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House of Leaves

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A young family 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.

710 pages, Paperback

First published May 7, 2000

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About the author

Mark Z. Danielewski

21 books6,577 followers
Mark Z. Danielewski is an American author best known for his books House of Leaves, Only Revolutions, The Fifty Year Sword, The Little Blue Kite, and The Familiar series.

Danielewski studied English Literature at Yale. He then decided to move to Berkeley, California, where he took a summer program in Latin at the University of California, Berkeley. He also spent time in Paris, preoccupied mostly with writing.

In the early 1990s, he pursued graduate studies at the USC School of Cinema-Television. He later served as an assistant editor and worked on sound for Derrida, a documentary based on the life of the Algerian-born French literary critic and philosopher Jacques Derrida.

His second novel, Only Revolutions, was released in 2006. The novel was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award.

His novel The Fifty Year Sword was released in the Netherlands in 2005. A new version with stitched illustrations was released in the United States 2012 (including a limited-edition release featuring a latched box that held the book). On Halloween 2010-2012, Danielewski "conducted" staged readings of the book at the REDCAT Theater inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Each year was different and included features such as large-scale shadows, music, and performances from actors such as Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad).

On May 12, 2015, he released the first volume, The Familiar (Volume 1): One Rainy Day in May in his announced 27-volume series The Familiar. The story "concerns a 12-year-old girl who finds a kitten..." The second volume, The Familiar (Volume 2): Into the Forest was released on Oct. 27, 2015, The Familiar (Volume 3): Honeysuckle & Pain came out June 14, 2016, and The Familiar (Volume 4): Hades arrived in bookstores on Feb. 7, 2017, and The Familiar (Volume 5): Redwood was released on Halloween 2017.

His latest release, The Little Blue Kite, is out now.

Quick Facts

He is the son of Polish avant-garde film director Tad Danielewski and the brother of singer and songwriter Annie Decatur Danielewski, a.k.a. Poe.

House of Leaves, Danielewski's first novel, has gained a considerable cult following. In 2000, Danielewski toured with his sister across America at Borders Books and Music locations, promoting Poe’s album Haunted, which reflects elements of House of Leaves.

Danielewski's work is characterized by experimental choices in form, such as intricate and multi-layered narratives and typographical variation.

In 2015, his piece Thrown, a reflection on Matthew Barney's Cremaster 2, appeared on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Official "Yarn + Ink" apparel inspired by his books House of Leaves and The Familiar is now available through his official website, Amazon and Etsy.

His latest short story, "There's a Place for You" was released on www.markzdanielewski.com in August 2020.

Read more on his Wikipedia page:

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,233 reviews
9 reviews104 followers
June 23, 2007
So there's a definite cult around this book, and I am one of the many who drank the Kool-Aide and never looked back.

Here's a little anecdote that speaks to the possibilities of this book:

I was an RA my junior and senior years of college. One year I had a good friend of mine living in my building, and upon one of her visits to my room I put The House of Leaves in her hand, telling her that she should read it. A couple of days later I was in my room, awake at some unholy hour due to my vampiric sleep schedule, and there's a knock at my door. As an RA this is a rather unsettling experience. On the other side of that door could be a drug overdose, suicide attempt, food poisoning or any other host of problems we're warned about as RAs. So tentatively I open the door and am relieved to find that it is not some horrific medical emergency, but simply my friend. Except my friend looks haggard. Her hair is unkempt, there are bags under her eyes and she is slouched forward, breaking her usually quite nice posture. In her hand is The House of Leaves. We stand there, silently measuring each other up, and then my friend rears back and throws the book at me, then walks away. Such behavior is not terribly unusual for this friend of mine, so I make a note to ask about this later and then go back to bed.

The next day I call up my friend and ask her what exactly was the deal. "I hadn't slept in two days," she said. "That damn book kept me awake. I couldn't finish it, I couldn't sleep with it in the room, I had to get rid of it. That book fucked me up." To this day she still can't bring herself to finish reading the book. And so.

The book has an amazing way of crawling beneath your skin and taking root. When I read it my sleep schedule, already astoundingly bad, became even more irregular and bizarro. I started looking at things differently. The world changed. Not in any big way, but there was a definite shift, and that's the way this book works. It comes at you sideways. People who just see it as a gimmick, in my opinion, are trying to hit the book straight on when you just have to give into it. It's like music, which isn't surprising seeing as how Mark Z. Danielewski's sister is the recording artist Poe, who came up with her album Haunted in tandem with Danielewski's writing of House of Leaves.

