Monday, November 24, 2014

The Space Between (Without Dave Matthews)

The Space Between
            Throughout House of Leaves, Danielewski makes use of spacing to effect the reader or the story in certain ways. The beginning of chapter XI, spanning from page 246 to 252, presents an example of this merging of space, words, and meaning. The section mainly pertains to a brief history of the relationship between Tom and Will Navidson. Danielewski’s formatting and use of spacing helps to present the background more clearly, and represents, symbolically, major themes within the section.
            The section in question is formatted most closely to a newspaper. The writing style is also consistent with that found in newspapers. When viewed in context with its content, the reasoning behind this becomes apparent. The section is backstory. It mainly helps to develop Tom and Will through anecdotal evidence as well as biblical references  (Danielewski 251). Newspapers often share much the same content, therefore this section is formatted like a newspaper. It is development of a character(s) after the fact with analysis weaved through. This helps break the reader from the otherwise chaotic formatting present in the book. It clearly sets the section apart as a “character development section” or “character information.” Evidence of the “character building” news-style is present in the content. On page 250, “Tom, however, never hid behind…” It is information regarding Tom’s character, who he is, what he stood for, all presented in the past tense as is typical of news articles.
            Continuing with the use of space and formatting in a news style as a means of presenting information, Danieliewski makes use of lines, symbols, and letters as breaks between bits of information. Reference any major newspaper’s “World” or “Quick news” section and the similarities between such things and the book becomes apparent. Particularly prolific is the use of “rzzzzzzzzzzz” as a section break, similar to a line break between multiple stories. It is through these snippets that Tom’s background is developed. For example, one small snippet deals with Tom’s childhood “During their childhood…” followed by a “rzzzzzzzz” break and the jump to Tom’s later life and development “Tom, however….” (250). This formatting allows Danielewski to break from the minimalism of the previous section and the chaos of the rest of the story in order to clearly talk about Tom and Will’s relationship, childhood, and estrangement.
            Lastly, the news-style columns and section breaks, symbolically show the divide between Will and Tom. Tom is the passive, soft brother, whereas Will is the aggressive, ambitious brother, and through these differences, as well as their different career endeavors and struggles, a major characteristic of their relationship is their opposition. Something of importance is said at the very beginning. “Will Navidson headed for the front line, Tom spent two nights in no mans land,” (246).  In looking at the formatting and the content, it begins to look like trench lines with no man’s land in between. Each column is a brother, and on each page they are separated, opposed, apart. Perhaps they mean something else, but the “rzzzzzz” page breaks begin to look like rolls of barbed wire, and like their real world counterpart they represent differing sides, opposition. They separate the issues, the different things that create the space between Tom and Will Navidson.
            At first glance, the subtleties of the beginning of chapter XI may not be apparent, but upon looking at the formatting and the content in conjunction it becomes clear the section mainly serves as a means of presenting Tom and Will Navidson, and personifying their relationship of opposition through the spacing and section breaks.


Danielewski, Mark Z. Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. 2nd ed. New York: Pantheon, 2000. Print.

1 comment:

  1. This is a compact and generally clever approach to the chapter in question. I'd never given pause and thought about the meaning of the columnar layout before, but like everything else it has a purpose, and I think your analysis is quite convincing, at least initially so. The visual representation of the rifts between them (but not only between them - also between them and the world, in some sense) is important, as you say (the metaphor of the barbed wire is nice if slightly overwrought).

    What's absent here? Your analysis of the columnar layout and the role of the text as background material is great. But you omit any sort of reading to the use of Genesis here, not to mention of Hebrew scholarship as a way of understanding it. I think that's important, because you need to be asking, at least in an early, tentative way, what the relationship is between the newspaper formatting and the way in which the chapter is a response to a section of Genesis (my possibly lame initial thought is that both Genesis and the standard American newspaper have very particular ideas about history and objectivity which are thematically related to the book).

    So your work here is good but also rushed and incomplete - without addressing the Jacob/Esau conflict in any way, it seems *very* incomplete, despite its virtues.