Matilda Reviews: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski


 Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

My Thoughts:

Wow. This novel was one crazy rollercoaster of a ride, and I mean that almost literally. It’s no simple feat reading a book that has text going in all directions – upside down text, backwards text, text running slantwise across the page, text in tiny boxes, crossed-out text, text that jumps around the page, text that you read moving up the page instead of down. And that’s not even mentioning the footnotes, which have footnotes with footnotes. Or the multiple appendices. Before I began the book, I thought that I might be annoyed with its drunken structure, but reading it was actually fun.

Essentially, House of Leaves is a book about a manuscript about a documentary about a house that is way, way, way bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. An architecturally impossible house, you say? Neat, you say? That’s what I thought at first. Well, it turns out that that house (and this book) is incredibly, intensely frightening. The strangeness of the text is meant to reflect the strangeness of the house, which has, apparently, no end to its either its depth or its ever-expanding labyrinthine construction.

Then, on top of the story of this house, you’ve also got the story of Johnny Truant, the young man who has discovered an immense amount of research and writing about the home movie/documentary about this house. As he compiles this research into a book, we begin to see (through his extensive footnotes) that the idea of the house is slowly driving him mad.

House of Leaves is definitely a unique book. It may not be a simple read, but it’s worth it to sit down and make your way through it. My suggestion is to skip around when it instructs you to do so. Go to the appendices. Read the footnotes. And don’t forget to grab two bookmarks!


2 thoughts on “Matilda Reviews: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski”

  1. Wow. I had heard that this was a difficult read, but I had no idea it was formatted like that! The story sounds really interesting, though. I might have to give this a try. Thanks for the review!

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