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House of Leaves (1 Viewer)

Vixen

Senior Member
Yes, I only read about the first two chapters, and it has been serving my diabolical plots at sleep overs, camping trips, marshmellow roast, and late night car rides ever since. You know you have a good horror adaptation when the guys in the group are suddenly using nervous attempts at comedy as a coping mechanism. I have a friend who still won't forgive me for telling her key details right before she went house sitting.
 

pharseer

Senior Member
I'm reading it now. It's bloody brilliant! Firstly, I find myself fascinated by the Navidson Record, and desperately wanting to know what happens...and then I realize it's only a fictional account in a fictional account. The way Danielewski makes you care about it is...wow, amazing.

Then Johnny Truant's footnotes and his experiences bring a sort of interactive dimension to the book, because you find yourself (or at least _I_ did) scrutinzing the formatting, the little imperfections in the pages, the footnotes, wondering "Is that there on purpose?" or "what does that mean??"

It's creepy on so many levels, and it's so brilliantly written.... It's the best book I've read this year.
 

Tyson

Senior Member
What is it about? I want to hear what the first part is about I have been meaning to read it but always forget.
 

pharseer

Senior Member
It's a little hard to explain, b/c there are stories within stories. Basically this guy Johnny and his friend Lude break into the apartment of an old man who just died to scrounge. Johnny ends up finding and taking home this trunk full of bits of this novel that the old guy, Zampano, was writing. But the bits of novel start taking on their own life, sort of, and start haunting Johnny.

It's really an amazing book; humorous while at the same time being really scary. You find yourself a) really engrossed and b) questioning what YOU see in the book. I totally recommend it.
 

Tyson

Senior Member
My freind and I decided to go and buy a copy each and so I think we might do that today. My library doesn't carry it so that sucked. Thanks though for telling me about it.
 

Ham

Senior Member
Are any or all of you Borges fans? If you like HoL, and haven't read JLB's short fiction, you're missing out on quite a lot. Danielewski mines Borges quite liberally for ideas. But more than that, stylistically and thematically, the entire thing can be considered an homage to JLB.

The character Zampano goes beyond being Borgesian, and may actually be Borges himself.

Forgive me, those of you to whom this is common knowledge. But for those to whom it isn't, and who really like HoL, you owe it to yourselves to check it out further.
 

Hakeem

Senior Member
Well, the book sounds very good, I like horror and humor in the same time so I guess I'm going to get it. Thanks all! Is there any books by Danielewski?
 

BlackHoleEnvy

Senior Member
Ham said:
Are any or all of you Borges fans? If you like HoL, and haven't read JLB's short fiction, you're missing out on quite a lot. Danielewski mines Borges quite liberally for ideas. But more than that, stylistically and thematically, the entire thing can be considered an homage to JLB.

The character Zampano goes beyond being Borgesian, and may actually be Borges himself.

Forgive me, those of you to whom this is common knowledge. But for those to whom it isn't, and who really like HoL, you owe it to yourselves to check it out further.

I am introducing myself to Borges on your recommendation. And I am interested to hear your thoughts on exactly how Danielewski has mined him for ideas. This is the first I've heard of a Borgesian connection. Other great minds that come up often when discussing HOL are Joyce and Derrida, for starters.

An interesting side note: There is a Bret Easton Ellis blurb on HOL that states, in summary, that Stephen King, J. G. Ballard, and Pynchon should all bow down before Danielewski. I beleive it was Pynchon who actually replied to that blurb in the press by getting offended that someone would even mention his name in the same sentence as Danielewski. I found this to be utterly hilarious.
 

Ham

Senior Member
BlackHoleEnvy said:
Ham said:
Are any or all of you Borges fans? If you like HoL, and haven't read JLB's short fiction, you're missing out on quite a lot. Danielewski mines Borges quite liberally for ideas. But more than that, stylistically and thematically, the entire thing can be considered an homage to JLB.

The character Zampano goes beyond being Borgesian, and may actually be Borges himself.

Forgive me, those of you to whom this is common knowledge. But for those to whom it isn't, and who really like HoL, you owe it to yourselves to check it out further.

