Monday, November 17, 2014

Danielewski's Patterns

Throughout the second section of House of Leaves, the text started to rearrange in a variety of different ways. Although they do not make any sense to me, I found that Danielewski incorporated these visual text changes into patterns. These patterns are then related to the actual information he presents to us in the text. On pages 119 to 145, Danielewski uses squares to incorporate text within text. The blue outline of the squares distinguishes it from the rest of the page. It is also important to note that on the left side of the page, the words within the square are written backwards and on the right side, they are written in a normal left to right fashion. This signifies a mirroring action, although the words are not the same, nor do they match up with one another. This happens on every page in this section. I also noticed a recurring pattern of an endless list of names on the side footnote panels. The left side of the page presented the names normally, whereas the right side showed them upside down. A second pattern I noticed was the use of fragmented words on pages 194 to 205 and again on pages 217 to 238. The majority of the page was left blank, with a few words on each.
I believe the overall pattern theme correlates to Navidson’s three short, three long shot pattern. On page 102, it is stated Tasha K. Wheelston discovered Navidson’s pattern of editing. He sequenced his footage into a very specific cadence. Wheelston uses Navidson’s SOS as an example. She found that Navidson had specifically incorporated the film roll into the sequence. He alternates between three shots with short durations and three shots with longer durations. Going further into patterns, in chapter IX, the very first text we see is “laboriosus exitus domus” in Latin, translated as, “the house difficult of exit.” The house has been labeled as a maze and/or a labyrinth and has been related to the story of King Minos and the Minotaur’s labyrinth. “So Daedalus designed his winding maze;/ And as one entered it, only a wary mind/ Could find an exit to the world again-/ Such was the cleverness of that strange arbour” (115). Much like with the Minotaur, no one ever sees the house’s labyrinth in its entirety and the comprehension of its intricacies must always be derived from within. Even when Holloway and his team kicked down the walls in their explorations, it only just led to another border to another interior (119). Every room, corridor and staircase they found all had specific patterns of arrangement. Even the changes and shifts of these were patterned.  
I think this relates to the constant shifting of the text. It seems as though the story goes through phases, where each section presents a different pattern. It is also said that the labyrinth is still in fact a house. On page 128, Jed is seen “fist rapping” against the floor. This is related back to the same exact sound and timbre as the knocks heard pages earlier back in the living room. This is one way that the text represents a labyrinth. Furthermore, on page 136, the story of Hudson and his attempt to find the Northwest Passage is told. He head across the arctic waters and ended up at the Hudson Bay. His men were described as being in “a labyrinth without end.” Hudson, his son and seven others were forced into a shallop without food and water, and were never heard from again. They were lost in the labyrinth. This is a clear parallel to Holloway and his men, Jed and Wax. They go on a dangerous exploration where they did not take enough provisions to last the duration of their trip and although they made all efforts to keep track of their path, their efforts failed. Wax ended up getting clawed at and his leg was bleeding profusely. “Holloway found himself with men, who, short of reserves and faith, insisted on turning back.” The one difference, however, is that Holloway went willingly into the labyrinth, whereas Hudson did not. On page 168, Danielewski writes, “Unlike the real world, Navidson’s journey into the house is not just figuratively but literally shortened.” This is reflective of how the words on pages 194 to 205 and 217 to 238 are shortened and choppy. On page 191, they find Jed with “ashen features as he faces what he has come to believe is his final moment.” This is the same scene where Jed and Wax were at a standstill due to Wax’s injury. The growling noise was closing around them and then they heard the door being opened. Danielewski, by not telling us what comes through the door, leads us to believe it is the creature lurking in the dark halls. Later on, through the perspective of Navidson and his rescue team, it is revealed that it is them that walks through to door to see Was and Jed in the hallway.
Furthermore, chapter X states that “every house is an architecturally structured ‘path’: the specific possibilities of movement and the drives toward movement as one proceeds from the entrance through the sequence of spatial entities have been pre-determined by the architectural structuring of that space and one experiences the space accordingly.” Through this, I believe that Danielewski has some method to his pattern madness, although I personally have not discovered it yet. Some critics believe the house’s mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it. “The house, the halls, and the rooms all become the self – collapsing, expanding, tilting, closing, but always in perfect relation to the mental state of the individual.” Maybe the book is supposed to be different for each reader, where his or her psychological states and assumptions give the book a different meaning.  

Through all of the evidence seen above, I believe the book itself is a labyrinth. It is telling a story about a labyrinth, the text on the pages is a labyrinth - with a constant change of storyline switch ups with the footnotes and the actual story - and the switch up of ways in which Danielewski presents the texts with squares, spacing and blank spaces.  I also think that the book is a labyrinth in which readers must figure out, through the interpretation of the patterns presented to them. The constant switch of patterns is parallel to the constant changes within the house. The patterns of time and the eventual connections that the story makes also prove this belief.

1 comment:

  1. You seem to be indicating that your basic insight is that the text is a labyrinth, like the house. This is a pretty basic insight, not in itself worth pursuing - the devil is in the details, though. That is, there might be *specific* things to be said about how and why it is a labyrinth that are very much worth exploring.

    The insight that the endlessly shifting text corresponds with the physical shifts in the house itself has a lot going for it. Ideally I would have liked that as your starting point, and for you to have focused on direct relationships between the shifting text and the shifting maze. You do this well in several places within your essay - for instance, "On page 168, Danielewski writes, “Unlike the real world, Navidson’s journey into the house is not just figuratively but literally shortened.” This is reflective of how the words on pages 194 to 205 and 217 to 238 are shortened and choppy. "

    You do some analysis, then, of what the details of the labyrinth's form. I would have liked you to focus on this kind of thing - maybe just a few details - and think harder about what these details mean. Your specifics are good, but this essay is nonetheless scattered, and could do with a more focused argument.