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House of Leaves Hardcover – Mar 2000

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Hardcover, Mar 2000

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc; Signed edition (Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375410341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375410345
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 18.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,309,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

I still get nightmares. In fact I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I'm not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares.
Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel House of Leaves is a multi-layered fiction--part horror-story, part philosophical meditation, and mostly very good storytelling. The Navidson family move into a house in Ash Tree Lane. Will Navidson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, decides to document his family's domestic acclimatisation in a film, The Navidson Record, but it soon becomes apparent that something is very wrong with the house, and the film becomes a document of the growing disorientation and terror of the occupants. Later, a blind old man, Zampano, writes about this film: at his death, his papers are in disarray, and the strange narrative and commentary are reconstructed by Johnny Truant, a young LA slacker working part-time in a tattoo parlour. Try as he might, though, Truant can find no record that the film ever existed, but the unaccountable fear begins to haunt him too.
Ever see yourself doing something in the past and no matter how many times you remember it you still want to scream stop, somehow redirect the present, reorder the action?

Danielewski builds, around the armature of the central horror fiction, a complex and involving portrait of three very different characters: Truant's hedonistic trawls through LA are counterpointed by Zampano's intellectual obsessiveness and by the disintegration of Navidson's "cosy little outpost." What is common to all three is a concern for the elusive nature of truth and experience, and the fragility of the deepest human needs for security and family.

A first, casual glance through the book might initially be intimidating, for Danielewski uses an arsenal of post-modern and avant-garde techniques, from multiple typefaces, footnotes and collage to the insertion of photographs, sketches, a page of Braille, and even an index--these are introduced gradually, however, and used almost cinematically to slow down or speed up the reading experience. The use of devices like these is not new of course, but, akin to writers such as David Foster Wallace and Jeff Noon, Danielewski freely unites avant-garde and popular art forms, finding new ways to explore what is, at heart, a deep interest in the addictive properties of narrative. Elsewhere, House of Leaves has already been compared to the film The Blair Witch Project for its mix of pseudo-documentary and genre horror: such comparisons draw attention to the way in which many young writers and film-makers are reinventing tired and formulaic genre traditions.

The book begins "This is not for you": a warning most readers would do well to ignore, for House of Leaves, despite its occasional stylistic overload, is a book that is near impossible to stop reading. --Burhan Tufail. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"A great novel. A phenomenal debut. Thrillingly alive, sublimely creepy, distresingly scary, breathtakingly intelligent - it renders most other fiction meaningless. One can imagine Pynchon and Ballard and Stephen King and David Foster Wallace bowing at Mark's feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter and awe. I feel privileged to be among its first readers. Will I ever recover?" -- Bret Easton Ellis "Genre-defying ... a novel in which something is always lurking just out of sight ... at once a genuinely scary chiller, a satire on the business of criticism and a meditation on the way we read." Observer "This demonically brilliant book is impossible to ignore, put down or persuasively conclude reading. In fact, when you purchase your copy you may reach a certain page and find me there, reduced in size like Vincent Price in The Fly, still trapped in the web of its malicious, beautiful pages." Jonathan Lethem "Superbly inventive ... a rare debut: genuinely exciting." Guardian "There is a core of dark power in House of Leaves and a sense of return to the great dark matter of American literature: the haunted houses of Hawthorne, Poe and Lovecraft ... one of the few fictions genuinely to approach the nightmarish." Independent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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While enthusiasts and detractors will continue to empty entire dictionaries attempting to describe or deride it, "authenticity" still remains the word most likely to stir a debate. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Copyzombie on 25 Oct 2012
Format: Paperback
To give this book mere 3 out of 5 stars suggests that House of Leaves is a mediocre work. It isn't. But 3/5 is still the closest approximation of my feelings after reading it, no matter how inadequate the rating system is in expressing the book's flawed genius.

House of Leaves has been marketed as a horror story, and a lesser author than Mr Danielewski would no doubt have turned it into a very engaging and still original piece of horror fiction. But the author has aimed higher, far higher.

Just saying that House of Leaves works on many levels would be a rather trite observation; that much is obvious after even the most cursory glance. At the book's heart is a false document of sorts, which has been edited by one hand, then one more layer has been added by the character who, I guess, can be said to be the main narrator - and then there's one more layer of editors. Sound complicated? It is. For those who 'get' the book, all those layers probably are one of the hooks that draw them in, each level adding new meanings to decipher and discuss. I, on the other hand, was first confused, then irritated, and finally increasingly bored. At one level, it has been suggested, the book is a parody of post-modern textual criticism. If House of Leaves indeed is such an inside joke writ large, then I'm one of the outsiders.

