Monday, October 19, 2009

Finally Finished Reading House of Leaves

Forty days after beginning House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, I have now finished it. It was definitely a reading experience like none I’ve had before and I'm still trying to decide if it was worth that much time and effort or not. There was a lot of superfluous text that I barely skimmed over because I didn’t think it was beneficiary to read pages of footnotes and other random blocks of text that seemed to be only long lists of people or things. Maybe I missed out on essential points of the story, maybe not. I think the random text was just a visual way to tell the part of the story when the explorers were lost in the labyrinth, and wasn’t meant to be read.

I do think it’s a very intriguing way to tell a story. And the crux of the story, minus all of the superfluous text, was definitely worth reading. I have a mountain of other books waiting to be read that knocked on my door for the past 40 days, but I put them aside until I completed this.

I tried to look up more information on the author or history of the book and came up with very little. There’s a message board for Danielewski’s cult following where fans post comments and often lengthy academic essays about the book. It makes sense – this book is so complex that it could have its own college class devoted to it and still not be completely analyzed.

House of Leaves started as a small project that escaladed. Danielewski even did his own graphic design for the book because the publisher wouldn’t hire anyone else to do it. He said it took him three and a half weeks, but only because it first took “nine and a half months to storyboard” (FlakMagazine).

Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho, is one of many who gave House of Leaves a raving review: “A great novel. A phenomenal debut. Thrillingly alive, sublimely creepy, distressingly scary, breathtakingly intelligent -- it renders most other fiction meaningless. One can imaging Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballrad, Stephen King, and David Foster Wallace bowing at Danielewski's feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter, awe” (B&N).

You can’t ask for a much better review than that.
If you're up for a challenge and interested in new forms of literary story telling, check out House of Leaves.
Check out my first post on House of Leaves, which includes a video of Danielewski reading an excerpt during his sister's music video "Hey Pretty."


Unknown said...

This has been on my 'to read' list ... yeah, after five or ten others. Could it be compared to a contemporary James Joyce? Or easier to follow than that?
Best of luck ..
I enjoy your blog & writing. Keep it up girl!!

Anne Greenawalt said...

Hey Aletha!

Sadly, I have limited experience with James Joyce - I've only ever read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which is not similar to House of Leaves. I don't know about Joyce's other books - I have an e-book of Ulysses, but it seems like a very daunting task! One day...

House of Leaves is comparable to David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, if you're familiar with that.

Teresa said...

I commend you for finishing the book! It was a very tough one to get through and I have known several people that have given up on it.

Anonymous said...

You may have already read this but I found it very interesting and I haven't even read the book yet. My interest is certainly peaked!

Anonymous said...

Definitely for got to leave the link! Sorry about that.