BY RILEY FANNING
“House of Leaves” is a story unlike most— it is filled with riddles, labyrinths, perpetual darkness and the inevitable horror of the unknown. The debut novel written by Mark Z. Danielewsk centers around a young man named Johnny Truant, who comes to possess the manuscript for a novel written by a recently deceased blind man named Zampano.
So, “House of Leaves” contains a novel within a novel. The subject of Zampano’s manuscript is an extremely detailed analysis of a controversial documentary called “The Navidson Record.” The problem is, as Johnny soon discovers, that this does not actually exist. Zampano’s manuscript is entirely based off of a film that was never made.
The fictitious documentary “The Navidson Record” follows a family who moves into a seemingly ordinary house, except for one thing: it is bigger on its interior than its exterior—containing shifting walls and hidden hallways of darkness.
However, this story is about so much more than an impossible feat of physics. It is about each of the characters, how the house affects them and how reading the strange manuscript affects Johnny.
“House of Leaves” is a nontraditional reading experience because it is considered ergodic fiction, for it requires work from the reader. It is an interactive experience where readers must engage in the novel more intellectually and physically than most literature demands.
The plot intricately weaves multiple story lines together, giving the reader much to examine. There are points where the reader must decipher hidden messages, or read the book upside down. It requires the audience to both figuratively and literally read between the lines.
On the surface, this is a horror story; however, it does not deserve to be boxed in as one, for it is a romance as well. “House of Leaves” expertly delves into the psychology of the characters, their relationships with one another and the way the world is perceived. Themes of family relations, how to cope with who we are and the things we have done and how the world around us ultimately affects us are all explored throughout the novel.
The story is a paradoxical enigma—it is frustrating at times, yet it finishes as a highly rewarding experience. This is the kind of story that has made and will continue to make people think about the world a bit differently after one has experienced it. It will leave you wondering about the characters and about that strange, shifting house.
For those that enjoy a challenge when reading novels and unique reading experiences, this book should be in their collection.
The Flyer gives “House of Leaves” an 8/10.