House of Leaves has attracted a considerable cult following. The sort of following who, for example, debate the true meaning of something that in a more ordinary book would have been dismissed as a typo. I can very well believe that Mr Danielewski has crafted the book to perfection, that every word, letter and space is just as it should be. But I wasn't fascinated enough to begin the quest of unravelling all the meanings encoded therein.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Jun 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
House of Leaves is one of the most original and astonishing books I have read in recent times. At first I found the prospect of getting through the book daunting - the many footnotes, the double narrative, the often bizarre layout of the pages - but I found the book hard to put down, and the stories, utterly absorbing. This is a very American book, yet it spans Time and Culture. The ghost is a very American ghost, but it is the stuff of many a common nightmare. It is the story of Johnny Truant, an aimless tattoo artist, living in LA, who discovers in the room of his former landlord, a strange collection of manuscripts. As he becomes more and more deeply embroiled in collating these, strange forces are unleashed and he sinks ever deeper into terror and madness. At the same time, "The Navidson Record" the story contained in the manuscripts is woven into the tale, a story that is both compelling and disturbing. The footnotes are fascinating, containing elements of Myth, Physics, fictional criticism (which is at times ironic and comical) Architecture, History and practically every field of Human endeavour. It is also a remarkably touching and compassionate book. It made me feel as if I understood the American psyche a little better. It feels like a great labour of love on the part of the author.
I would recommend this book to any polymath, or anyone with a love of Myth, Art and Science. It is a fabulous literary trip. Oh, and its also extremely scarey!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Unless you have quite a lot of patience and a willingness to read an 'experimental' novel, you'll probably get bored/lost/frustrated/angry with this typographically erratic, non-linear novel. Having said that, you could be a rebellious reader (postmodern texts often claim to require an active reader, but if you are following the trail the author has left does that make you particulraly active? Maybe it's more active to read against the author's wishes -random thought), ignore most of the footnotes and what you'd be left with is an intriguing, cleverly elaborated story. Is it horror? Well, it didn't make me particularly frightened. I'd say it works better as a philosophical conceit - what if space defies our conception of it and constantly shifts beyond our possibilities of knowledge? In that sense it did make me wonder/feel concerned about whether the rooves, floors, walls surrounding me might suddenly disappear.
I think this feeling was heightened by the typographical games Danielewski plays. For me these were one of the best parts of the book because the layout of the text seems to be mirroring what is happening or being talked about in the main part of the text, so for example in the Labyrinth chapter, the text is in unconnected blocks on the page which are the circuitous paths you read/walk by following the footnotes back and forth across the pages.
As for the footnotes themselves, someone else reviewed this and said that they are misleading but I think that is the whole point - throughout the book we are told that no-one apart from Zampano knows about The Navidson Record. He is deliberately using misleading or fictive quotes and sources to write a faux-academic paper about an imaginary film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 July 2000
Format: Paperback
It is difficult to know what to say about this book. Danielewski has something dazzling and tedious at one and the same time. At the core of the book is a fascinating adventure/horror story based around 'The Navidson Record', which documents Will Navidson's explorations of his eerie, impossible house. At the same time this story is concealed behind a mass of invented criticism, rambling footnotes and 'postmodern' distancing tricks.
What is utterly frustrating is that the description of the Navidson Record is a damn good story. It is not, however, great literature, and the invokation of Ballard and Pynchon on the back cover is ridiculous. The stuff about Navidson's house is frightening and exciting - and reads very like a horror story written by Michael Crichton. Unfortunately, Danielewski seems embarrassed at writing a fairly simple, genre based adventure and felt compelled to conceal this behind the mass of footnotes and literary references. This sort of prententious elitism is a waste of time bearing in mind the obvious genre qualities of the work itself. The sections about Johnny Traunt are particularly aggravating, and seem only to have been included so that the author could look 'cool'. Worse, the academic references, both real and invented, seem to have been included to demonstrate that the author is intelligent, and above writing a simple genre novel. If Danielewski had cut most of the footnotes and included a preface saying (in big letters) "I AM CLEVER! ", he could have saved himself a lot of time.
Why give the book three stars then? Well, one -the Navidson record is, as I have said, a really interesting idea. Two - the use of typefaces is inventive and really works.
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