But I will say this: this definitely ranks as one of the most fascinating, creative, mind-bending and thought-provoking books I will never read again.
If you're still trying to think of books for the Halloween Bingo game, House of Leaves would be an excellent choice for a number of squares.
I read it a while back, but for some reason I hadn't added it my Booklikes shelves. I stumbled across my paperback copy this morning. (To be honest, I'm not sure how I'd missed it earlier seeing as it's bloody enormous).
Haunted houses, things that go bump in the night, unreliable narrators... what more do you need?
I gave myself a re-read because I'm well ahead of my reading target this year.
This time around, I read it out of order, going along with the skips and jumps the book suggests everywhere (e.g. "see chapter XI", "Appendix II-C", "page 345" or whatever).
It's an interesting experience but I don't think it's a particularly good way to read the book for the first time. I had all these dim memories of what happens in the book but I never seemed to get to the point where I read them, instead only stumbling across hints and after-the-fact mentions - that endless deferral of meaning a nice metaphor both for the endless lightless corridors of the house and for the way the text itself gives us no direct access to the film at the heart of it. To get Saussurean for a moment: we don't ever experience the thing, only interpretations of the thing.
The ending felt weirdly abrupt and simple, like Danielewski ran out of steam and went "fuck it, I'm just going to finish this thing now". Of course, that could equally be Zampano saying that, in which case it's a deliberate authorial move and not a failure.
It's all a lot of fun to think about: I'm a huge Gothic fan and I love the way Danielewski plays with the conventions of the genre so knowingly. Fittingly for a book framed as commentary, I think a lot of its (literal) twists and turns are useful for thinking about what other Gothic novels are doing too.
Reading House of Leaves was quite an academic experience this time around. I enjoyed it.
House of Leaves is an experience. I've decided not to go into the plot, because it, (they?) really can't be fully explained in such a limited venue as a book review. Depending on how you look at it, there could actually be 5 different plots going on, perhaps more, and again: limited venue.
After mulling it over for a few days, I find that I'm comfortable saying the following:
1. The portions of the story dealing with the house itself were my favorites. I think these sections were truly scary-among the scariest I've ever read. I've seen other reviewers say they weren't that scary and I've been thinking about why that is. All I can come up with is I guess it depends on what scares you most. If it's a guy with an ax or a ski mask, or maybe Hannibal Lecter, then perhaps this wouldn't be that scary to you. However, if you're afraid of the big, black, empty and what might be hiding in it, then you will most likely be scared and/or disturbed by this book.
2. If you're looking for an immediate pay off as far as scares, this book is the wrong place to look. The building atmosphere, the use (sometimes excessive?) of foreshadowing, plot lines suddenly left hanging while other lines are pursued are just some of the techniques used to keep the reader off balance. This is like the long term con, not 3 Card Monty.
3. If you think you're going to come out of a first reading knowing everything there is to know about House of Leaves, I just want to tell you- you're not. There is SO much going on here, it's crazy. Mythology, song lyrics, poems, quotes, codes and themes all combine to create this unique story. I'm not sure it's even possible to "get" everything you're supposed to "get" on a single reading. Maybe it is and I'm just dumb? It's definitely possible. ;)
I don't know what else to say, so I'll wrap it up. I recommend this book highly, solely for the experience of reading it. The varied plot lines may or may not appeal to you as I've mentioned, but the experience of reading this book itself is not to be missed. What books have you read that could be called an experience? If the answer is none, you need to read this book!
I finally finished this book last night after staying up pretty late. Problem being that after the narrative is finished there's about 200 pages of additional material which I'll probably be sorting through for days. I'm going to need some time to mull things over-there's just so much going on in this book. Maybe by tomorrow, I'll have things sufficiently together to post a review.
For now, I can only say that I haven't thought this hard over a book in a long, long, time. I know already that I haven't "gotten" all there is to "get". I'm okay with that, because I do plan on re-reading it at some point. For now, I would be happy getting my head around the main, and my favorite narrative, The Navidson Record.