There are sections of this book I found so surprising and affecting that I had to put it down and give myself a minute to take in what I'd read and go over it in my mind. Every person I've ever met who has read this book has had something to say about it, something more personal than just "Oh yeah, I liked that," or "It's overhyped." There's a visceral reaction this book can elicit, and I find that fascinating.

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and she mentioned something David Mamet said once, something along the lines of "When you leave the theater wanting to discuss the play, that's a good play. When you leave the theater wanting to discuss your life and the world, that's art." I like that definition, and I think it applies to House of Leaves. Conversations about this book never stay on the book, they branch out into other areas and interests, they can't help but grow longer and deeper, not entirely unlike a five minute hallway.
Profile Image for Wil Wheaton.
Author 89 books199k followers
January 8, 2013
If you want a really good, insightful review of House of Leaves (that I didn't write), go read this one from Aerin.

If you want to read mine, here you go:

House of Leaves isn't one of those tidy little things that holds your hand and wipes your bottom and tells you that you're special. It makes you work, and what you get out of it depends largely on how much work you're willing to do. House of Leaves is difficult at times, incredibly complex, occasionally pretentious, and .

When I finished it, I thought I was unsatisfied with , but it lived in me long after I closed the book. I could not stop thinking about the characters, the puzzles, my various theories about the nature of the story and

Here's the thing about House of Leaves: you can enjoy it simply as a horrifying story that could possibly be true. You could enjoy it as a love story on a number of different levels. You can enjoy it as a whole bunch of puzzles and codes and ciphers. You can enjoy it as a unique reading experience that will make you fall back in love with actual paper books.

But however you choose to enjoy it, you've got to just commit to it. Let the book's reality capture you, and ride it out until you finish the book. When you're done, you'll probably find that the House has taken up some space inside you, and you'll wonder if the nightmares will actually come, assuming they haven't already.

You'll go back to the beginning, and you'll reread sections large and small. You'll take a magnifying glass to the pictures and you'll spend a long time reading message boards that haven't been updated since 2004. You'll grab that copy of Poe's Haunted that you bought before you knew House of Leaves existed, and you'll listen to it again in an entirely new way.

You'll discover that you live at the end of a five and a half minute hallway.


Or maybe you won't. Maybe it won't live in you the way it lives in me... but it's worth your time to find out.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 4 books81 followers
October 25, 2007
Totally infuriating. It made me feel dumb, bored, and annoyed all at once. If I want that, I'll date my first boyfriend again.
34 reviews7 followers
November 27, 2007
Looking for a spooky book to read around Halloween I was recommended this book by several others on a message board I frequent. Quite a few people mentioned its brilliance and the fear it put in them.

After reading it I could not disagree more.

The story is this: a family moves into a home and begins noticing physical features of their house changing. They begin to investigate, which leads to a new doorway and hall appearing where there was not one. The husband, being a world class explorer and filmographer decides to document the new house and in doing so creates a documentary, ala "The Blair Witch Project." But the book has a couple stories within the story. It is written from the point of view of some young slacker who breaks into this dead old man's house and takes the notes for a book the old dude is writing. The book and all of these notes are his reactions to watching the documentary film.

The old man's ramblings reads like a textbook, replete with tons of footnotes, fake references, poems, rantings. But we don't get to just read his reaction, or simply walk through the documentary, we have to suffer through the slacker's constant juvenile side stories and craziness.

The premise is brilliant, and flipping through the book the first time, I was pumped at the prospect of the book. The effort Daniel put into this book is exhausting to say the least. This had to have taken countless hours for the detail to all of the fake references, quotes, drawings, and footnotes, but sadly at the center is a stupid story that goes no where.

I was never scared, but rather annoyed. NOTHING seems to happen. And as soon as the story begins to move, we get a long winded worthless conversation from our main character.

Nothing is ever explained, nor finalized. This is seriously one of the most boring, meandering, monotonous books I have read.

While reading the book I found a message board dedicated to the book and its absolute greatness. It took all I had not to log in and question the taste and objectivity of these people, but if they like it, who am I to pee on them.

I do not recommend this book, but if you do read it and turn out to enjoy it, please enlighten me as to what I missed as I fought falling asleep reading these boring passages.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,479 followers
November 17, 2018
It's like one of those very psychedelic albums from the late sixties, where they do all those funny stereo effects, and all that phasing or whatever it was called - all great fun but you still had to have good songs.

