House of Leaves

House of Leaves

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375703768
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/2000
Pages: 736
Sales rank: 407
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Mark Z. Danielewski was born in 1966. House of Leaves is his first novel.

Hometown:

Los Angeles, California

Date of Birth:

March 5, 1966

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Yale University, 1988; M.F.A., University of Southern California, 1993

What People are Saying About This

Jonathan Lethem

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, author of Motherless Brooklyn)

Gregory Maguire

House of Leaves actually gave me nightmares: I had to stop reading it before bedtime. I'm sure klasons will be set blaring around it and klieg lights will be trained on it, and so they should. Its secrets are rich and obscure. Danielewski's textured novel is about apprehensions, in all senses of the word: to anticipate with dread, to seize, to understand. If you can imagine that Peter Pan's enemy is not Captain Hook but Neverland itself, or that the whale that swallows Jonah is Moby-Dick, you'll begin to appreciate what this book is about. Anticipate it with dread, seize, and understand. A riveting reading experience.
—(Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West)

Bret Easton Ellis

A great novel. A phenomenal debut. Thrillingly alive, sublimely creepy, distressingly scary, breathtakingly intelligent -- it renders most other fiction meaningless. One can imaging Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballrad, Stephen King, and David Foster Wallace bowing at Danielewski's feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter, awe.
—(Bret Easton Ellis)

Reading Group Guide

The questions, author biography, and suggested reading that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading and discussion of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. We hope they will provide you with a variety of ways of thinking and talking about this truly challenging and extraordinary book.

1) How did you read the book? Page by page? Zampanò’s text, then Truant’s? What was your reaction to trying to navigate through the book? Confusion? Frustration? Claustrophobia? Terror? Intrigue? How does the form of the novel affect and reflect the emotional and narrative content of the book? How does the experience of reading House of Leaves mirror the experience of the various characters in the novel? In what way (if any) does the reader (and the author, Danielewski) act as a character in the book?

2) What are we to make of Truant’s claim, made early on (p.xx), that everything we are about to read is false? —the movie does not exist, the house does not exist, even many of the references sited in the footnotes do not exist. Is there anything in the book that we know is real, and more essentially, what does “real” mean in the context of a novel / this novel? Does any one of the major characters in the novel even necessarily exist? Zampanò? Truant (the editors point out that they have never met Truant in the flesh (p.4))? Truant’s mother? Navidson? And if the contents of Zampanò’s scrapbook are false, why would any one of the characters imagine not only the documentary The Navidson Record but create fictional evidence, scholarship and commentary of that documentary? How is the answer different when this question is applied to Danielewski, the actual author of House of Leaves?

3) Is House of Leaves a horror story? In what ways does the novel fit the genre? It what ways does it subvert the conventions of the genre? What is the horror in House of Leaves? Can you make an equally persuasive argument that House of Leaves is in fact a love story?

4) Asked to briefly describe House of Leaves, Danielewski has said in an interview that he “likes to look at House of Leaves as a three-character play: a blind old man, a young man, and a very special, extraordinarily gifted woman.” Who is the “extraordinarily gifted woman” in the novel? What are her gifts? Is her role truly as central as the obviously integral roles played by the “blind old man” and the “young man”?

5) Describe Will Navidson as a husband; a father; a brother. “Why did Navidson go back to the house” (p.385)? In what ways do relations change within the Navidson family over the course of The Navidson Record? How does the house affect these relationships? How do these relationships affect the house?

6) Why does Johnny Truant become so consumed by Zampanò’s manuscript? What in particular enthralls him so much – the house? The Navidson Record? The manuscript itself?

7) The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur is referenced frequently throughout the book both explicitly and implicitly. In fact, Zampanò has attempted to obliterate all references to Minos and the Minotaur within the text. Truant meanwhile tries to “resurrect” most of these passages (p.111) and later dreams that he is a Minotaur hunted by a drunken frat boy (p.403-406). What is the significance of the Minotaur to the novel? Why does Zampanò cross out all references? And why does Truant then reconstruct them? Another element of the Theseus myth that features prominently is the labyrinth. How does the labyrinth function in the myth? In House of Leaves?

8) One of the major elements of the book’s layout is the use of different fonts. What fonts are used and how are they significant? For instance, Johhny’s text appears in Courier—in what way does Johhny himself act as a “courier”?

