Author Topic: House of Leaves  (Read 743 times)

Eater of Clowns

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House of Leaves
« on: November 17, 2011, 08:54:52 pm »
I just finished the book proper and I have a few more sections of the Appendix to get through.  A few thoughts, to get the discussion started, and I'd very much like to hear Faust and LMNO's take as mentioned in What Are You Reading?

The most impressive part of the whole thing for me was the chapter regarding the labyrinth.  As I searched for footnotes pages ahead, pages behind, leading to other footnotes, imbedded in yet more footnotes, I of course continued to read the very brief, very detailed history of labyrinths.  Then, all of a sudden, I'm sure exactly as intended, it clicked that the overwhelming, terrifying nature of labyrinths was being demonstrated by the layout of the pages, within the footnotes themselves.  It's jarring and confusing and, I thought, brilliant.  The same tactic is used in several other chapters, but it was this one that really stood out.

Zampano being blind as stated in the beginning of the work becomes important less in the thick description of visuals he provides, but more in that the overall effect of the house was an example of how blindness can be.  Hallways that seem to lengthen, stairs that are sometimes shorter and sometimes longer, paths that change even as you swear you know them.  It's life as the blind, never knowing (in the case of exploring a new space) just what kinds of terrain await you.  And for that, the agoraphobia, the constant unknown, the fears that the book put me through, are just another means to an end instead of being the end that I expected them to be.

I'm not any kind of an in depth reader and that's what I can think of for now.
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Cainad (dec.)

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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2011, 03:13:53 am »
Those are actually pretty neat observations that I hadn't really made. Mostly I just wondered how the hell the one guy wound up sexing all of the women he encountered. I mean, damn.


I guess I was reading it less for symbolic meaning than for the sheer surreality and horror, though. I made a point of reading it at night, in the basement, by myself when I was reading it.

Eater of Clowns

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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2011, 03:32:41 am »
I didn't buy Truant's tales of sexual conquest.  I think based on his deeply unreliable narration and his psychosis, he might have been either conflating his reality with fantasy or, given what I thought was a pretty ambiguous end for him, doing far, far worse things.  Quite a few of these encounters do occur on E, though, so that might lend them some credibility.

And yeah, the book is terrifying, Cainad.  I made a point to not read it alone at night in the dark.  One because the times where I can do that are very limited, but also because the one time I did I spent the next few hours with every light in my apartment on.   :lol:
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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2011, 03:46:43 am »
Yeah, I was at home for the summer, and bored. My bedroom was in the basement, so I decided to deliberately creep myself the FUCK out. The one time I read it upstairs, on the couch, in daylight, with other people around, it just didn't have the same effect. I don't quite know how I managed to sleep those nights.

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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2011, 03:51:02 am »
Now I am intrigued; I may need to read this book.
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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2011, 10:13:38 am »
Hi Eater,

I Hadn't thought of how the labyrinth was how zampano perceived the world. Though It did become clear very early on that the writing layout was itself a labyrinth.
I loved the first explorations into the Maze, but I have a couple of gripes with this book as well. While the layout style was unique, towards the end of the book the writing style really let it down for me, and without good writing it becomes a gimmick.

Not to say that the book is a gimmick because the first half of it is excellent, it just lost direction for the end.

Having mention Truants story and his effective breakdown, I loved the stark contrast of how oppressive and claustrophobic his life was in contrast to the chapters set in huge wide open spaces of the house. His sexual escapades were clearly escapism, he was not leaving that room, and his mind was trying to cope by coming up with ridiculous bawdy tales.
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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2011, 02:26:43 pm »
I was fucking terrified in the first third of the book, amused and entertained by the middle third, and more or less let down with the ending.  I felt that Truant's narrative was the weakest of the three, and most prone to falling into cliche.  The Whalestone Letters were fascinating -- I actually read those sections of the book to decode the secret messages his mom was sending (and some of those were chilling when you have to let them slowly emerge letter by letter).  But his descent into madness was not nearly as interesting as Zapanos or Navidson's.  Perhaps I was expecting something different.  Maybe I wanted his crash to be more related to the house, or maybe even have it emerge that he was some how symbolically transforming into the minotaur and having that play out between him and Thumper. 
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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2011, 04:33:27 pm »
Rough summary of what's the book about btw? I'm intrigued?
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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2011, 04:37:47 pm »
Rough summary of what's the book about btw? I'm intrigued?

Post-moder horror story intertwining three (or more) unreliable narratives, containing multiple hidden jokes, puzzles, clues, and random bits, and with a layout format that is, for the lack of a better word, confusingly interactive.

"Junkie finds a blind man's movie critique about a documentarian's adventures in a non-euclidian house.  Terror ensues."
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"Get offa me, you freaks!  This is not North Korea.  No.  This is America, and I expect to be PAID for that sort of nonsense.  In advance.  No credit...Cash on the barrelhead or GTFO.  I swear to God, there's nothing more annoying than commie perverts who don't understand the intrinsic value of the free market system."

Eater of Clowns

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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2011, 05:54:26 pm »
My thing about the layout is that at times, it was used well to build tension at the more horrifying parts of the book.  The entire chapter on echoes, very in depth, very lovingly crafted, was a set up for the one line where they could hear their own echoes before the hallway.  It almost would have been a distraction if it weren't for the fact that this one detail became so powerful.

Truant's mother's letters were intensely disturbing.  I did decode the jibberish one by furiously typing the first letter of each word into a document and reading it afterward.  I don't think I believe it, as intense as it is.  The Whalestoe is either an abusive facility or a typically careful one.  Given the time frame of her stay there being in the 80s, when mental health facilities were largely reforming following the revelation of what used to go on (Christmas in Purgatory), I think it was all a product of his mother's paranoid delusions.  It also wouldn't fit that Truant's father, who is one of the few characters regarded as a decent and caring individual, would drop his wife off at an abusive place.

I do agree that Truant's interjections were the weakest part by far.  He was so unreliable that barely a word of it is believable.  I think he did actually care for Thumper, and his inability to act in regards to their friendship highlights that his other sexual conquests are falsified.  But what doesn't make sense is Gdansk Man and uh...Karen?  Kelsie?  Whatever the translator's name was.  Clearly something happened between them in order for Gdansk Man to attempt vicious revenge on Truant, and we see that Johnny's not very good with women.  Was she drugged?  Did he actually rape her?  Because that would fit why both she and her boyfriend sought out Truant and Lude.

Johnny's last entry was the story of the mother with the premature birth in the hospital and the kid who, the way it's made to sound, didn't actually make it.  Was that his own mother, and a wishful fantasy that he'd never actually survived?  Too many questions for that section.

The real strength of it, as you guys mentioned, is The Navidson Record.  The roaring heard from the house wasn't even all that scary to me.  It was the house itself.  The movement, the sheer unfathomable hugeness of the whole thing.  The darkness and the uncertainty.  I don't even know how I feel about the minotaur.  On some level it existed, as the roaring and as a general presence in the labyrinth.  It even existed physically as seen by the gouges on Zampano's floor.  But what is symbolized, what its purpose was, is totally beyond me.
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Re: House of Leaves
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2011, 07:50:54 pm »
One of the best buys I made. Still reading, but I already like it. And the descriptions of the psychotic breakdowns are top notch stuff.
I didn't considered it as scary; more on the thrilling and funny side of things.
Also, one of the best books to read in crowded places.
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