It's about the story of the book about a film about a house, but let's not overcomplicate things. The film at the centre of it all is called "The Navidson Record", and so is the book about it. And so is the book about the book about the film - STOP doing that! Hmmm - well, the house story is pretty good - yes, stolen from numerous genre horror books and movies, like

No, not that one!! This one!

but it's not bad, sufficiently interesting, even a little bit creepy. (But come on, by no means edge-of-seat keeps-you-up-all-night,

Come on, dear, get a grip!! (actually I didn't know there was a remastered full color edition, what the hell is that?) - so I have to wonder about the encomium from Brett Easton Ellis - he should get out more. He should meet feminists with a full Black & Decker power tool kit more...)

Now the story of the house is wreathed with hundreds of footnotes - even the footnotes have footnotes, we are in David Foster Wallace country, textually speaking - and I really liked them. They're a kind of deadly straight-faced parody of various kinds of commentators, some scholarly, some not. Very funny stuff, in a solemn, unsmiling way. Many intellectual jokes. Not much knockabout. But so far so good. However, and here's the downside, the footnotes are themselves encrusted with the random autobiographical jottings of the guy who supposedly discovered the bookaboutthefilmaboutthehouse. His writings comprise story number two, the tale of Johnny Truant.

And it's dire. It's cringemaking. It's lame. It's stupid. I found the events of the spooky house more believable than I did the ludicrous cavortings of Johnny Truant - gratuitous sex, drugs, tattoo parlours, and existential angst by the bucketful. Channelling all the badboys he can think of, Bukowski, and that other fellow whose name I can't think of, and the other one, you know who I mean, yeah, him, Johnny Truant is inclined to spout off into pages of incomprehensible rantings at the drop of a tab, and it's just as interesting as someone describing their most brilliant acid trip, which is to say, it's really unbelievably tiresome. Eventually I gotta say that JT and his pal Lude and his sexual fixations and his loony mother and his fights and his whole depressed, defeated and miserable schtick just serve to capsize what was otherwise an interesting and almost bold satire.

Final note : like the movie 2001 which in the last part goes JUST CRAZZZEEEE so this novel when you get to the heart of the spooky-ookums house horror goes CRAAZZEEEE with all this super-lunatic typography like the pages containing just one sentence or three words written back-to-front, or pages withone sentence going up at a slant (describing our hero surmounting an incline)


- I always enjoy this stuff, Alasdair Gray does it in Lanark and Janine 1983 and way back in the 50s Alfred Bester did it in his great sf novel Tiger Tiger - and then there's the photos and poems in foreign languages et etc - so anyway, given all of THAT, this is a 400 page book posing as a 700 page book. Still big, but not as big as you think. Which may just be a neat REVERSE metaphor for the house in House of Leaves itself. Damn!
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews875 followers
March 2, 2012
This is not for you....

Or maybe it is.

House of Leaves is not an easy book to read. It will not only challenge your ability to hold a weighty tome at numerous different angles for prolonged periods of time as you endeavour to read text which is upside down, back to front and shoots vertically or diagonally up and down the page, but it will challenge your idea of what a novel is and how a novel should be presented.

Normally I like to try and keep my reviews short. None of you (this is an assumption, but a fair one I think) want to endure an Nth to the power of ∞ monologue about a book. Generally requirements from a book review are fairly short; is the book good, bad or ugly? Does it contain anything that might engage you or enhance your appreciation or understanding of the spinning ball of rock to which you are currently standing upon/lying/clinging to? Is the person writing capable of injecting a heroin shot of humour into the sinewy arm of the review in order to elicit a subdued snort of mirth? This is my criteria anyway. Each to their own.

I’ll begin by summarising the story. This is not for you either. This is for me, for my own sanity and clarity of thought which has been somewhat muddied in the reading process. And by muddied I mean dirtied and sluggish with the consistency of a KFC Krushem (TM).

House of Leaves is a book about a house. The house has unexpected spatial characteristics- it is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. The spatial characteristics are discovered and investigated by the owners of the house and their friends. They film these investigations. These investigations are then compiled into a series of short films called The Navidson Record. The Navidson Record becomes cult viewing and copies of ever-decreasing quality circulate amongst academics, the media and stoned students.

A blind man named Zampano attempts to assess the quality and verity of The Navidson Record including the films and the vast body of white and grey literature generated by academics in order to clarify once and for all if the film was the real deal or one of the most elaborate hoaxes of the 20th century. Zampano dies before completing his magnum opus and the disordered, arbitrary scattered notes and fragments of his work are discovered by his next door neighbour, a drug-hoover named Lude. Lude calls in his friend Johnny Truant (JT).

