“I never thought this labyrinth would be a pleasant thing to return to.” — My own quest for answers within House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and some remaining questions

That up there are some of my notes on House of Leaves, the novel-creature by Mark Z. Danielewski. I skipped Little Red Moley with this one, and used Giant Fat Red Moley Journal — and even then I used at least five different kinds of Post-its, haha. I could not scribble on the margins of this particular book and not only because I had a verra pretty edition — the margins were just way too full. And, given that a chunk of the material were in the footnotes, I would only be giving myself a headache if I added my craziness to all that was already there.

It was so fun, and dorkalicious, and I do apologize for having to put you through all of my ramblings — but good lord, I feel so accomplished.

I know you’ve had enough of me not shutting about this book, but even as I was reading it, I was torn between the certainty that I couldn’t write about it as well as exhaustively as I wanted to [because the book is so intricate, the task might just be impossible], and the whole Ah, fuck it, I’ll try anyway mentality that is, basically, the foundation of this blog [and, quite possibly, my life?]

So, all week, I talked [to mostly myself] about this ridiculous book. As a recap, here are those blog posts, with summaries:

  1. First encounter[s] with House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski — “And then the nightmares will begin” → Self-explanatory, I suppose? The many encounters I had with this book even before it was in my possession. First impressions, too. With the first questions of many.
  2. Style, structure, and the “endless snarls of words” of House of Leaves As style and form are incredibly significant elements to the novel, I try to chisel my way through this very labyrinthine structure—which is, frankly, this book’s selling point, what sets this book apart from so many. It’s experimental, admirable—and damn, but it can be so annoying. Sometimes, I feel as though Danielewski doesn’t want me to read him.
  3. “A goddamn spatial rape.” — An examination of the uncanny and the house on Ash Tree Lane → Perhaps the subject of this novel: the house on Ash Tree Lane—its mysteries, its horror, and its ineffability [?], but oh, how this novel tries. And me, too.

I became rather obsessed with this one, I know. I guess when it hits you the right way—because, yes, I know that a lot of people found this book either too-annoying, distasteful, gimmicky, unnerving, and just plain un-readable [I’ve had several moments like that, see]—when it hits you the right way, you’re compelled to dissect and discover because of the so many questions it inspires in you, not to mention the revelations that stun you with the very way they’re crafted. That’s a mouthful that basically means: I liked this book, and I got dorky with it.

Which is not to say that I’m completely satisfied—with the book itself, and with my own exploration of it. I still have so many questions, and even though I know I’ll eventually reread this book, that won’t be for a long time, and the questions will have to wait. I have questions about all the things I tried to talk about. I have questions about characters, histories, that goddamned house, the structure of this novel, the horror it evokes, the issues of veracity and representation within the narrative. And so on, and so on.

But I’ve done what I can for now. Other books await me. Besides—holy cheesecake, I am tired. Also: Everyone who wants to read it, please read it, so we can scream together. Okay. Toodles.

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13 comments

  1. That notebook looks really inspiring. All your posts that featur your moleskin notebook (be it the small of the large one) makes me want to buy one for myself. [I know, this is not on your actual post, but I am still hiding from this potentially very scary book].

  2. I read about 400 pages of House of Leaves about five years ago. I didn’t stop reading it as much as I just forgot about reading it, you know how it happens. Your posts have inspired me to retry this book, thank you!

  3. That is some impressive note-taking!

  4. I’ve always been a little scared of this book, and at the same time intrigued. No plans to tackle it in the near future, though.

    On another note, I want my notes to look like yours. They make the organizational part of my soul so happy (and jealous).

  5. Jennifer · · Reply

    Kudos for finishing the book, Sasha! And may I say that I am again in awe at your super neat and organized note-keeping abilities. *_*

  6. I love that picture of your notes! I wished I could take notes like yours. But they make me feel like I’m missing something about the book. What about it inspired so much note taking? I am so inspressed (inspired and impressed all mashed up together).

  7. Okay I have to say first and foremost, I LOVE THIS FREAKIN’ BOOK.

    Now that that’s out of the way, I also know it’s time for a re-reading since I picked this beaut up back in my college years. Oh gawd, I remember staying up in the wee hours of morn reading this book in my little nook. Deciphering like a mad detective.

    Finally, how in the world do you write so neat?!? I’m in awe.

  8. [...] House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. [Part 01] [Part 02] [Part 03] [Part 04] [...]

  9. @ Iris — Thanks, dear! And like I told you over at Twitter, we’ll have to launch a campaign to immunize you from scary books, baby steps! :] I urge everyone to keep a notebook, actually — and, really, it [they] need not be kept as OC as mine.

    @ Shannon — For me, the experience was just all straight through. I hope you go back to this book.

    @ Leonie — Thank you!

    @ Erin — I think I underestimated how I could be scared by this book, haha. Which probably made the creeping fear worse. And re my note-taking, thank you!

    @ Jennifer — Thanks for the awe, haha, as most people recoil in horror!

    @ Jacqueline — I’ve been doing the simultaneous reading and note-taking for so long, it’s quite fluid now. Before, when I did it for school, it was rather helpful, even if it did distract me. Now, the process is seamless to me. I feel weird reading without a pen now.

    @ Christina — Completely understand: Spent minutes poring over secret codes and all those Easter Eggs. Glad to know you loved this. :]

  10. [...] Reading this book because I heard it’s a total mindfuck and this girl took notes on it that made me drool in sympathetic dorkiness. Just look at her [...]

  11. [...] House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski [...]

  12. [...] Sasha’s thoughts: First Encounter[s] with House of Leaves Style, structure, and the “endless snarls of words” of House of Leaves “A goddamn spatial rape.” — An examination of the uncanny and the house on Ash Lane Tree in House of Leaves “I never thought this labyrinth would be a pleasant thing to return to.” — My own quest for an… [...]

  13. […] tonally (if not share the subject matter of), the books of Auster and Hustvedt, and especially Mark Z. Danielewski’s clever and terrifying House of Leaves. Pessl’s book turned out to be a cheap imitation of all good clever-and-terrifying books, with […]

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