House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Britton Smith, Staff Writer

It’s safe to say that a certain line exists between rational entertainment and art: entertainment of logic and entertainment of heart. What House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski does is not only cross this line, but also completely destroy it.

You won’t find a theme within these pages, only a warning: This is not for you. Heed the warning; nothing will prepare you for the 709 pages of madness that lie ahead.

A simple summary of this book is impossible because quite simply, its complexities are too great to allow for such baseness. However, one must be base for the sake of clarity.

In its simplest form, House of Leaves is the story of a family who moves into a house in Virginia that is impossibly larger on the inside than on the out. Several hi-8 video recorders, documenting every terrible thing that happens in that house, record the madness that haunts the family. Still with me? OK, get ready.

The story of the house is told in the form of an analytical account of the house and its inhabitants, entitled “The Navidson Report,” which is written by an old man named Zampano and is essentially a collection of all his notes and research on the house, family, and tapes from the house.

Something worth mentioning is that Zampano is blind. He could not have possibly seen any of the tapes contained in the house. Zampano is found dead at the beginning of the book by one of his apartment complex neighbors, Johnny Truant, who finds Zampano’s report on the house and becomes obsessed with it. His notes on the report are present throughout the novel as well, making this a story within a story within a story.

Let’s go back through that: the story of a teenager reading the report of an old man on the tapes and mystery of a house that the Navidson family lives in. How could it possibly get any more complex?

The format of this book is pure chaos.

Fonts change; writing goes up, down, left, and right; pages are left blank; narrative styles change; subjects are tossed around like a conversation at lunch (there is a twenty page chapter on the essence and physics behind echoes).

Everything about this book seems to be trying to confuse the reader, but in this chaos is the genius; it isn’t supposed to make sense. The more you fight and try to understand what is going on, the more helpless you feel.

It is only when rational thought is let go of that the beauty of the novel shines through: House of Leaves is whatever you want it to be to you.

Whatever details the mind focuses on throughout the book are the details that make the book have meaning to the individual. And if it is too chaotic for one to handle and one gets nothing out of it, the book still fulfills its purpose; to mean whatever it needs to the individual reading it, even if that is nothing.

In this essence, House of Leaves is not just a novel; it is a work of art and needs to be approached as such. Any other way will not do it justice.

The warning is right; this is not for you. But if you’re up for a challenge from a book that will stay with you for a long time to come, take the plunge.

Take the plunge and don’t look back, you’ll have gone deeper into the house than you’d have thought. And from there, the house will change you. Let it. Don’t fight. Just let the chaos engulf you.