This book seems to be mostly a novel that pokes fun at the world of critics. He spends the majority of his time with the footnotes that ramble on and on, many contradicting the previous one or noting how William P. Langley wrote a wonderful 584 page thesis on Tom's use of the word up in scene seven. He deliberately breaks up the action to insert useless footnotes and then adds one here and there to keep you checking to see if you're missing anything important. The only person in the book who has any introspection or voice is the high school drop out drug addict Johnny. I see the book as a statement about how ridiculous literary criticism has become. Maybe I'm wrong but any English major should feel that familiar sense of the absurd when reading this book.
English major here! I know I am two years late but...
I believe the author's prolific usage of footnotes (some of which contain facts that aren't even true!) was to induce a sense of claustrophobia whist reading. House of Leaves is a novel that intends to evoke fear, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia into the reader psychologically.
U of Penn English grad here. Hmm. I don't really find absurdity in academic footnotes per se. Maybe some. In a lot of critical theory, yes. In Derrida, for sure! But mostly I find Derrida annoying. I'm not sure. The thing is, if the footnotes were meant to be a parody I didn't find their content to be really apt or canny enough. It was too clumsy. After reading enough of the footnotes to know they were fluff, I just began skipping them. I had no reason to think they would make a difference, because I didn't find any hidden information or enjoyment or intelligence therein, in the first 100 pages or so.
What did the footnotes do for you? Did I lose something by skipping them? I liked decoding the letter, I thought there would be more of that interactiveness. Like clues to a mystery with chilling discoveries. I was tired when I read it, though. People keep saying, go back and read it again, you didn't give it enough of a chance, you have to do it when you have time and aren't tired. But I'm afraid to because what if I feel the same way as before and then I've invested all that time in ...nothing?