Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Echo Isn't The Same.

            An echo is produced by the reverberations of sound against objects that will reflect the wave back to your ears. This sounds like someone throwing your words back at you. While the words are exactly the same, in your exact voice, they still remain slightly different from the interaction with the environment. An echo can be akin to a story. One who reads a book multiple times sees how each time, while the same book or the same passage, through re-reading in a different lens the story may take on new meaning, or certain subtleties revealed. An author who very much understood the power of an echo was Pierre Menard. He did not simply copy Don Quixote he became it and wrote it word for word, albeit just certain sections but still. Jorge Luis Borges in a short story, titled Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote discusses the importance of Pierre Menard’s work. He sees the Quixote through Menards eyes as an entirely different work because it was done by an entirely different author. The text is richer and stronger.
            Mark Danielewksi’s debut novel House of Leaves offers an homage to this short story by Borges in his footnotes section. These footnotes come in two different voices. Through the original writer of this “Navidson Record”, Zampano and the finder of the record, Jimmy Truant. Zampano echoes Borges. A certain line in Quixote is presented and when both Borges and Zampano read it from the original author’s voice they only see it as a sentence written without much thought. Then the same exact line written by Pierre Menard suddenly has layers of meaning behind it. Jimmy Truant sees this as blasphemy. He cannot take it, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot see the distinction. They are in fact word for word the same exact piece.
            In the end Danielewski is attempting to make a point about his characters in the novel. Each one has his own voice and adds his own meaning to the writing, despite making no physical changes. Much like listening to the album Haunted by Poe is an entirely different experience when listened in isolation compared to in conjunction with House of Leaves, as they feed off one another. This “Navidson Record” written by Zampano, and reorganized/reproduced by Jimmy Truant is an echo and precisely what Pierre Menard did with Don Quixote. Jimmy Truant as explained in the introduction was living a fairly normal life. Then his friend, who had recently found out one of the tenants had died in his building, showed him the room of aforementioned dead tenant. This room somehow deeply effected Jimmy and causes him to need to finish the “Navidson Record” which the old man, Zampano, had dedicated his life to. Jimmy slowly begins to structure his life similarly to Zampano, his room begins to reflect that of Zampano’s, and his concentration begins to solely be placed on the work.
            While Jimmy is using and writing the exact work Zampano did. His ideas are pervasive and effect the meaning of each passage. His footnotes are incredibly important to the understanding of the piece as a hole. Zampano’s footnotes, while important for citing and translating do not offer much to the text itself. Jimmy’s in contrast brings it back down to earth, makes it accessible and also connects it to his life. It is the visual representation of Pierre Menards work. Borges states that Menard destroyed all drafts and such to only have one full text be the representation of his pursuit to becoming the author of Quixote. Jimmy on the other hand with his footnotes provides that window into his soul, and the meaning behind the text takes on a whole new format. You search for the meaning behind Menard’s work, as Jimmy points out “how the fuck do you write about ‘exquisite variation’ when both passages are exactly the same” (Danielewski 42).
            Both passages are the same but entirely different. The house takes one over, and morphs the author into trying to complete this work. Zampano did it very sloppily and scattered. Jimmy does all he can to rework and organize the work, yet inevitably without trying changes it to his voice, with keeping it the same. The original author does everything effortlessly and it comes freely to them. While the reproducer, in trying to become the original, unknowingly begins to write it newly and the work has much more meaning the second time around just by the fact it was thought about harder.


  1. I really like the introduction! However, you mention, "Then the same exact line written by Pierre Menard suddenly has layers of meaning behind it." You fail to mention the layers of meaning behind it. While you move into your argument based off of Danielewski's take on it, your first mistake is in Johnny's name. Perhaps Jimmy Corrigan in still in your head. "While Jimmy is using and writing the exact work Zampano did. His ideas are pervasive and effect the meaning of each passage." Again, how? The body of this essay appears to be a statement of ideas without any explanation. I like your closing thought that Johnny is becomming as obsessed with the house as Zampaò was, but I just need to see some evidence. In a revision, I would include support for all the interesting claims that you make. I would also consider Pierre Menard's work more thoroughly, as I don't really see any supporting evidence from your current work. As a Spanish minor, I know and understand the importance of repetition and pronunciation. I would perhaps do some research on the Spanish language as well and see what sources have to say about the inclusion of repeats and echoes.

  2. I liked the introduction too, like Kellyn, although I'm not at all sure why. Her second sentence makes an important point - I think you have a sense of what the layers of meaning *are* (I suspect for you they have to do with the personalities of the characters - this might have been a place to make that clear). I also agree with Kellyn that you repeatedly say interesting things without really explaining them - you have good ideas, but you say them and/or generalize about them and move on, rather than proving them or working them through in detail.

    You *do* start to work with some good details, in all fairness. Menard is like Z. - great observation. If you had read Piere Menard (I don't think you did) you could have taken the next step, connecting Johny to the ostensible "author" of the story Pierre Menard. You're doing some good things here, connecting writing styles (destructive and scattered, vs controlling and gathering) to personalities, but you generalize too much, and you don't dig as much into the relevant details as you could, although there is a lot of potential here.