JT develops a fixation with the Navidson Record and attempts to complete and order Zampano’s life work in order to draw his own conclusions about what actually happened in the house on Ash Tree Lane. Truant himself who may or may not be the final architect of the work which forms the core of the published version of House of Leaves begins to suffer a mental breakdown. JT's story runs concurrently with the Navidson Record but is only ever presented as a series of footnotes. The result of this is unclear but one way or another, at the hands of a series of anonymous editors (-Ed) the book makes its way into circulation.

Is this still for you?


The problem (interpret the use of the word problem here as being either good or bad depending on your own perspective) with House of Leaves is that while the words printed inside the pages (leaves) are telling you one thing and sending your thoughts in one direction, the actual layout, font, size and colour of the text are sending out a whole other set of messages. Which ones do you listen to? I think you’re supposed to pay attention to both but this may cause your cerebral cortex to cleave in two so this is a choice that you make early on, and at your own risk.

As a work in its own right, and not just as a story or series of conjoined narratives, House of Leaves will probably mean different things to different people. I was very interested in the Navidson Record and the presentation of a multi dimensional qualitative space. You might be more interested in exactly which screws are coming loose in JT’s brain or what motivated Zampano in the first place. Much like the choices faced by the people exploring the inner corridors of the house, you will be forced to pick your own path through the book and once you have done that there is no turning back or you will have to start from scratch.

Is this the end of the review? Yes. I cannot break this down further in constructive sentences and the brain dribble is now getting into the cracks between the keyboard. I can however, much like Zampano and his snippets, notes and scribbles, provide a non-linear collection of random thoughts and observations which might act like the mythical skein to help you weave your own way through this labyrinthine text... what you do when you reach the Minotaur at the centre is entirely up to you:

1. Symbols and code: Allegedly there are a lot of hidden codes within this book. These might be numerological, symbolic, visual or in any other semantic form you can think of. The internet is awash with web pages and forums dedicated to HoL and the discussion of coded meanings. Seek them if you will, but don’t expect them to actually clarify anything. One code I did pick up on was the use of random symbols, frequently those used in ground to air visual communication – these were used instead of a numeric reference system for the footnotes. Did they have any direct bearing on the text? Dunno. The one that really did baffle me was the insouciant and sneaky  symbol which appeared for no fathomable reason at the bottom right-hand of page 97.

2. Capitalisation: Adjectives with capital letters where no capital letters are required by the dictates of English Grammar. Similarly deliberate mis-spellings. Go figure.

3. Inversion: Inverting of main text and footnotes so that the main text becomes a foot note and vice versa. Is this symbolic of the main text becoming a sub text for something greater?

4. Colour: The significance of the word house highlighted in blue wherever it is mentioned. This remains true for the cover, footnotes, end notes, index, appendices and publication information. Blue can confer the idea of calmness, a natural environment or stability. It can also confer the notion of authority and power. It is a primary colour and therefore is at the root of many other colours and could be interpreted as a starting point. It can represent sky and water, two elements which are necessary to human survival. But blue can also mean depression and coldness. So what does it mean in the context of House of Leaves? Everything, nothing, something. I can offer no conclusions here and it is never explained.

5. Displacement of objects. At one point Karen Navidson's children tell her that all of her Feng Shui artefacts have vanished from the house. I'm not a believer in Feng Shui but I also believe that anyone who believes that a crystal bullfrog or a well placed water spout can cancel out the possible malevolent evil of a room with more dimensions than a 3D hologram is possibly a little crackers anyway. Note, if you will that the exact list of missing objects in the exact same order is recited in the interview with Hunter S. Thompson on p363. He used them as missiles rather than sticking to their traditional Feng Shui purpose. What does this all mean? No idea. Objects are disappearing through the house and moving into different spaces within the book. Go figure.

I could go on. And I will probably more than you would like , but for now this will have to suffice as I need to pop out and get some crazy glue with which to stick my cloven grey matter back together.
Profile Image for Circe.
59 reviews
June 6, 2023
"This is not for you."

*this will not follow the kind of reviews I usually do, so be prepared for a haphazard explosion of quotes, self-taken potato photos and annoying html text. Also this is quite long.

All right so not only was I completely mind-blown by this book, I was also overjoyed with the fact that I actually had an excuse to use my page markers (I had orange for quotes, pink for ideas/concepts/points in story, green for layout/codes and yellow for footnotes and references as I'm sure you all wanted to know). Of course in this book it was essential to do so, as I'm not sure where I'd be now without them.


First off,
I am haunted by this book.


