am 12. Juni 2000
While an excellent book, and a truly awesome work of literature, "House of Leaves" should not be attempted by anyone who is not willing to give reading it a pretty supreme effort. However, any one who has plenty of time and determination (and imagination) will be amazed by this book.
I admitt, "House of Leaves" is trying sometimes. The footnotes everyone is complaining about are sometimes helpful, and sometimes nothing but annoying. Some people complained that the odd layout of the book is obnoxious. While indeed I was getting strange looks from my family as I turned the book over, flipped it upside-down, diagonally, and went rapidly through sections that had only one word per page, that's all part of the fun . . .
There's a lot of unneeded parts to this book, certainly, and there's no real end to the thing. All I can say is that if you have lots of time on your hands, read this book. I know it has changed the way I look at most literature. It has also changed the way I look at the absence of light, and it will be a long time before I walk down any more unknown hallways in the dark.
am 20. Juli 2000
I have read various twisted novels, but this one left me in a state of intense turmoil. Each page is filled with disturbing details and mind-blowing suspense.
After having found a monograph called The Navidson Record, a book based on a documentary that was written by a blind man named Zampano, Jonny Truant's life is not the same. And after having read House of Leaves, I, like Truant, haven't been able to forget this incredible piece of work. Luckily, I, unlike Truant, don't have nightmares because of it.
This is not a book that you can pleasantly read on the beach; it demands your undivided attention. I marvel at Mark Z. Danielewski's talent and genius. I highly recommend House of Leaves. Now run along and get it!
am 30. März 2000
Unless I missed it, nobody here has mentioned Nabokov as a precursor: "Pale Fire" is the urtext novel in which manic annotation wrestles with the work being annotated (and PF may be the only novel whose index itself is a comic masterpiece). "House of Leaves" is ambitious in different ways, but Danielewski doesn't have quite the same control over his material or his language. And he makes annoying mistakes: his calculation of how far a quarter would fall for an hour forgets to take wind resistance into account, he thinks Old English words derive from Old Norse and Gothic, he calls University of Virginia's Thornton Hall, across the street from me, "Thorton Hall"... of course the metafictional escape clause is that these are Zampono's errors, or Johnny Truant's, but that's too cheap a Get Out Of Jail Free card for my taste... Who lives by the Sterne/Joyce/Pynchon mode falls short by it too. --That said, I think the narrative of Navidson and the house itself is stunningly successful. In fact the impossible house is a lot more believable than Johnny Truant, who's sort of a Lego construction of a character. (With "Thumper" and the rest of his romantic interests basically Tinkertoys.) So while I'd certainly recommend the book to anyone who likes experimental fiction, I'm not ready to canonize it as the Great American Novel of the 21st century.
am 1. August 2000
... six long, scary, obsessive nights spent curled up in my hotel bed (I was out of town on business). This book... How do you explain it? Every time you think you know what it's about, another layer peels away and the big black onion you're holding begins to terrify you in totally new ways. In the long hours between midnight and morning, I found myself checking the dark corners of my hotel room just in case some small part of this story had escaped its pages and invaded my world. During each day, I could feel the book itself calling to me across the distance between my client and my hotel -- I left the book in my room so I would not be tempted to read it all day long (and probably get fired). I am not a person normally captivated by thoughts of the supernatural, but this book made me want to go out and buy a tape measure to make sure the room I was in wasn't getting larger. Read the book and you'll understand...
Ich hab schon viele merkwürdige Bücher gelesen, aber House of Leaves ist sicherlich das merkwprdigste.
Als ich davon hörte dachte ich nicht dass man aus der Geschichte (Das Buch ist Sekundärliteratur zu einem nicht-exisitenten Dokumentarfilm, geschrieben von einen Blinden, gefunden von einem Punk) tatsächlich eine lesbare Geschichte machen kann. Man kann! Es gibt sogar zwei Handlungsstränge: Die Dokumentation und die Geschichte des "Herausgebers", erzählt in Fußnoten.
