Monday, November 17, 2014

Changing Font in House of Leaves

House of Leaves is a challenge to read for many reasons, and one of which is the visible differences in structure of the print as the book progresses.  The way the text is formatted in some parts reflects the plot of the story of The Navidson Record, and in others might reflect more of what Truant is feeling, or in some cases doesn’t appear to make any sense at all.  One visual aspect that begins earlier in the book and resurfaces on page 179 is the change in font of the footnotes to switch to Truant’s perspective.  Not only is this change meant to be an aid in determining perspective, but also points to the greater structure of House of Leaves and how it is not just one story but two stories running parallel.
            Truant is a young man who has stumbled upon a collection of works written by an old man that he had nothing to do with, but we see him become wrapped up in Zampono’s story and in the process he begins to lose his sanity.  He has no cause to want to piece together the forgotten work, let alone contribute to the story with footnotes.  But he does much more than that.  The change from the Times New Roman of the tale of Navidson to the blocky type style of Truant’s footnotes signifies how his story is becoming just as important as the house on Ash Tree Lane.  Comparing to other footnotes that are not about Truant or from his line of thought, we see that they are in the same font as the Navidson Record meaning that they are only meant to be used as a help to the story.  Truant’s thoughts receive their own special recognition of existence and so we elevate his words to the same or greater importance than Navidson.
            The amount of space that is given to Truant’s anecdotes is also indicative of his story’s significance, and relates to the change in font in how it affects the reader’s view of the book.  There are many pages leading up to page 179 that are about Navidson and are written in Times New Roman, so the reader gets used to this and expects it to continue.  The amount of writing per page is very short however and contributes to the impact of the font change.  On page 179 we switch to Truant speaking and a whole two pages are devoted to him and his representative font before the pattern of shortened pages returns.  Because so much of that font is presented to us we grow accustomed to that instead, so when the font changes again we feel that impact as well.  Whether or not this lack of continuity proves frustrating to the reader is irrelevant.  It forces the reader to level both perspectives with each other because input is being received from both in such different ways.  The reader’s focus is split between the font of Truant and the font of Zampono’s story and thus each story gets the same amount of attention.  They are set equal in this way because the stories are running parallel to each other and aren’t completely unconnected.  We are watching the The Navidson Record unfold in its own sphere with its own characteristics, such as its font, and we are also an audience to the life stories of Johnny Truant as they are told in the splits of the other story.  Truant, however, is aware of the other story and is capable of being affected by it.  This serves as a bridge between the two worlds and their subsequent fonts.  The one thing that seems to be a significant presence in both is concept of fear, in particular the fear of unknown.  It referred to as “creature darkness” in both narratives, and represents the antagonist for both parties, actual unknown and possible danger for Navidson and the Holloway party, and the mental state of danger for Truant.  Both are affected by this creature darkness, and the toll it takes is represented by the fading away of two fonts by the end of this section.  As Truant continues to share more of his stories he feels the creature closing in, saying, “Then again perhaps in finding my clearing I’ll only make myself an easier prey for the real terror that tracks me, waiting beyond the perimeter…(180)”  In the other story, the unknown closes in literally on Navidson as the doors slam shut around them.  By now many pages have passed without comment from Truant, because the stories are drawing close on their parallel tracks and the need for two fonts has subsided.  What is happening to both sets of perspectives is practically the same.

            The use of changing fonts through the first 250 pages of House of Leaves helps differentiate between speakers and points of view.  What it also does is to establish the import of both stories as separate entities and how they are running similar courses.  What can often happen with two similar tales is that they merge, and the fading confliction of two fonts represents this moment.


  1. Sorry, I posted this comment yesterday, but checked today and saw that it was not up! I think you're right that the fonts emphasize the fact that Traunt's story is just as important as Zampano's, but this doesn't seem like an argument to me. It seems rather obvious that his story is important since he is one of the narrator's. I am wondering more about what you think the importance of with including both stories in different fonts. Perhaps, how should we read the stories differently because they are in different fonts? Also, I think you could add the parts about the Minotaur in red font and possibly even the highlighting of house with blue font. I think to make this essay successful, you could incorporate multiple elements of Danielewski's fonts to make a point about the story as a whole.
    I'm confused about the paragraph where you talk about the stories connecting. I think it's true they have similarities, but it seems to stay from your ideas that the two fonts make them separate. If you are going to make a connection about them being the same, I think you should try to incorporate the main ideas of the essay into it. In addition, I feel like certain parts of the book focus more on Zampano or Johnny, but that the contrast does not completely fade at any part in the story.
    Overall, I think you need to make a clear thesis that argues something about how the font affects the story rather than stating more obvious facts. I think a better idea of an argument will also fix the contradictions with similarities and differences, or at least make them connect better.

  2. Like Suzanne, I had a little trouble making the connections here. The beginning of your essay is straighforward and ok, but also a little obvious - a little too much like just a summary, although I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's *strictly* a summary. It's just that it leans a little too far toward being a description rather than an argument.

    The third paragraph is where it gets interesting. You clearly have something to say here, but what you seem to be trying to do (connect the *content* of "Creature Darkness" to the form of the changing-but-balanced fonts) is interesting and seems worthwhile, but it's also confusing and underdeveloped. You needed to dig a little bit deeper, and work a little longer, to really make the connection you see between form and content here make sense to the rest of us. Again, there's nothing bad here - it just needed fleshed out and developed.