“˙ɯɐǝɹɔs uǝʌǝ oʇ ǝɯıʇ ǝʌɐɥ ʇ’uoʍ noʎ – ʞooq sıɥʇ ɟo pıɹ ƃuıʇʇǝƃ ǝq plnoɥs llǝɥ sɐ ǝɹns noʎ – sɯɹɐ ɹnoʎ dn ƃuıƃuılɟ ǝq ʇsɐǝl ʎɹǝʌ ǝɥʇ ʇɐ plnoɥs noʎ 'ƃuıuunɹ ǝq plnoɥs noʎ 'ƃuıʌoɯ ǝq plnoɥs noʎ ʇɐɥʇ ssǝɔoɹd uǝʌǝ oʇ ǝɯıʇ ǝʌɐɥ noʎ ǝɹoɟǝq ǝsnɐɔǝq 'ɹǝʇʇɐɯ ʇ’usǝop lıɐʇǝp ɹɐlnɔıʇɹɐd ʇɐɥʇ 'ʎɹɹoʍ ʇ’uop '¿slıɐu ʎǝɥʇ ǝɹɐ ɹo ɥʇǝǝʇ s’ʇı ɥʇıʍ ɹɐlnƃnɾ ɹnoʎ qɐʇs llıʍ ʇı sǝɯıʇ ʎuɐɯ ʍoɥ 'noʎ ʇıɥ ɐuuoƃ s’ʇı pɹɐɥ ʍoɥ 'uǝddɐɥ llıʍ ʇı ʇsɐɟ ʍoɥ ǝuıƃɐɯı oʇ ʎɹʇ ǝlɐɥxǝ oʇ ʇɹɐʇs noʎ sɐ ǝɯıʇ sıɥʇ ʎluO ˙ǝuo ɹǝdǝǝp uǝʌǝ puɐ ǝʞɐʇ pɐǝɥɐ oפ ˙ɥʇɐǝɹq dǝǝp ɐ ǝʞɐʇ ʍoN ˙ǝɹǝɥ sǝʎǝ ɹnoʎ dǝǝʞ ˙ʞool ʇ’uop ʇnq ˙ʇuǝɯoɯ sıɥʇ ʇɐ ʇɥƃıɹ ˙sı ʇı ǝɹǝɥʍ s’ʇɐɥ┴ ˙punos ʇnoɥʇıʍ sʇǝʞɔod ǝsoɥʇ puıℲ ˙ǝɔuǝlıs sɐ ʇı ɹɐǝɥ ʎluo uɐɔ noʎ ʇɐɥʇ ʇɔɐɟ uı ʇǝınb os 'noʎ uo uı ƃuısolɔ ʎlʇǝınb sı ƃuıɥʇǝɯos 'ʇı ǝǝs ʇ’uɐɔ noʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʇɥƃıɹ ʇnq 'noʎ ɟo ʇuoɹɟ uı uǝʌǝ ǝqʎɐɯ 'noʎ ɟo ǝpıs ǝɥʇ oʇ ǝqʎɐɯ 'noʎ puıɥǝq ǝqʎɐɯ 'uoısıʌ lɐɹǝɥdıɹǝd ɹnoʎ puoʎǝq ʇsnɾ ǝuıƃɐɯı ʍoN ˙ǝƃɐd sıɥʇ ɟo ɹǝʇǝɯıɹǝd ǝɥʇ ʇsɐd ɹǝpuɐʍ sǝʎǝ ɹnoʎ ʇǝl ʇ’uop op noʎ ɹǝʌǝʇɐɥʍ puɐ 'spɹoʍ ǝsǝɥʇ uo snɔoɟ :sıɥʇ ʎɹʇ ɐǝpı ɹǝʇʇǝq ɐ ʇǝƃ o┴”


I'm not going to try and explain the plot, nor am I going to try to explain the story because that is something you simply cannot do in full length or detail. I will only say that if you detest unanswered questions, the beginning quote is right: this is not for you.


To put this in very basic terms, the plot focuses on a man named Johnny Truant (or is that his name? Is he real? Is what he's telling us true?) a seemingly normal, attractive young man working at a tattoo parlour. He serves as part one of the dual-narrative of this story and is informed of the passing of a blind man called Zampanò who lives in the same apartment building as his friend Lude. While browsing the apartment he comes across a trunk of Zampanò's notes and papers about a movie called The Navidson Record, a documentary about a family moving into a peculiar house on Ash Tree Lane. After moving in, Navidson's family discover a hallway that has appeared suddenly and seems to defy the laws of physics. Not super confusing so far, except this Navidson record is told in extreme detail by Zampanò -- a blind man-- and includes tons of individual interpretations and theories provided by various critics which serves as the intellectual perspective of this gradually terrifying documentary. It shows all sorts of characters grips on reality turn tenuous and details their gradual descent into madness with sometimes dire consequences. Except for one thing: the movie doesn't exist. And I don't just mean in a fictitious manner (i.e it's a book, Sherlock) it doesn't exist in the story itself. Johnny even says that these critics and celebrities (such as King, Kubrick, Rice...) have never spoke with Zampanò and none have ever heard of such a document. A supposed extravagant amount of evidence exists (footnotes. footnotes. footnotes) that suggest it's a hoax when in fact it was never even filmed to begin with. This enhances the psychologically perturbing question I found I was constantly asking myself while reading HOL: what is real and what isn't?