9) On page 320, Zampanò appears to have written a typo—“He (Tom) might have spent all night drinking had exhaustion not caught up with me.” Should the “me” be “him”? Why doesn’t Truant point this out as a typo, or is this another one of Truant’s “additions” to The Navidson Record? Is it possible that Zampanò was actually a member of the Navidson family?

10) What are some of the ways that the novel defines and explores the concept of space? In what ways is this concept distorted? How does space change physically, in the house; literally, in the layout of the novel itself; and psychically, in the minds of the characters and between the characters? How do these various spatial changes relate to each other?

11) What does it mean for something to be bigger on the inside than out? Is the Navidson’s house the only thing in the book that can be described that way? Can the novel itself be described that way?

12) Much of the scholarship and commentary on The Navidson Record notes the vaginal quality of the house (for example, the footnote on page 358). In what ways is the house vaginal and/or feminine? How does the consumptive femininity of the house relate to Truant’s (and Navidson’s) dysfunctional relations with the opposite sex? And how are the various female characters throughout the novel presented? Is the novel full of strong women or exploited women? Or both?

13) What are we to make of the death of the baby on pages 518-521, which is the last time we hear from Truant and the only time Truant tells us anything completely in third person? How does this story relate to the Minotaur? Whose baby is it? Could the baby be Truant? What does the passage suggest about Truant’s mother locked away inside “The Whale”?

14) What can we tell about Truant’s relationship with his insane mother, Pelefina Heather Lievre, especially from looking at the Whalestoe Institute Letters? Does she have any relationship to Zampanò? Navidson? Karen? On page 615, one can read the encoded line: “Dear Zampanò, Who did you lose?” This is found in the passage that follows if you take the first letter of each word, spelling “&:” as “and”: …destroyed. Endless arrangements—re: Zealous accommodations, medical prescriptions, & needless other wonders, however obvious—debilitating in deed; you ought understand—letting occur such evil?” Who did Zampanò lose? Why would Truant’s mother ask?

15) How does Johnny’s story end? What is Johnny’s mental state as the book comes to a close? Is the end of Johnny’s story the end of the novel’s story?

16) One of the centerpieces of the novel is a film, and Danielewski has said that film and film criticism were a (if not, the) major influence on the writing of the novel. In what ways would you describe the book as “cinematic”? How is the language of film (high angle, low angle, jump cut, pan, etc.) used in the text and reflected in the scenes chosen and in the layout? Going further, the novel contains references to the work of Fellini (for example, Zampanò shares his name with a character in the film, La Strada). What are the film allusions in the book and how do they inform the story?

17) Danielewski’s sister is the rock singer POE and her album, Haunted, serves, in many ways, as a companion piece to House of Leaves (and vice versa). How do the album and the novel echo, mirror, and distort each other? How does the song “5-Minute Hallway” reflect the themes in the book? How about the two versions of “Hey Pretty”?

18) Danielewski originally self-published House of Leaves on the Internet. In what ways does the novel comment on the Internet and the “information age”? The novel has been called the “first major experimental novel of the new millennium.” In what ways is the novel a product of its times and a comment on its times?

19) The House of Leaves has been published in various editions, including the web edition, the US hardcover, the US softcover, the UK edition, etc. These editions have been different in a number of ways (see “A Note On This Edition” on the copyright page for descriptions of some of these differences). What does the existence of these various editions suggest? More specifically, what do their variations mean?

20) What is the significance of the blue type in the book? In what various ways and to what effect is the blue type used? Why “blue”? And very specifically, why does the word “house” always appear in blue?

Introduction

The questions, author biography, and suggested reading that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading and discussion of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. We hope they will provide you with a variety of ways of thinking and talking about this truly challenging and extraordinary book.

Customer Reviews

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House of Leaves 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 277 reviews.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
Though I was warned, by reading the sleeve, that this would be experimental reading, nothing could have prepared me for the trip this book took me in. By far, this is the most fun I have had reading a book, literally. And when they used the word experimental to describe it, they were not using it lightly, I have read nothing like it in my life.

The story is actually a series of embedded stories, told by the person, who writes the introduction to the book, named Johnny Truant, who finds the actual book, written by Zampano, which is the body of the work. So essentially, you are reading a story about a man reading a story and following the two in tandem. But its a bit more complicated than that, because the story Johnny has found which is written by Zampano, is actually an over the top, study of a film which does not exist, which in `Blair Witch-esqe¿ fashion, tells the story of a family that moves into a house, only to find out that the house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Much bigger.

