House of Leaves

“We all create stories to protect ourselves.”

Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves was a Christmas present, requested in desperation because all my relatives were asking what I wanted and you can’t say “I don’t know” a month before Christmas.

It’s another one of those that has been on my radar for a while, because POSTMODERNISM. Imagine a cross between Pale Fire and Night Film, add a few typological tricks and a whole lot more weirdness, and you get something close to House of Leaves.

Ostensibly, it’s a commentary on a film, The Navidson Record, about a family who move out to the country, only to find that there’s something very strange and disturbing going on with their house. Johnny Truant, a young delinquent, finds and edits this commentary, only to discover that no-one has ever even heard of The Navidson Record and that the author of the commentary was blind anyway. But something weird is happening to Johnny, which makes it look like The Navidson Record is true, and bits and pieces from his life keep turning up in the commentary, and it’s all very strange and occasionally like some bizarre dream sequence.

I loved it. As I have noted before, postmodernism is probably my favourite thing ever to happen to literature. I loved that House of Leaves sends you spiralling through the book, lurching forward a hundred pages to find an errant footnote, or backwards to a bit you already read but perhaps didn’t quite understand until now. It’s the kind of book that you could literally spend your whole life studying (of course, this would probably send you as mad as the characters) and trying to understand.

It’s also terrifying. Especially if you’re staying in a hundred-year-old house that keeps making noises in the night, as I was. It’ll keep you awake at night, not because it promises monsters under the bed but because it promises shadows, and dark, and empty infinity. Even during the day it’s faintly troubling.

I loved it. But, on the same note, I would hesitate to recommend it, simply because I’m aware that it would probably annoy a lot of people more than entertain them. And it’s not what you might call an easy read. It leads you into dark labyrinths and out again, and it makes you think about stories, and fear, and horror. But if you do want to read something clever, and scary, and gripping, then by all means try House of Leaves.

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