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House Of Leaves Paperback – 6 Jul 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038560310X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385603102
  • Product Dimensions: 17.9 x 3.4 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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 an alternate 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)

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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

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 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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18 of 20 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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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Nov. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Part academic paper, part horror story, part too-real-to-be-comfortable description of escalating insanity, part impenetrable footnote-maze, part (multi-)layered meta-novel - and fully enigmatic and wonderful, House of Leaves is one of the strangest and most memorable books I've ever read. A mere review can't possibly do it justice; isolated and analyzed, its very different and seemingly incompatible elements seem odd, frightening, pointless, sick, funny, and anything in between. Put together, though, the whole thing develops a thoroughly weird and unique attraction.
Having completed the book, I can image Mark Danielewski thrusting his fists skywards, cackling madly and roaring, Viktor Frankenstein-style: "It's alive!" It feels like something that shouldn't be alive but somehow still is.
Danielewski's creation is by no means flawless, the nuts and bolts show in places - but in most cases, I have the impression that the flaws and imperfections are intended.
This one is going to stick, keeping to the edges of my mind like shadows; never quite disappearing, and - when night comes - crawling out of hiding, demanding attention again.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By H. Ashford VINE VOICE on 28 July 2007
Format: Paperback
I was planning to write a longer review of this book, but I now don't feel I can add much to the in-depth and thoughtful review left by "drkennydouglas" (see below).

Yes it is clever, very clever. And yes, it is scary. And yes, the scariness unfolds gradually, partly though the asides in the footnotes, as a good horror story should do. However, what I will say is that I found this book very hard work to read.

Most of the time I found the innovative typographical design increased my enjoyment of the book. I've probably used the wrong word there, but what I mean is that the text is printed in all sorts of different ways, sometimes upside down, or working up the page (when the character was climbing a ladder), or in a small box in the middle of the page that gets smaller on subsequent pages (as the character crawls through an ever smaller tunnel), sometimes in mirror writing, and once in a box that went "through" the pages. I particularly enjoyed the sections where there were only a few words on each page which had the effect of ramping up the excitement in an almost cinematic way.

The book has two main stories that unfold side by side. One is in the main text (the Navidson Record), the other unfolds in the (extensive) footnotes (the Johnny Truant story). But there are also numerous pseudo- academic asides which can be quite tedious (I have to admit I mostly skip-read these - you can't just ignore them because they have little snippets that are relevant to the main stories). You also end up flipping backwards and forwards through the pages, and I remember saying to myself at one point "I do wish they'd printed this book in the order I am supposed to read it!".

Overall I enjoyed this book, and at times found it hard to put down. But is was hard work to read and I was rather relieved when I had finished it. If your taste goes to lightweight fiction then I suggest you take note of the review further down by "Bookworm Lady a1za".
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