Monday, November 24, 2014

House of Leaves

Danielewski’s creative use of word placement helps to further enhance the story.  He often uses words to create shapes and figures to challenge the reader.  One section that I believe encompasses his style is on pages 440 and 441.  This section of the story is about Navidson climbing up rungs which lead up a narrow shaft.  The text is shifted to a portrait style giving it a taller appearance.  The text starts from the left and then spirals toward the middle text.  The lines are separated into short lines of two or three words.  The shape of the words creates a narrow shaft.  The passage has gaps between each pair of lines making it look like the rungs in the story.  

This section puts an importance on climbing and the vertical meaning. Danielewski makes the reading go from bottom to top giving the reader a feeling of climbing vertically.  The footnote uses a down arrow which contradicts the climbing action.  Short sentences with paired line spacing are also used in the footnote, however this time it looks like the rungs on a ladder.  It is interesting that the footnote talks about above and below being Heaven and Hell.  A person that doesn’t believe in Heaven and Hell still corresponds above and below with this meaning.  This footnote is used to go back to the fact that the hallway could be a gateway to one of these places.  The hallway changes depending on the person entering.  They are figuratively and literally being stripped of everything when they enter the hallway.

The mention of climbing a mountain is brought up again.  This time a reasoning is shown as “The climbing of a mountain reflects redemption.”  The person trying to reach this high achievement of climbing a mountain is looking for some redemption from a past mistake.  Traveling through the hallway in hope of finding something seems like an impossible task.  Everyone in the group, if they show it or not, has a reason to keep searching.  The fame they see attached to investigating the hallway is greater than just showing it to the media.
There is another section which I would like to point out that involves the predicament of direction.  On page 432, it seems like the words are randomly scattered on the page.  However, the words travel down and then up the page.  Eventually they branch from the word “it” and have identical endings.  This makes the sentence seem like a maze within the text.  The reader has to choose which direction to go from the word “it.”  Either choice doesn’t matter since they have the same ending sentence.  This is comparable to a maze having two dead ends.  The next page blatantly says “direction no longer matters.”  Danielewski cleverly plays off this by showing the words right and left separated by large space.  The word “right” is on the left side of the page and the word “left” is on the right side.  This further demonstrates that Navidson has lost all sense of direction.  The page ends with it mentioning the camera being on a tripod and the bottom has the words separated into three columns like the feet of a tripod.  It is hard to tell what the top of the page is displaying.  I was looking for a deeper meaning in how the width of the sentences shrink as it goes down.  The first sentence (Then he bikes down a hundred yards and lights four more flares) has twelve words which is the number of flares he puts on the ground.  The number of words in the sentence shrinks by 5, 7, 11, 10, and 11 if compared to the first sentence.  The change in width could probably show the distance which the flares are being placed.  Two parallel straight lines angle toward the middle when viewed from a far distance.

The idea of the hallway is such a strange concept to try to comprehend.  The use of adjectives and the most detailed description wouldn’t capture what they experienced.  Going back to the videos of the expeditions, people who watched it said that they couldn’t really grasp the massiveness of the room.  Reading the book is restrictive similar to watching the video.  The text can say a room is miles wide, but does that really make the reader feel what that means?  One way to close the description gap of the hallway situation is to physically change how the person reads the story.  I found myself bending and twisting the book to try to decipher the meaning.    Changing the normal way of reading creates uneasiness and in a way fear.


  1. I really like your analysis of page 440 and 441. I agree with your argument that the formatting references a ladder and connects with Navy's ascension in the story. Your comment that the arrow contradicts the behavior is interesting, and I think it would be even better if you described more of what this contradiction does for the story, or at least this segment of it.
    I think your third paragraph starts to drift away from the topic you brought up in your introduction and continued with in the second paragraph. I don't disagree with what you're saying, but it doesn't integrate very well. Perhaps you could change your thesis to be more about the changes of direction in text to make this more connected. The last paragraph doesn't make much sense to me; it doesn't have anything to do with the topics you just discussed.
    I think you start off with a good idea and good evidence to prove your argument, but you stray away too much and add other, unnecessary points. I think the first two paragraphs are well done, the third is a new argument (but still interesting), and the last paragraph strays too much away from your ideas.

  2. Suzanne's response is good on all counts. You start out pretty well (although maybe even at the beginning your argument is a little too subordinate to your description of the text - the two are not absolutely separate, but you lean a little too hard on the wrong side of the equation, I think), and then drift away from where you need to be - making an argument - and toward just making a number of interesting observations about the text.

    It is an interesting moment in the text, after all, and you do have interesting things to say about it, but the parts that are actually worth pursuing are disproportionately at the beginning. The heaven/hell, contradiction and tripod are all good, but rather than building on that into why those elements matter to the text as a whole, you drift away.

    You end on the uneasiness the text induces in you by forcing particular interactions. That's a decent topic too, of course, although it would have been much more effective if you'd started with it rather than ending with it.