House of Leaves is like BOOKCEPTION. A book within a book wiThin a book and so on. It needs patience, I'll admit. For some people tHe readIng Style (exotic text, jumBled notes, 3446989465854 fOOtnotes, kooKy passage order, etc) Will become agItating. I personaLLy didn't find it necessarily diffiCult to read, just a little annoying Having to turn it Around to read upside dowN as well as diaGonally (an excEssive amount of times, too, oh Yes). That bOok was atrocioUsly heavy.


Danielewski's House of Leaves is all sorts of twists and turns. There are codes you can decipher, mountainous amounts of symbolism accompanied by an unending sense of unknowing; you are left almost bleeding for answers and trust me you are not going to find them. It's a labyrinth (and labyrinth is a word you will come across or consider many times when you read this book); once you begin, you cannot fathom an escape.
.epacse na mohtaf tonnac uoy ,nigeb uoy ecno ;)koob siht daer uoy nehw semit ynam redisnoc ro ssorca emoc lliw uoy drow a si htnirybal dna( htnirybal a s'tI .meht dnif ot gniog ton era uoy em tsurt dna srewsna rof gnideelb tfel tsomla era uoy ;gniwonknu fo esnes gnidnenu tsomla na yb deinapmocca smsilobmys fo spaeh nopu spaeh ,rehpiced nac uoy sedoc era erehT .snrut dna stsiwt fo stros lla si koob sihT


Due to the books ambiguity, a forum dedicated especially for discussing and sharing opinions has existed online since around 2000 or 2001. It's the House of Leaves category in MZD's forums. Subsequently after completing HOL I signed up for it easily because although I would love to share the (albeit minimal) amount of codes I actually did manage to decipher here on GR, I wouldn't want to spoil anything for people about to read it first-hand. I have so many questions and the most frustrating thing was not being able to discuss the book with anyone. There are endless slices of info I can dish out, i.e I could sit here and list the most terrifying moments (Ftaires! Always. Echo.) but they would mean nothing to someone who hasn't read the book for themselves. So I feel the forum is the right place for that talk.

“You might try then, as I did, to find a sky so full of stars it will blind you again. Only no sky can blind you now. Even with all that iridescent magic up there, your eye will no longer linger on the light, it will no longer trace constellations. You'll care only about the darkness and you'll watch it for hours, for days, maybe even for years, trying in vain to believe you're some kind of indispensable, universe-appointed sentinel, as if just by looking you could actually keep it all at bay. It will get so bad you'll be afraid to look away, you'll be afraid to sleep.

Then no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comforts of your own home, you'll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You'll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you'll turn, unable to resist, though try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you've got not to face the thing you most dread, what is now, what will be, what has always come before, the creature you truly are, the creature we all are, buried in the nameless black of a name.

And then the nightmares will begin.


I will sum up this book by simply saying:
"known some call is air am."
".ɯɐɹǝ sıןɐnb ɯns uou"
I am not what I used to be.
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,564 followers
December 6, 2020
Hey, is it just me, or is "American Horror Story Roanoke" episodes 1-5 a mega rip off of this? Only those brave to have read House of Leaves can possibly know...

As avant garde as any novel's got the right to be! It is all about condensing and expanding the parameters of the novel, heck, of the tangible object. It makes a case of molding the form like clay-doh; a book is stationary no more... (!!)

You open the book and a dissection, an exploration is made. You are the surgeon & all this takes is your time, your attention, your very personhood! Can you imagine what Borges would have made of this?

"House of Leaves": A damn necessary read. This will change your life in a compelling, unexpected way. Trust.

Profile Image for J.S..
4 reviews2 followers
October 16, 2008
More than anything, House of Leaves is pretentious. It does things against the grain just because they haven't been done before, not because they're necessarily good ideas. The book seems to take pride in trying its damnedest to give you a headache, and then expects you to like it (unless Danielewski is a sociopath, and wants people to suffer while reading this, in which case I've misinterpreted).

