Monday, November 17, 2014

House of Leaves: A Blurred Reality

House of Leaves is a challenging read, the changing font, colors and blank spaces only add to the heavy content the novel contains. Along with the physical challenges, a home only adds to the complexity of the book. A home can be a lot of things to many different people. It is usually seen as a place of comfort, love and many times a safe haven for people. However the home the Navidson’s move and live in is not referred to as a home, it is referred to as a house. Referring to the place they live as a house immediately disconnects emotional attachments to it. The word “house” used in House of Leaves, is only a small part to the blurred reality the house brings to the book. The house is a symbol in the book and active participant in causing the characters apart of the Navidson family, and Johnny who is reading their story, to loose sense of what is real and what is not. This blurred reality the characters face adds to the challenge of the changing font, spacing, blank space and font color.
The content shows it is not an immediate loss of touch with reality; it seems to happen slowly, and then all at once. In the early chapters odd feelings and things occur making the Navidson family left with feelings of confusion and being uncomfortable The return from a wedding is the start of these uncanny feelings. Additionally this is a pivotal point for Johnny in the novel; he begins to feel that he is being watched. For example Johnny steps out of the parlor he works at for some fresh air, but quickly feels paranoia that a monster with sharp teeth and claws is going to attack him. A person who is physically far from the story of the Navidson’s is already greatly impacted and troubled by the wonders of the house. Additionally in chapter six, the Navidson pets run into the house, through the hallway and out into the back yard. Aside from Mr. Navidson being shocked, confused, and jarred by the event because of its impossibility; this is the first time the house not only affects those in and around it emotionally but also physically manipulates it to create the impossible. This confusion is translated into the font, spacing and color of the physical text, adding to the complexity that the readers themselves are also having feelings of confusion. It creates an off unsettling feeling that the text is not symmetrical or the same, introducing the reader to similar confusion the characters feel.

This manipulation of the physicality of the text and the house starts and continues to intrigue the family and Johnny of its wonders. The hallways and doors become manipulated and change; the interior is larger than the houses exterior. The hallway becomes larger, and with each exploration the time the men are gone become longer. Additionally with each exploration the house causes the men to loose touch of reality. One of the men, Holloway, looses his mind while in this mysterious hallway, killing Jed before committing suicide. Not only is Will Navidson fighting to figure out the reality of the situation, Johnny who is reading their story is so engrossed by this, that his eating habits change, and looses his job, beginning to loose touch with reality in his own life. The incomprehensible changes in this house causes the characters to be intrigued by it, yet fear for their sanity, and inability to grasp what is and is not real in their lives. Although the physical text does not cause us to have insanity while reading there are some parallels of what is occurring the characters, and our expectations when opening and reading a book. I personally have never read a book (excluding children’s books) where the author purposefully creates blank spaces, varies the spacing, of the text including the size and color. It is off-putting and uncomfortable. These small variations having an impact on the reader just start to connect the reader to the characters in the novel.


  1. "However the home the Navidson’s move and live in is not referred to as a home, it is referred to as a house. Referring to the place they live as a house immediately disconnects emotional attachments to it." I thought this was a great point! With so many things going on in this book (font, color, spacing, text arrangement), I never stopped to think about the label of "house." It's interesting that Danielewski says that the "labyrinth is still a house." A house doesn't necessarily mean it is a home, it could simply be an empty shell holding nothing and no one inside. This then, made me think of Bechdel's Fun Home. We talked about the Bechdel family house being more of a prison than a home, as Bruce Bechdel being the warden. I think this similarity of a loss of reality within both of these spaces is something you could possibly explore in future essays or even your final project if you don't have a topic yet. Overall, good job!

  2. The introductory paragraph has almost no real content. The others are ok in some ways, but dangerously general - you don't focus on anything - not a particular visual element or moment in the novel, not a particular thing that happens or a particular character. You bounce wildly from topic to topic, generalizing along the way. It's not that these generalizations are wrong, but they are *easy*. You don't really have much to say here that is focused and particular.

    The best moment, I think, was the very end where you compare HOL to a children's book. Maybe that's just a throwaway line - but it's also something which had the potential to be the heart of a focused argument, if you had taken the thought, explained what you leaned, pointed out some relevant moments in the text, and maybe even involved a particular children's book or two. There is potential here, and it's not like you don't have ideas - it's just that this is rushed and simplistic, rather than taking the time to elaborate what's really worthwhile here.