Das Buch wird oft mit dem Film Blair Witch Projekt verglichen und das zu Recht. Weniger wegen der Handlung, sondern weil beide auf Effekte und vor allem Erklärungen verzichten, sondern eher subtil Grusel auslösen. BWP wird daher von vielen Leuten abgelehnt. Und so geht es auch House of Leaves. Man muss seine Freude daran haben, sich selbst Dinge zusammenzureimen und Theorien aufzustellen, zu interpretieren. Und ähnlich wie bei einem David-Lynch-Film bleibt man letztlich etwas im Dunkeln, welche Theorien nun tatsächlich richtig sind und wie man das alles verstehen soll. Ich kann alle Leute verstehen, die das nicht mögen - MIR gefällt das aber außerordentlich gut und HoL werde ich sicherlich in Bälde ein zweites Mal lesen!
Noch ein Wort zum Layout: Hier gilt das eben gesagte: Das Layout ist z.T. sehr ungewöhnlich. Aber auch das passt, es unterstreicht die jeweilige Geschichte. So steht im Buch das eine Szene (der Dokumentation) Frame für Frame gezeigt wurde, so wird diese auch im Buch so beschrieben - Mit einem Wort pro Seite. Das ist künstlerisch wertvoll, ich finds toll, andere findens sicherlich albern.
am 9. März 2000
Mr. Danielewski spends the opening pages of his book, from the "dedication" through the "introduction" warning you not to read the book. So what do you do? You read the book! Why the quotes around those words? Because there is more to behold in every word. Every idea is layered, boxes inside boxes, not just layers on layers. This is no two-dimensional construct (as "leaves" might suggest). Just as the "house" (sorry I can't print the word in blue) is bigger on the inside than on the outside, so are the words, the ideas and the book themselves. The metaphor is stunningly simple, yet profound, and well, complex. On one level, it's like every slasher pic ever made, where you know the character (future victim) shouldn't open that door, or go down that dark hallway. He/she has to because it's there. Because it's hardwired into the script and can't be changed. Only you, the reader, are the subject, here. You get your hands on this book and you have to "do it." On another level, you can marvel at the idea. Is it about the harmless curiosities of multi-dimensional space? Or is it about the pure horror of the supernatural? Are they one and the same? You've got to give Mr. Danielewski credit for knowing his audience and playing us for all we're worth. The comparisons to Pynchon, Wallace and others are inevitable because right away you see that the text is steeped in nearly real-time cultural allusions, and other written references, some of which appear to be actual, others not. So this, this is-it-really-a-novel? novel is very dense, highly compressed, even at more than 700 pages. But then, there are many pages that are nearly blank! Who's the joke on? The book invites you to move around; scan appendices, examine the index (which even has entries for words like "for," with dozens of pages listed). You have to smile, if not laugh outright. But at the same time, he manufactures a brooding edginess and mystery. You wonder about heeding jacket blurb cautions not to read the book just before going to bed. But you go ahead and read anyway. Is this rhetoric elevated to the sublime? Or the cruel? A tower of reader manipulation. But you're a willing partner. You read it and you want to look into Danielewski's eyes -- just to see if maybe you can catch a glimpse of where this came from. He's working with a couple of very simple ideas, but he's looking at them in a whole new ... darkness? Yeah, it's pushing the post-modern envelope, but at the same time you've expected someone to do this. If he hadn't done it another daring young writer would have taken novelistic de/re-construction here or close by. Of course few would have chosen terror as their playground. But this is not all just a literary game. Or is it? Joyce said as much of his own "Finnegan's Wake." I daresay, few others could have pulled it off ... to the exent that part of me wants to know how other readers survived reading it! Is the editor still a functioning member of society? The proofreader? The author himself? His agent? The other reviewers on this web page? Is that a thumbs up! Yes, if you're willing to turn yourself over to a master. It may depend on how brave you are, whether you can detach yourself from the work so you can come up for a breath of fear-free air once in a while, or whether you allow it to take you and -- as at least one of its narrative voices promises -- change you forever. I've had a hard time thinking of anything else since I got my hands on it.
am 3. Mai 2000
I was attracted to House of Leaves because of an article about it in Newsweek. That sent me to this site, where I found the critics polarized: Joe Pro loved it, Joe Shmoe hated it. I had to find out for myself!
