By Adam Cummins
‘This is not for you.’
So begins 2000’s House of Leaves. Why do I give the year and not the author? Because the author of House of Leaves is deliberately hard to find, much like the text itself. Where does the text begin and end? Who writes, and who reads? House of leaves is ergodic literature at its finest, and it might just be the most disturbing thing you’ll ever read.
Johnny Truant is the protagonist of a story. Zampano is the author of a manuscript. Will Navidson is a photographer. Will Navidson records his house contort and twist, Zampano interprets, and Johnny begins to descend into the rabbit hole. Or is it a labyrinth?
If this start was confusing, I’ve probably done a good job of describing House of Leaves. The book is a ceaseless bombardment of fonts, characters and essays that send the reader on a journey into the very limits of the human mind. It’s a thoroughly fascinating blend of genres, primarily featuring appearance from the two most popular literary genres: Horror and Romance. Several times while reading it I felt myself looking over my shoulder (even when I was reading with my back to a wall), or becoming morose after our faithless protagonist Johnny Truant is entangled in another fruitless affair.
Will Navidson is a Pulitzer winning photographer (based on real-life author Kevin Carter) who moves into a New Virginia home with his wife and children. They come home from a holiday to find that a new room has appeared in their house. The house is now one quarter of an inch bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. During a particularly loud domestic disagreement, a corridor opens in the living room. Will Navidson begins to document his explorations into this corridor. Later, a blind man called Zampano writes a manuscript based on the critical analysis of this film. Zampano dies, and Johnny Truant is left to pick up where Zampano left off.
If you’re not accustomed to reading academic papers, you might struggle with some of the lengthy analysis that makes up the majority of Zampano’s manuscript. Exhaustive discussions of etymology and comparison with details of Greek mythology make up a significant proportion of House of Leaves. Personally, I found the essays to be very effective perhaps not for the purpose of education, but useful to build tension. I found myself hungrily devouring the essays in anticipation for the forthcoming allusions to the events that would occur in the film.
House of Leaves is terrifying: it’ll have you sleeping with the light on. To read House of Leaves is to experience conspiracy in its purest form- a didactic distillation of a descent into madness.
Adam Cummins is a second year English Literature student. He enjoys reading. He wishes there was more to it than that, but unfortunately not. He particularly enjoys American postmodern fiction, but he’s very cynical about the whole thing. If you need a quote to understand Adam’s reading philosophy, Faulkner has it down pat: ‘Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad’.
Adam Cummins is a second year literature student. He enjoys reading. He wishes there was more to it than that, but unfortunately not. He particularly enjoys American Postmodern fiction, but he’s very cynical about the whole thing. If you need a quote to understand Adam’s reading philosophy, Faulkner has it down pat: ‘Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad’.