I am introducing myself to Borges on your recommendation. And I am interested to hear your thoughts on exactly how Danielewski has mined him for ideas. This is the first I've heard of a Borgesian connection. Other great minds that come up often when discussing HOL are Joyce and Derrida, for starters.

An interesting side note: There is a Bret Easton Ellis blurb on HOL that states, in summary, that Stephen King, J. G. Ballard, and Pynchon should all bow down before Danielewski. I beleive it was Pynchon who actually replied to that blurb in the press by getting offended that someone would even mention his name in the same sentence as Danielewski. I found this to be utterly hilarious.

Nice. Some Borges faves:
-The Aleph
-Funes, the Memorious
-The Garden of Forking Paths
-Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
-The Library of Babel

Repeated thematic or overt labyrinth references, a fondness for reflection and spatial dilation, and lots of references to fictional scholarly works (as with Zampano). Borges is a lot more literary-style writer than Danielewski, but there's still a lot to appreciate in each for fans of the other.

I do feel Pynchon would be right to be taken aback by the comparison, however. The fact that these two guys both use written words is about where similarities end. Danielewski is an interesting story teller, and does some very cool things playing with style and voice. Pynchon is like the quantum physics of writing, though. He's writing for an audience comprised entirely of academics and literary scholars, while Danielewski is writing pop fiction. Not saying either is a superior art form, but in what Pynchon does, he plays 2nd fiddle to nobody, and Danielewski isn't even playing the same instrument.
 

BlackHoleEnvy

Senior Member
I bought an anthology of all of Borges' short fiction for $18. It's pretty sweet.

As for the Pynchon/Danielewski connection, I think it does, indeed, exist, but on the level of subtext, or perhabs something deeper than subtext. To say that D. is writing pop-fiction is true in a very superficial sense. Contextually, yes, he caters to younger, hipper audiences. But beneath this stylish veneer is something so deep and complex I can't even put it into words. I only know it exists because of the profound effect it has on my state of mental health while reading. It's funny that you mentioned quantum physics. Reading about quantum mechanics and superstring theory, etc., often has a similar effect on me as reading HOL. I think it stems from rubbing up against something you don't, and perhaps cannot, fully understand....
 

Ham

Senior Member
BlackHoleEnvy said:
I bought an anthology of all of Borges' short fiction for $18. It's pretty sweet.

As for the Pynchon/Danielewski connection, I think it does, indeed, exist, but on the level of subtext, or perhabs something deeper than subtext. To say that D. is writing pop-fiction is true in a very superficial sense. Contextually, yes, he caters to younger, hipper audiences. But beneath this stylish veneer is something so deep and complex I can't even put it into words. I only know it exists because of the profound effect it has on my state of mental health while reading. It's funny that you mentioned quantum physics. Reading about quantum mechanics and superstring theory, etc., often has a similar effect on me as reading HOL. I think it stems from rubbing up against something you don't, and perhaps cannot, fully understand....

It's tough to say what I'm trying to say without it sounding like I mean that what Pynchon is doing is somehow objectively "better." But that's not what I mean, and it's not what I'm saying.

What lies beneath D.'s stylish veneer is talent. And no doubt about it. He's good, and he plies the psyche in ways that many (most?) authors can't. There's something subtle and Lovecraftian about the way he massages the psyche. And it's a gift every bit as subtle and real as Pynchon's, but it's a different sort of beast.

I don't mean the distinction "pop fiction" as a slam. I just mean it to distinguish it from what writers like Pynchon, Nabokov, etc. are doing. D. is writing deeply moving and disturbing prose, but I see no evidence he is (for example) subtly encoding an entire history of modern art in the various subplots without ever mentioning art overtly (as Pynchon did in V.) or that he has used the three strings in a short story, plus a musical metaphor that runs throughout, to tie the story together by using the three technical definitions of "Entropy" as a framework and plot for the story as a whole (as Pynchon did in Entropy).

"Pop" can sound cheap, but I just mean to distinguish it from the pretentious sort of literary shenanigans a writer like Pynchon slaves over a text for years to hide in a story or novel. It's a different sort of writing, is all. Barry Sanders and Michael Jordan were both great athletes, but it's no slight to Barry to say Michael was a better basketball player. I mean the comparison here in a similar light.
 

