House Of Leaves
This book has taken me a while to get through, in particular due to the craziness of the footnotes, some of which have footnotes, which can have footnotes, and the fact that it is a telling of at least three stories in one. There is the main plot of the house itself the Navidson Record. Then there is Johnny, our main narrator. And the story of Zampano, a small side story, but nonetheless interesting and distracting, creating more and more questions. I would like to see this book actually made into a trilogy, with each of the three parts being their own story, simplified with no footnotes. I think it would be fascinating to read the Navidson Record, and I would really love to see it on the big screen, without the other two parts. Those would make good sequels going on after it, in a more classic horror kind of way. But that's the great thing about House of Leaves, it is classic and yet non traditional. It has the house of horrors, where you go and horrible things happen, either mind games, or some physical horror, but the way the story is told is what makes it stand out.
Obviously a simplified version would be nice, but it's so hard what to edit, what to take out and what to leave. The obvious solution is to break it up into parts, but you also have to wonder if it really needs editing. Sure it'll be easier to read and understand, but sometimes we need to be challenged. It really is hard to tell what to edit if you'd make a project of this to simplify it for a different audience. I have this same problem with my website when I write, what to edit out, what to leave in, anything I edit out I feel bad, because that's lost information that could help lead to a better understanding, of me, my story, my life. I try to preserve as much information as possible. Which is why if I was ever to truly take up writing I'd need a good editor and co-writer to work with me.
The style changes a lot through the book, often to match the passage you are reading, the story being conveyed. Sometimes erratic, sometimes quite normal, a lot of times scholarly. Sometimes he makes it look like a hand written book, with post-its and crazy footnotes, giving it a more sense of realness. And as unreal as the story is, the subject, he makes the story real by keeping it grounded and almost academic, when discussing the house at least, the only thing really paranormal in the story. With Johnny it isn't supernatural, but still he keeps it real by just being real. Or that feels like his goal anyway; write about something unreal and impossible but in such a way to make it feel like an everyday occurrence. Often times it feels like the style of writing, the words chosen or not chosen, mostly the format, is the story.
At first it seems for the first hundred or so pages he was being paid by the word, and this was the most academic, and hardest part to get through, then it gets better. The publishers catch on and start paying him by the page, at which point the author got the last laugh and changed formats again and started doing one word pages, but in a way that fits the story. This was probably shortly after the really weird long footnotes and post-its, where it seems he couldn't cram anymore words per page without changing the font size. One funny way of looking at it anyway.
It really feels like this book was written to purposely garner as much analysis as possible, and trap the academic world. So many people have written on the book now, scouring over every little detail, finding hidden meanings in everything, that the author carefully planted, clues and puzzles, literary devices of all sorts, analogies everywhere, you could study this book for a lifetime and still be pulling out new theories, new views, which I'm sure was the point. This book traps you the way Navy was trapped by the house, the way Zampano was trapped by the Navidson Record, the way Johnny was trapped by Zampano's book, and now you the reader become trapped by Johnny's book, and the cycle continues and you feel almost compelled to write about it and trap more people in your trappings.
There is just so much to explore, down to the smallest detail like which typos he decides to use to overarching themes, such as the sunken ship kind of representing everyone at one point. So many different conclusions to draw. All of this slows us down, draws us in. So many people skim books, but here is an unskimmable book, where the story isn't the destination, or even the journey, but the telling. Perhaps by doing so he is trying to get more in depth, rather than just another read and go book, finish it and move on, so many books to read, he gets us to stop and think, really think, about what we just read, what just happened. You can't read this on a time limit, this book almost reads you, you read and stop, read and stop, thinking as you go, so many things flying through your idea, strings of ideas, balls, etc. all just consuming you. He wants you to understand as well as read, to become more then a reader, but a participant.
I wouldn't call this new or different style of writing a gimmick, it is far too well done to be labelled as such. But it seems to me more and more modern novels are trying new ways to draw a crowd, to stand out. There are so many good writers out there now, and with the internet they can put their writings for the world to read, and some of the best stories I've read have been online now, so I think that has really effected books, and they are evolving to stay popular. We have had centuries of the same, stories written front to back, well written, poorly written, very linear, and they have been amazing, but it seems in the last 25 years or so everything is changing, we are at the front of a new revolution, not an industrial one this time but a technological revolution. Like Cloud Atlas where it's 6 stories interwoven into one, you might call it a literary gimmick, but it's staying relevant and appealing to the masses; especially the literary world. Reading each as a single story is alright, if it were a series of 6 books, and the same for House Of Leaves, you could read 3 separate stories, make it a trilogy, but reading it as a whole is an experience that does more otherwise. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Even comparing the different editions, he has made dozens of different editions with different colours, misprints, whatever. I noticed in my book certain pages have folds in them, that almost look like claw marks. Just the attention to detail on everything is amazing. It really feels like this was written for the literary world, while it's not mainstream, it was written to appeal to the mainstream, by being so different, standing out so much, especially to the literary world. By its very design it has been written to entangle the literary world, the analysis can never really end, because without word of god we don't really know who wrote what, Johnny or Zampano. Johnny says he tries not to edit things, but passages have been lost, and I feel later on he has been editing more than he lets on. It has a feeling that everything is intentional, every word, so you look more and more into it, so easy to get lost in the pages. He has written it to be studied vigorously, although only so much can ever be gained. Like the house, you can only study so much of that, you can only study so much of this book; but it can become so easy to be trapped in the studying of it you can become obsessed.
There were lots of great words from many different characters, which really had me stop and think about them, which is another reason it took so long to read, I kept stopping to ponder over everything, to really take my time and understand as well as read; even though any understanding will always be limited, and I loved it.
The story isn't the story, the story is the telling of the story. He has taken the saying "the medium is the message" and made it more true than ever before.