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REVIEW: Danielewski’s “House of Leaves”

I’m finally reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves and this book is out of its mind. The footnotes are like the titular house’s hallways. Sometimes the hallways are rooms. Before we devolve into further metaphors, let’s backtrack: a guy moves into a house and finds that it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. That’s just the story within the story; it’s not where it begins but it’s where it will end. The story emphasizes geometric impossibilities, if not outright spatial horror, and it manages to somehow simulate this disorientation in the book itself. Take for examples its footnotes – initially innocuous, increasingly bizarre, increasingly difficult to navigate, growing bigger and bigger until they consume entire pages. Annotations and errata edge out the narrative. But is it that the narrative is the annotations and errata, or is the act of consuming and edging out? Can you break the fourth wall if you can’t find it?

Even this, even the act of writing my thoughts feels like I’m just another component of the story, another way the story climbs out of the book. Much of the book is people from all sorts of disciplines from mythologists to engineers trying to figure out the house on Ash Tree Lane, and they analyze the effects of the house’s grotesquerie without understanding what is causing them. In a way, this is not a book that tells a story. The story sidles in sideways; the story is implied. The book reminds me of Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides, except with a house instead of depressed teenagers. This is fiction that has, by virtue of its subject and construction, found a way out of The Matrix and IT IS COMING FOR US NEXT.


If you like this book, you might also like: Paul Auster’s The Book of Illusions. Do you like stories about people consumed by their obsessive quest for something liminal? About people who fall deeper and deeper into that rabbit hole until suddenly their world is upside down? I was reminded very much of Auster’s book as I read this. I loved The Book of Illusions, and I am enjoying the hell out of House of Leaves, and I’ll tell you more about it once I find my way out of the damn thing.

Originally posted April 16, 2011

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