BlackHoleEnvy

Senior Member
I agree with what you're saying about Pynchon, and I know you weren't slamming Danielewski with the pop referrence. They are two different beasts playing two different games. But it is possible that some of the "encoding" you spoke of is at play in HOL. There has been ample time for academic perspective with respect to Pynchon's work. HOL is relatively new, and it's pop appeal will cause most academics to write it off before looking further. The fact that it is sold in the "Horror" section of most book stores and not the "literature" section doesn't help.

I'm not saying what Danielewski is doing is on the level of Pynchon, but it seems to me that the similarities are there. It's harder to see in Danielewski because there is a very tangible story at play to distract the reader from what is encoded underneath, whereas some of Pynchon's work is too abstract for a proper story to be apparent. It's emotional manipulation vs. intellectual manipulation.

We are basically in agreement, though.
 

Ham

Senior Member
BlackHoleEnvy said:
I agree with what you're saying about Pynchon, and I know you weren't slamming Danielewski with the pop referrence. They are two different beasts playing two different games. But it is possible that some of the "encoding" you spoke of is at play in HOL. There has been ample time for academic perspective with respect to Pynchon's work. HOL is relatively new, and it's pop appeal will cause most academics to write it off before looking further. The fact that it is sold in the "Horror" section of most book stores and not the "literature" section doesn't help.

I'm not saying what Danielewski is doing is on the level of Pynchon, but it seems to me that the similarities are there. It's harder to see in Danielewski because there is a very tangible story at play to distract the reader from what is encoded underneath, whereas some of Pynchon's work is too abstract for a proper story to be apparent. It's emotional manipulation vs. intellectual manipulation.

We are basically in agreement, though.

I'll buy that. I'll just say that not a lot of my lit-sensors went off reading HOL. But that hardly means there aren't subtexts there. More likely just that I missed them. And I did really like the book. Guy's a helluva writer no matter how you slice it.

Anyway, I agree that we agree. I posted all that crap not so much to argue, as in acknowledgement of and appreciation for what Pynchon does. He's a writer I've held in awe for years, and figured somebody should stick up for him.

Enjoy Borges. Elsewhere in this site, I listed that anthology as one of the ten books I'd save from the apocalypse. (Or something like that.)
 

BlackHoleEnvy

Senior Member
Yeah. It's hard to have discussions in a forum without it looking like an argument. In any case, a large degree of subtext depends as much on perception and personal experience as it does on academic knowledge.

I'll start digging into the Borges stuff as soon as I finish some other things. Hopefully he will blow my mind for years to come.
 

Stewart

Senior Member
There is certainly a lot of Borges in Danielewski's House of Leaves as evidenced by blind Zampano, the literary criticism, the labyrinth, etc. and the book does well in this respect. Borges is an influence for many; he appears, also, in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose as Jorges of Burgos - a man with a Spanish tongue, blind, and a guardian of the labyrinth and mirror.

I found House of Leaves to be a an excellent exercise in style. The horror within it was perfectly executed, using Classical themes, and the four layers (Navidson, Zampano, Truant, Truant's editor) combining as different aspects are questioned. The voyeurism of watching Navidson without knowing how he thinks was great.

The only thing I didn't like about House of Leaves was Johnny Truant; a real dull character.
 

Julian_Gallo

Senior Member
Ham said:
Are any or all of you Borges fans? If you like HoL, and haven't read JLB's short fiction, you're missing out on quite a lot. Danielewski mines Borges quite liberally for ideas. But more than that, stylistically and thematically, the entire thing can be considered an homage to JLB.

The character Zampano goes beyond being Borgesian, and may actually be Borges himself.

Forgive me, those of you to whom this is common knowledge. But for those to whom it isn't, and who really like HoL, you owe it to yourselves to check it out further.

When I saw this post, I immediately thought of how this book was very much like Borges and was going to comment on it until I saw this post. Yes, it is very very obvious that this book was heavily influenced by Borges (and in some ways Cervantes with it's 'story within a story') But then again, Cervantes was a big influence on Borges so I guess that makes sense.

I highly recommend Borges to anyone who writes. It will definitely open you up to new ideas and new approaches.
 
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