House of Leaves gives off the impression of a modern art experiment, daring you to say it's pointless even as it flips the sentences sideways and has one word per page for a whole paragraph. Not to mention the convoluted narrative, which can be described in more detail by someone who liked the book. However, I will say this: it's interesting to note how I stopped caring about the core of the story as soon as its sorta-narrator explains that it never happened (which he does right in the beginning, so this isn't a spoiler). Even though I know it didn't happen, because it's fiction, I became apathetic about the story of a family moving into a house with impossible interior dimensions because even the other characters in the book said it wasn't real. I don't know if that counts for or against House of Leaves, since it tells me something about the way I read books on the one hand, and it also invalidated most of the plot on the other.

One of the three sorta-narrators uses an absurd amount of foreign languages and obscure quotes (also possibly fake) to drag the story down even further, and to top it off, there's the first guy who frequently interrupts with random stories about his sex life. Maybe Danielewski wants us to envy the tattoo artist that lives like a rock star, or maybe he wants to convince us that he's not a square by breaking up all the academic nonsense that makes up about half the book, but either way it feels forced and unnecessary. By the way, as far as I can tell, there's no explanation for why this fake story of a Twilight Zone house is driving the tattoo artist, Johnny, slowly insane. Admittedly, I didn't finish the book, but I haven't found an explanation elsewhere, and it's probably another one of those things that the author left so deliberately obtuse that scholars and intellectuals can argue about it for the rest of time.

If that sounds like fun to you, then get the book, by all means. For me, all of Danielewski's attempts at being different and artsy were just irritating. When I get a book, I want to read it, not juggle it around because the sideways words are supposed to represent the characters walking up the walls or something. By the way, did you notice how I underlined house and bolded book every time in this review? I'm not going to tell you why - hell, I don't even know myself - but there's bound to be someone out there who thinks it's a deep artistic message. It worked in House of Leaves.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,425 reviews3,392 followers
September 29, 2020
“I imagined a labyrinth of labyrinths, a maze of mazes, a twisting, turning, ever-widening labyrinth that contained both past and future and somehow implied the stars.” Jorge Luis Borges The Garden of Forking Paths
House of Leaves is a postmodernistic satire on the subject of epistemology.
The novel tells about strenuous efforts to explore and comprehend the enigmatic phenomenon of the mysterious house…
Again that faint growl returns, rolling through the darkness like thunder.
Navidson quickly does an about face and returns to the doorway. Only now he discovers that the penny he left behind, which should have been at least a hundred feet further, lies directly before him. Even stranger, the doorway is no longer the doorway but the arch he had been looking for all along.
Unfortunately as he steps through it, he immediately sees how drastically everything has changed. The corridor is now much narrower and ends very quickly in a T. He has no idea which way to go, and when a third growl ripples through that place, this time significantly louder, Navidson panics and starts to run.

House of Leaves consists of mystifications within mystifications… There are four levels of hoax:
1. Will Navidson – a career photojournalist of dubious repute – shoots the film about the mysteries of his house.
2. Zampanò – a very old blind man – describes, annotates and analyzes this film and then dies.
3. Johnny Truant – a young pathological liar – finds the notes, edits and arranges them, supplies them with his irrelevant and vulgar but colourful commentaries and publishes the text.
4. The hypothetical publishing editors provide footnotes that make the publication look smartly scientific and strictly academic.
As a result, House of Leaves reads as the ultimate book of Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges with an obvious mocking touch of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Aside from recurrence, revision, and commensurate symbolic reference, echoes also reveal emptiness. Since objects always muffle or impede acoustic reflection, only empty places can create echoes of lasting clarity.

All the accumulated human knowledge is but a distorted echo of the surrounding reality.
46 reviews20 followers
February 17, 2013
It is difficult for me to coherently and succinctly express my overwhelming hatred for this book - not just dislike, but absolute, overpowering disgust - but the sheer thought that people continue to naively read this and somehow leave with the impression they had just completed a masterpiece was too haunting, too shocking for me to continue sitting passively.

To read House of Leaves is to witness a microcosm of the downfall of society: any semblance of truth and meaning is abandoned and replaced with monotonous, faux-intellectual nonsense; pathetic attempts at literary pyrotechnics become no more impressive than watching one's reflection in a funhouse mirror.

The plot, at first glance, seems intriguing: a family moves into a house only to discover a room that defies all rules of logic; it seems to expand infinitely, and untold horrors lie within. This in itself could be a fascinating book - not necessarily a literary masterpiece, but at least an entertaining diversion.

