house, but that was it. 

So I opened it and began to read. It was nothing I expected and everything that I didn’t know I wanted. It’s formatted as an analytic text, pieced together by a narrator of sorts. In it you get two stories. The story that the analytic text tells, of a family in a house, and the story of the man who pieced that story together. 

The analytic text is the main portion. It is an analysis of a movie about a house that this family of four has moved into for a chance to start over. You pull the story about what happened to this family from the analysis of it. As you figure it out, the story is interrupted by the “narrator” who pieced the book together. He tells his own stories, about how he put the book together as well as just stories about his life. 

When I call the main body of text and analysis I really mean it. There are parts of it that are borderline scientific, complete with formula’s and everything. Yet I found myself plowing through segments that, had they been an assigned reading for a class, I would have hemmed and hawed and then would have skimmed them at the very last minute before class.

As normal as it starts out, the book’s “form” eventually breaks down and you’re finding yourself holding the book up to a mirror in order to read some of the text and turning it upside down and sideways to read others. Saying it loses form would be incorrect. Form is incredibly important to the book, but the form changes. It becomes less and less run-of-the-mill-book-like.

I don’t want to tell too much, for fear of spoiling a book. It is a book, I think, best approached, with only the barest knowledge of what you’re getting into. You read the cover. You read the introduction, you read the book. 

One thing I will say about reading the book is that you must read the footnotes as you go (yes even the footnotes within the footnotes). Don’t think you can get away with not reading them, because they are part of the story. Also, if there’s a note about something in the Appendixes I would highly recommend popping back to check it out before continuing.  

Trigger warnings: There is discussion of a rape in a coded letter dated May 8, 1987, in Appendix II — E pages 620-623. The discussion of rape is in the code, so if you don’t want to read it, just don’t decode the letter. There is also mentions of rape, abuse, and child sexual assault in some parts of the “narrator’s” writing. There is also some pretty graphic descriptions of violence and gore.

The book can be found here.

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