846 of 886 people found the following review helpful
For Sale By Owner,
This review is from: House of Leaves (Paperback)
I first heard of "House of Leaves" about a year ago on the Internet. Somebody said it was the best new horror novel they had read in years. Then when I started working at a bookstore in town, one of my new friends there told me it was the scariest book he had ever read.
All of this quite intrigued me. So I bought the book and read it over a period of about six months. It's not a quick read, or at least it wasn't for me. I had to have other, more normal, sane books going on at the same time. "House of Leaves" is over seven hundred pages long and it's loaded with literary detour signs, unespected landmines (some duds, some live), and good old "holding the book upside down in a mirror so you can read the words printed that way" fun.
"House of Leaves" is a contortionist's daydream, and a conservative reader's nightmare. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and found myself admiring the new unhallowed ground Danielewski was breaking, but at other times longing for a more conventional, satisfying structure.
This whole thing is very postmodern. The house is aware of itself as a house, and the book is aware of itself as a book. There is a story of a family moving into a house, trying to sort out its interpersonal demons, and finding that the insides of things (lives, minds, houses) can often be darker, scarier, stranger, and more convoluted than they would appear from the outsides.
That alone would have made a great book, told with inventive language and a compelling psychological subtext.
But that's just the beginning, the backstory really. "House of Leaves" is a story inside a story inside a story, etc. In fact, it puts the dizzying structure of Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein" to shame.
In "House of Leaves," there's a young guy named Johnny Truant who's acting as literary editor, presenting the compelling and disturbing scribblings and ramblings on an old man named Zampano. Zampano's papers, which are presented posthumously, recount, at times blow-for-blow, a documentary film called "The Navidson Record" of a family moving into a house which proves to be larger on the inside than it is on the outside.
There is also another editor above Johnny, who makes comments on top of Johnny's comments. Johnny finds himself wondering if the old man didn't just make up the whole story about the young family moving into the house, because Johnny is unable to find any corroborating scrap of proof that the film exists.
Of course, add into the mix that Johnny is a self-admitted fibber and story teller extroidinaire. He tells us how much fun he has making up completely bogus stories for the benefit of strangers her meets in bars.
Knowing this, the reader has to start to wonder if the old man, Zampano, even exists, or if he's just an invention of Johnny's. And if you follow that line of thinking too far, you might even start to wonder if the heavy black book you're holding exists.
This is the haunted house that's in the film that the old man made up and wrote about as if it were as real as he was, but who was really just a figment of the narrator's fertile imagination, the narrator that doesn't really exist, except on paper and in the reader's mind and imagination...so maybe none of it exists...or all of it does. Maybe the house has turned on its porch lights somewhere deep, deep inside of you, down all those twisting tunnels and swirling, dark echoing caves.
Maybe there's a sign out front. "For Sale By Owner." And under that, in small print, in French, upside down and backwards, "Buyer Beware."
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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 27, 2007 6:58:48 PM PDT
Holly A. Lam says:
That was indeed helpful.
Posted on Oct 20, 2008 7:54:04 PM PDT
R.J. Dorado says:
Couldn't ask for a more helpful or well-written review.
Posted on Dec 5, 2008 8:04:41 AM PST
Jessica L. Castro says:
thank you for the review...i like it more than the book!
Posted on Apr 16, 2009 5:40:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2009 5:41:25 AM PDT
William Leahy says:
Good analysis ... and don't forget that Zampano, if he did exist, was blind, and so would have been quite unable to make the intricate and subtle commentary about the visual quality of the film, if it ever existed. I've read HOL twice and I am holding on to the "Johnny as unreliable narrator" position. This is more about Johnny's coming to terms with his mother than it is about a haunted house. The "monster" is never really seen, only guessed at, based on sounds that might just be the shifting labyrinth of the house.
Posted on Apr 30, 2009 7:39:03 AM PDT
Your review was better than the book. Thanks!
In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2009 10:29:47 AM PDT
A. Perry says:
Much better than the book!
Posted on Aug 25, 2009 4:00:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2009 12:56:45 PM PDT
M. K. Mcguire says:
NOT better than the book (seriously, people? do you all also think Cliff notes are superior to the works they summarize?), but good review regardless.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 9:21:57 AM PDT
I am guessing they don't hold the book in too high of regard if they think a review of it is better.
Posted on Jan 2, 2010 6:14:00 PM PST
blue violent says:
i love your review. i've read HoL several times and i think (particularly the last couple of paragraphs of) your review really begins to hint at the intricacy of this book. Reading it multiple times does not make it less complex. I also think there are two ways to read it. One, try to read it like a linear work of fiction.. in which case, you will probably not enjoy the book. Two. Read it as a sort of zen map of not only this story (these stories?), but your own story, and all other stories ever. In which case, you will see it as really 'deep' and probably be highly intrigued and enjoy it immensely.
Posted on Mar 16, 2010 4:06:16 PM PDT
Olly Buxton says:
Cool review. I'm going to buy this book, and expect to enjoy it, even if it isn't as good as your review. I enjoyed your review a lot.