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Only Revolutions: A Novel Paperback – July 10, 2007

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Editorial Reviews Review

Mark Danielewski's first novel House of Leaves is a cult-favorite--experimental horror fiction in a gorgeous (and newly remastered) full-color package. His new book Only Revolutions takes the experiment 10 steps further in a story about teenage lovers Hailey and Sam: the book is printed on two sides--one side tells the story from Hailey's point of view, flip it over and you get Sam's side (literally). We caught a glimpse inside the mind-bending new novel--take a look for yourself below.

Inside Only Revolutions

Hailey's Story


Sam's Story

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A pastiche of Joyce and Beckett, with heapings of Derrida's Glas and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 thrown in for good measure, Danielewski's follow-up to House of Leaves is a similarly dizzying tour of the modernist and postmodernist heights—and a similarly impressive tour de force. It comprises two monologues, one by Sam and one by Hailey, both "Allmighty sixteen and freeeeee," each narrating the same road trip, or set of neo-globo-revolutionary events—or a revolution's end: "Everyone loves the Dream but I kill it." Figuring out what's happening is a big part of reading the book. The verse-riffs narrations, endlessly alliterative and punning (like Joyce) and playfully, bleakly existential (like Beckett), begin at opposite ends of the book, upside down from one another, with each page divided and shared. Each gets 180 words per page, but in type that gets smaller as they get closer to their ends (Glas was more haphazard), so they each gets exactly half a page only at the midway point of the book: page 180—or half of a revolution of 360 degrees. A time line of world events, from November 22, 1863 ("the abolition of slavery"), to January 19, 2063 (blank, like everything from January 18, 2006, on), runs down the side of every page. The page numbers, when riffled flip-book style, revolve. The book's design is a marvel, and as a feat of Pynchonesque puzzlebookdom, it's magnificent. The book's difficulty, though, carries a self-consciousness that Joyce & Co. decidedly lack, and the jury will be out on whether the tricks are of the for-art's-sake variety or more like a terrific video game. (Sept. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Reprint edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375713905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375713903
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 138 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on June 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Old editions of the Guinness Book of World Records often noted a weird achievement in writing - a novel called "Gadsby" (Earnest V. Wright, 1939) that does not contain the letter E. This is known as a lipogram, or a work in which the writing is constrained by an enforced method. But would anyone remember "Gadsby" for its story? Or is that supposedly unique method its only memorable quality? This kind of incredulous infamy is likely to be the fate of this tome from Danielewski. Imagine that you have spent years working on your personal manifesto, and you expect everyone to be as excited about it as you are. But then you're devastated to find that your labor of love is only appreciated by half the people who read it, while the other half just DON'T GET IT or don't find your work to be as important as you think it is. Half of the reviews here offer ecstatic praise for Danielewski's unique visual and semantic methods of writing. But don't assume that the negative reviewers here simply DON'T GET IT. These are people who, like me, probably loved (and GOT) Danielewski's masterful "House of Leaves." But this book is much less likeable and is nowhere near as rewarding. The negative reviewers who appear that they DON'T GET IT actually have been given no reason to try to get it.

That's because this story accomplishes very little, other than the creative non-linear methods. Of course, Danielewski has concocted a storytelling schema that is truly unique, and I can appreciate the mechanical focus on the numbers 180 and 360, and the running theme of revolutions in the book's graphical layout. You may even dig the main premise about the literally timeless and ageless road trip, while Danielewski's creative language constructions and period slang can be quite likeable.
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97 of 117 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mark Z. Danielewski stunned readers with his debut, "House of Leaves," a bizarre down-the-rabbit-hole tale of madness, surreality and a house where space is unending.

Now six years later, Danielewski has produced his follow-up -- the equally strange, scintillating road-trip novel "Only Revolutions." The format is mind-bending, the characters equally strange -- and Danielewski hasn't lost his touch for the compelling, poignant, the postmodern, and the post-weird.

Hailey and Sam are a pair of eternal teenagers, apparently untouched by time either physically or psychologically ("We're always sixteen!"). They careen through much of American history -- past and present -- in a changing fleet of cars, touching down in various important places and times.

But though they have no responsibilities, Hailey and Sam are not free of cares. As they run through the US, they seem to be enmeshed in the goings-on of wars, parties, exploration and social revolution (the Civil War). Will they escape the oppressive THEM pursuing them, or lose what is most important to them?

For a cult author, there's always a question about whether they can stay fresh and cutting-edge. Fortunately, Danielewski has outrun that particular concern. "Only Revolutions" is written in the same surreal freestyle as "House of Leaves," but the author never forgets to include the story as well.

And as the Escherian plot unwinds ("unfolds" just doesn't fit), it becomes obvious that this is actually two stories: a love story, and a sort of American allegory. They are rebels and free spirits, running up against bizarre characters -- like the multi-military Creep -- who seem symbolic of the nastier sides of our society. Hailey and Sam are the ones who represent the better side of the country.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Christopher C. Tamigi on September 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I loved "House of Leaves," I think it's really a masterpiece of experimental fiction, so I was excited when I heard that Danielewski had come out with a new novel. Likewise I wasn't put off by the experimental elements of the book: the duelling narratives written in either direction on each page, the list of historical tidbits from a given date.

But when you get past all these schticky elements there's not much to "Only Revolutions." Whereas "House of Leaves" had a fascinating story at its core and explored interesting themes, when you strip away all the gimicks "Only Revolutions" seems to be a prose poem about a love affair between two egomaniacal teenagers who drift apart and then find each other again and again (and who claim to have superhuman powers although I haven't found any evidence that this is actually the case) and which is set in no clear time or place.

I've tried a couple of times, but I couldn't for the life of me get into this story. I also found the stream-of-consciousness list of historical data on each page (+50% of which is stuff that I've never heard of before, and I was a history major) to be really annoying because I felt obligated to read through it even though it was really dry. In the end, I've just about written off this novel as unreadable.
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82 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Travis Pelt on December 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mark, did you start to believe your own hype? Did you feel compelled to venture further out than House of Leaves? Did you just start with a really bad idea and stay the course?

I've come to feel Only Revulsion for this beast.

I can't tell what happened here, but this is book is a mess. I honestly couldn't finish this thing because I felt that, somewhere, Danielewski was having a laugh at his readers' expense. Lemme give you some background.

Danielewski wrote House of Leaves, one of the most complex and multi-layered novels I've read. And even better, it had a unique and well spun tale in it (several infact, like Russian Dolls, but the House is the main one.) I loved this book. The author even made the book's physical layout as complex and involoved as the story was. At first, the House's layout looked like a gimmick, but no; it actually enhanced th quality of the tale.

Since then he's published a spin off novel and now.... this beast.

As I said, the reason the layout in House of Leaves was not a gimmick is because it actually enhanced the tale. In this book, you have sprawling chaos up one side of the page and down the other, literaly. The tale... a sort of eternal love tale begins in this crazed stream of conciousness that is accented my enlarging and shifting fonts; when you finish with the point of view of one character, you flip the book over and begin reading from the other's perspective. The layout here is a gimmick.

It is a gimmick because not only does the layout fail to improve the text, it renders what is already Near Incomprehensible into A Damned Mess of Words.

I'm trying to find more to write but...
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