The complexity of the stories is further multiplied by the fact that half of it is the work you are reading, and the other half told through foot notes, which in turn have their own foot notes, apendixes, drawings and exhibits which they reference. In a most unusual way, through poetry and prose, you are taken in a bizarre ride through the most unusual house you ever heard of. The study providing so much detail about this movie that you essentially feel like you have watched the movie yourself¿oh, and I should probably mention, Zampano is blind. It begs the question, how did he see the movie to begin with? Or was it even a movie?

Prepare yourself to tear this book apart and truly interact with this book. This book reads in pages, columns, spirals, upside down, single words, geometrical and asymmetrical arrangements, footnotes, poetry, letters, sideways, on diagonals¿upside down on diagonals and hanging. You will find yourself going from page seven to page four hundred and back only to be forced to go back to the end before you can continue with the beginning. It is a book that covers so many writing styles and approaches it actually may test some people¿s patience, but it pays off in the richness of its characters and the thrill the actual story provides, at some points forcing you to do your own detective work and not leave a single foot note unscratched regardless of how unimportant it may seem.

If you are tired of reading books from cover to cover, if you ever really wanted to engross yourself in a book, this is the book for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read. This book was recommended to me as 'the scariest book I'll ever read' - there are indeed some parts that are creepy, but this is definitely no easy-reading thriller, and the book goes way beyond just trying to scare you. The opening warns you about the possibility of nightmares if you keep reading, and while I did not exactly experience nightmares, there were a few times I woke up from sleep after a late-night read realizing in near delirium that I am deliberating the contents and meaning of the book in my sleep. A must read, but not while you have important business to take care of. This book will affect you.
Veronica23 More than 1 year ago
House of Leaves is a book for those who truly love to think and read. As the novel progresses, there are times when the reader has to figure out how they will go about reading. I loved having to figure out that I needed a mirror to read certain texts. I felt proud of myself when I figured out that I had to read certain parts of the book in a different order to understand what it meant. The story itself is fascinating, even without the puzzle-like presentation. The idea of an ever-growing house that becomes a character itself reminds me a little of The Fall of the House of Usher and House of the Seven Gables. While I love reading longer novels, I know many would find the length and effort to decipher some of the text off-putting. It does take a while to read, so if it was for a book club I'm not sure people would have time to read it within shorter periods. Too long for a rainy day, as well. Overall, it has become one of my favorite books, and I certainly recommend it to anyone who listens.
SRSC More than 1 year ago
Danielewski's opus elliptically savors of H.P. Lovecraft - an interdimensional cavort into incomprehensible space and time. The horror here reflects like a spike of blue in a chamber of obsidian mirrors. At times ponderous, this genre-defying book - part horror, part literary, part romance, part suspense - possesses a dark luminescence that vindicates the long journey. As stated in a poem by Zapano, the putative narrator of one part of the book: "This great blue world of ours / seems a house of leaves / moments before the wind."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The way this book is written makes it hard to follow at times, but it also helps draw you into the story more completely. The concept behind the plot is great and the characters are well thought out and easily related to. It is quite long and will take a while to get through, but if you read it you will feel for the characters and get a real sense of what they felt when they were encountering the relentless hallways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is from someone who reads mainly classics: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc. I don't remember how I found out about House of Leaves, but I thank god I did. There is really no good way to describe the book. It's a book about a book about a book about a film that never existed...I think. I told my son about it when he was in 8th grade. He read it 'the longest book he'd ever read' and is now reading it for the second or third time. I have read it at least 3 times, and am heading for the fourth. The big question is, what is there about the book that grabs us so much? I'm not sure. Obviously, for a Jane Austen fan, Johnny Truant is an odd hero. But the book is an incredible roller coaster you simply don't want to get off. Give it a try, you WON'T be sorry. P.S. I also love Poe, but I found her after the book.
Meemojo More than 1 year ago
This book began in a very interesting way & slowly morphed into a mass of confusion. It seems that this should be TWO separate books. Also, at times, one gets the idea that the writer was on some sort of drug! ( As in acid trip! Seriously, the book had to be turned upside down to read some of the pages & some of the writting was done in spirals for no apparent reason) I have yet to finish the book- only read about half of it before putting it down in frustration. Too much "extras"! While the story of the expanding house was fascinating, the writting style was just too odd for my taste. I will most likely go back & finish it eventually, just to see how the family ends up. However, I would have enjoyed this so much more had it been written in a normal way!