If you're like me and don't usually use words such as "metafiction" and "no vivifying center," I just want to say, the book was a total hoot. At times trying, yes. But so is Monty Python--I think it takes that experimental attitude to reach the breakthrough stuff. Contrary to other reviewers, I found the central narrative genuinely eerie, much more so than anything I've read by Steven King or Dean Koontz. In some places I was turning the pages breathlessly. At the same time, I found myself chuckling with delight at pages that are typeset to match the scenes they describe. For example, in one scene where explorers are hopelessly lost, the pages feature dense footnotes in random columns -- some even printed upside-down, some backwards. As you try to puzzle out what to read next, you suddenly realize you are experiencing some of the same disorientation as the explorers. I think this is just plain old fun. The author purposely interrupts the story in places to frustrate you; saves some of the best stuff for obscure appendixes (be sure to read the letters from Johnny Truant's institutionalized Mom); and generally challenges your assumptions about what a book is supposed to do or be. At the same time, for the most part he delivers the goods in the old-fashioned narrative sense.
So, yeah, it takes a little work to read, and it's not conventional, and it's not perfect. But it's ORIGINAL. I'm REALLY glad I bought it. I enjoyed it a ton, and the emotions of the book continue to resonate with me days after finishing it. If any of you reading this enjoyed David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, as I did, House of Leaves is simply a must.And, if you are tired of slick, predictable stories that give you nothing to think about, I think you should give House of Leaves a chance.
am 28. April 2012
It's difficult to give this book a star rating. It's a bit like visiting a vernissage of very abstract art: it is an experience you will not forget easily, it stays with you but you aren't sure you understood what you saw at all.
I'm not sure if this is the greatest book ever written, an elaborated joke or an experiment. Whatever it is, even trying to describe it would be bound to fail. If you are up for an unique but trying and sometimes brain-wrecking reading experience, give it a try.
am 25. Mai 2000
Following the hype and my own preference for contemporary American writers I was excited to dive into House of Leaves. Initially it proved to be inventive, and fresh, but these apparent strenghts soon become weaknesses: The use of footnotes, the multi-level narrative, and photomontages, are an elaborate gimmick, rather than something which actually promotes the narrative. The author is clearly straining for effect--particularly an intellectual effect. The use of quotes, foreign languages, references to obscure texts, it all becomes a tdious exercise, something which would impress a thesis advisor. The actual "story" is in my opinion rather shabby. A hallway with a 500 foot ceiling? In a word the writer's grasp greatly exceeds his reach. He is certainly no David Foster Wallace, though it appears he would like to be. This book screams "look how smart I am!" There is no charcter development, the premise is silly, and unconvincing. I admire his ambition, but prefer to have the goods delivered, as opposed to promised. Readers seeking an antidote to this unaffecting excess will do well to read George Saunders, or William T Vollman. Writers more in control of their stylistic devices.
am 29. März 2000
THis book is incredible, I have no doubt that someone is Hollywood is going to be trying to option it for the screen, how well it will translate, who knows. It's like reading two stories at once, both equally interesting, we get drawn into the main story in the book as does the narrator, the more we get drawn in, the more we want to read and the more intense the chills that race down the spine get, the more he gets drawn into it, the further he gets from reality until he loses his mind. THe book provides all sorts of insights into how some of the characters bacame who they are by providing (in one case) things like letters from the narrators mother from a period where she was institutionalized. Regardless of what the other reviewers say, there is nothing quite like this book, and I have read a lot, though I have to agree with the first reviewer, it does draw from The Shining, 2001, and the Blair Witch Project. Very good indeed. Fun to read.