Buying a book because it is big, has weird looking pages and the slightly bored Saturday assistant in the 2nd hand bookshop is easily persuaded to sell it to me for very little money, is perhaps not the most effective way of selectng books, but sometimes it just pays off.
Which is how I came upon House of Leaves and then found out, of course, that in annals of contemporary experimental writing, it’s up there and I should know about it, but I didn’t.
House of Leaves might be a ghost/horror story, a love story, a critique of writing analysis or even a exercise in typography…..it’s big, it’s complicated and oddly enthraling.
House of Leaves is the debut novel by the American author Mark Z. Danielewski, published by Pantheon Books. The novel quickly became a bestseller following its release on March 7, 2000. It was followed by a companion piece, The Whalestoe Letters. The novel has since been translated into a number of languages.
The format and structure of the novel is unconventional, with unusual page layout and style, making it ergodic literature. It contains copious footnotes, many of which contain footnotes themselves, and some of which reference books that do not exist. Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often creating both an agoraphobic and a claustrophobic effect. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other throughout the story in disorienting and elaborate ways.
While some have attempted to describe the book as a horror story, many readers as well as the author would define the book as a love story. Danielewski expands on this point in an interview: “I had one woman come up to me in a bookstore and say, ‘You know, everyone told me it was a horror book, but when I finished it, I realized that it was a love story.’ And she’s absolutely right. In some ways, genre is a marketing tool.”
House of Leaves has been described as a “satire of academic criticism.”
You might have to pay more for your copy than I did, but you may consider it money well spent.