arcticocean84 More than 1 year ago
Like many others, I was warned by friends and the book jacket that reading this book would be... different. I was STILL baffled at the complexity and reward this book offered with each new confusing page. The best advice for tackling this beast: 1) Keep a dictionary and a glass of water on hand. The language is complex, and the first half of the book is D-R-Y. 2) PLOW THROUGH THE DRY FIRST HALF. The second half is incredibly compelling, confusing, and rich with imagery. 3) Allow yourself to get lost in the footnotes. It's part of the experience! Mark Z. Danielewski took 10 years to write this book so dive in and give it the time it deserves. I promise that when you finish, you'll happily wait another 10 years for something else that even comes close.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ten years in the making, the dual stories of Will Navidson and his house that's larger on the inside than the outside, and Johnny Truant with his descent into madness while organizing the scraps of The Navidson Record, are simply amazing. Textual layouts designed in ways to mirror the events occurring within the pages, hidden codes throughout the story give birth to possibilities you might overlook otherwise ''...no homie at all''. House of Leaves is a monumental achievement of modern literature, and a book that everyone should take the time to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
House of Leaves takes you on a trip past the easily comprehensible fears that are found in most horror books: death, crime, terror, and brings you to a place where the unknown isn't just one thing. It twists into many, shifting and changing like the subject of this book itself. Layered with complexity, House of Leaves is built upon a totally different and new idea. The author brilliantly uses many different presentations to the reader to convey what soon becomes an almost overwhelmingly confusing and new idea of horror. This book does not just change your perception of what a terrifying book should be...It may even change your view of life. I've said enough- if you enjoy a challenging read, you should give House of Leaves a try. But, as the first line of the book says, 'This is not for you.' Take caution...it may be true.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a lot of people view the style and subject matter to be daunting, even boring from some i've spoken to. although the first 8 chapters seem to be all scientific facts and theories, the navidson report, and even johnny truant's story were engaging, and almost the whole time very frightening. it's a book that plays the idea of solitude, nyctophobia, and even claustrophobia to extremes, and the ideas of being hunted by that which you cannot see. some may see the book as trying too hard to be overly artistic in its representation, but mind you that some of the greatest writers, and directors of our time had ideas and views that a majority of people thought as unconventional. definitely give it a try.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book, I stopped reading it in the PM. Shook me up and made me socially disfunctional for a few days. Nuts. Read this when you know your not going to do anything of importance. Not for the light heart because of the total pshycological effects of the new fear of closets. Recommended to adults not a child's book in the least.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the single best book I have ever read. It was disturbing arousing frighteneing and never boring. This is the sort of book that never loses its charm.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best, and most haunting novels I have ever read. I cannot praise this book highly enough, but dare not write too much more for fear of spoiling this amazing novel. The novel is a peice of experimental fiction. The author wrote it following the death of his father. His sister, Songwriter and performer Poe simaltaneously wrote her sophmore CD, 'Haunted.' Though Haunted stands on its own as a CD chronocling a girl's turmoil following the death of her father, it was also written to correspond to the book. It works on two levels, and so does the book. The book, a horror story written as a review of a film that was never made is humoress, gripping, and terrifiying. The book starts by indicating that it is a work of fiction, but that this does not matter, the effects would be the same. True.
Guest More than 1 year ago
House of Leaves is the best book I have ever read, hands down! No other book has ever made me so excited to keep turning the pages. I was aroused, anxious, terrified, and nervous all at the same time. I enjoyed every page. I was able to interact with the book because of the way the words were written on each page. I was never bored with it. In one word: EXTRAORDINARY!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you perform minimal research before spending $35 on a book then complain because it’s “hard to read” and that people only buy it because it looks cool, I’m not sure your opinion amounts to much. This isn’t your typical Stephen King cookie-cutter horror novel. With a little online research, you’ll soon realize this book has not only obvious visual abnormalities but hidden codes on different pages and sections. I had a lot of fun dissecting this, going back and forth between pages. At times, it has a sort of board game feel. This is the good. I’m only giving it 4 stars because I will admit; it gets tedious at times and is a bit of a bear to read. I’ve read through it twice, but have had countless starts and restarts over the past few years. If you enjoy weird things and can stick with it, I’d say this book is definitely worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can just see Danielewski sitting in Starbuck's with his laptop, letting people watch him write this book. That's just the kind of writing this is - it's meant to be observed by people who are into any kind of new and striking fad. What I can't believe is the amount of paper something like this wastes. I'm not saying that just to be cruel - it consists of probably one-third blank space. I get the metaphor, but this seems ridiculous, to say the least. I was excited when I read everyone's reviews - it sounded intriguing and fun and new. What I got was a bunch of convoluted tripe that didn't amount to much of anything. I won't lie - I can't possibly make myself finish this book. I don't care about any of the characters, I don't sympathize with anyone, and the plot is so slow just to catch up with the book cover that any hope it had for suspense is gone. The concept of a place that is bigger inside than out was brilliantly mastered in the 80's by the creators of Dr. Who, and it didn't need any additions, certainly not by someone who thinks that analytical essays make for good fiction. I am completely bummed out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, a psychotic madman, rooms and halls that change shape in the blink of an eye. And this is just half the entree. This book is so packed with symbolism and encryptions that footnotes abound. The author has further brought you into the realm of madness by changing fonts and typing in reverse or upside down. You'll get a different perspective every time it's read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've ever read, but it's not for the easily confused or weak minded. There are so many layers to this book you could re-read it 10 times in a row and it will feel like a different book every time. What if the physical world was mutable, undependible. What if you could venture through darkness itself. What if you got lost. This book is as much about the darkness in each persons soul as it is about the never ending room found in the navidson house. Absolutely brilliant. Just thinking about it makes me shiver
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading all of the glowing reviews on this site, I couldn't wait to read 'House of Leaves'. I have to say that I am very disappointed. Not once was I scared. I love scary books, I was looking forward to the chills and nightmares you all promised. Were we reading different books? The whole thing is weird for the sake of being weird, which is very tiresome, even for a gen-xer like myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The most interesting read I have had in a while. At first it looks like a gimmick novel, until you realize how integral this 'gimmick' is to the reading and pacing of the action.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The comparison of this book to the Blair Witch Project is not inaccurate, in that it tries to be innovative and creative but fails horribly, and only ends up being rather empty and unsatisfying. To begin with, the idea of a fictional study based on make-believe tapes of the Navidson record, is new and interesting. Execution of it, however, falls far far short of good story telling. The meat of the story takes up only a small portion of the book. The rest of the space in the book is filled with journal type entries of a character called Johnny Truant (nothing to do with the house), and intermissions of junk that have again, nothing to do with the story. Danielewski wants you to know that he's capable of quoting Jung, Freud, Homer, and in different languages, too. Most people who tell me they've read the book and liked it, have enjoyed it because it's an innovative and 'hip', bauhaus attempt at presenting a story. They also like it because of the superfluous material. Sort of like, 'if it's hard to understand, it must be good'. However, this book isn't so hard to understand. It's simply tedious to read. It never picks up, never gets scary or creepy, and never fills the hunger a discerning reader feels when s/he picks up a book. If anything, the subplots distract like hell, and Danielewski's 'gimmick' attempts at creating certain effects, like clever text placement, upside words, mirror-imaged paragraphs, annoy more than anything else. Now if I can just find that receipt so I can return it...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely maddening. I picked it up because someone told me that they enjoyed it, and they thought i did. When I read it, i was seriously sucked into the sickness. I thought i was going to go insane, only by reading my way through this 'documentary', with footnoted from another reader, Johnny Truant. He also gradually was going insane reading this. A wonderful concept, incredibly written. Great Book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Explaining this book is like describing a funhouse full of mirrors to a person who has never had sight. 'House Of Leaves' is an extrardinary, complex commentary on relationships. Relationships between men and women, between siblings, parents and children, and ultimately spacial relationships where what you see is not exactly what you get. The book is a demanding commentary on a non-existent documentary film based on a family of four that moves into a country house that apparently expands and contracts at will, adding doors and black hallways, staircases and the like, leaving it's owners amused, perplexed and ultimately terrified. The home rips at the very fibre of which this family exist, threatening at first their relationships with each other, their mental well being, and ultimately, their very existance. At times baffling, funny, and ultimately tragic and disturbing, this is one title that will be interpreted differently by virtually everyone that picks it up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Style and structure aside, a novel must have something to say. It should at least make a point. This novel says nothing, and is pointless.