Instead of taking a straightforward approach, however, Danielewski chooses to tell the story in a dry, academic style, in which the aforementioned plot appears in a Blair Witch-esque film and a long essay is written about it, then wrap that underwhelming story in not one, but two superfluous narratives. The opening narrative is the tale of Johnny Truant, a misanthrope who lives a rather unremarkable life and exists mostly to try and convince you of the novel's terrifying qualities: he goes on and on about how encountering the essay altered his life forever. In the meantime he does drugs and has sexual experiences that are probably supposed to come off as shocking and provocative, but are instead sort of pathetic - his descriptions of some woman's deft hands entering his anus and stimulating his prostate are laughable, not only due to the over-the-top writing but also to show how ultimately bland Danielewski is in what he perceives to be edgy or different.

All the different narratives exist in footnotes, and oftentimes Danielewski adds wholly unnecessary footnotes purely to engage in some self-indulgent "trick", akin to a kindergartener doing a cartwheel: the first letter of each footnote will spell out his name, the last letter of each footnote will spell out his name, etc. They are in no way integral to the plot and serve more as some disturbing exhibitionist trick to show how clever he is rather than to perform a legitimate literary function.

The pages on which Danielewski tries to "experiment" with typographic formatting really prove nothing new whatsoever; his attempts at innovation were probably more likely a sad scheme at attempting to convince naive readers to his brilliance. There is nothing in the novel that has not been touched upon before in works like William Gass's The Tunnel and even Sterne's Tristam Shandy. The section in the middle of the novel during which the pages are segmented in four look intriguing until it becomes clear that two of those segments are dedicated to a) a list of documentaries that adds nothing to the novel and b) a list of directors of aforementioned documentaries that adds nothing to novel... except for, of course, another chance for Danielewski to show us how great he is at spelling his name. On other pages he only includes a few words per page or cramps the text into a corner in order to create a sense of agoraphobia or claustrophobia, but it serves no real purpose. A true good writer would be able to weave in these experimental elements while maintaining an actual ability to write well, but here, Danielewski leans on them entirely. Instead of enhancing his points, they are his sole means of achieving what he wants to say. What Danielewski has created is no literary masterpiece, merely a laughable attempt at disguising his dry and unexciting writing into something else entirely, which has been contorted beyond any enjoyable means by its creator's own self-indulgence.

I'll conclude on a lighter note: a good novel should have intercourse with its reader. Especially in a lengthy novel, like this one, authors should be aware that readers are making long term relationship with their novels, and should be reassured that this long term relationship is a worthy one. Had Danielewski executed House of Leaves properly, it would have been a nice quickie - not necessarily memorable by any means, but at least enjoyable. By taking the approach he did, Danielewski created what could be the most unpleasant long term relationship imaginable. This novel never has the decency to suck you in, enrapture you - it would be as though a lover's only sexual contact with you were to sit in front of you and masturbate while forbidding you to do anything similar, then, right before finishing, zipping up and declaring he wasn't in the mood. That's what this novel is: a disturbing masturbatory narcissistic ode to one's reflection without any meaning or resolution, without anything worth saying. I have witnessed people praising this novel as the future of literature, as the next step of the evolution of the novel. The thought of a hack writer like Danielewski receiving such praise fills me with an unshakable nausea, and I have - I kid you not - prayed that this novels cult following is actually an elaborate inside joke meant only to drive those not "in" on it - like myself - insane. But if those who praise this novel are serious, this will be the death of art. This will be the death of truth and meaning. If people legitimately believe this is where literature is going? If people believe the "innovations" present here are worth their time, that a daring writer need do nothing more than find a creative way to spell his name, to obfuscate his narrative beyond recognition and do so in such a manner that drains it of any meaning or capability to be enjoyed?

I fear for the future of humanity.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
October 27, 2022
i spent some time the other day reorganising my bookshelves and came across this tucked away in a back nook. just cracking open the front cover gave me immediate and intense flashbacks of the utter chaos of this book. 7 years later and im still just as confused and amazed by this, so i guess a reread isnt necessary. lol.



im so confused?? but in a good way?? and also kind of scared. but mainly really excited that i made it through this.

this is definitely one of those 'you either love it or you hate it' kind of story. while the formatting and style of this book is so completely and uniquely in a league all on it own, it requires an immense amount of effort. so much so that im sure many readers will wonder if the content is even worth it.

to me, it isnt necessarily the plot or story that i enjoyed, but the experience of reading this book. its a journey with a lot of bumps along the way, but one i have never experience before. so i have to give credit where credit is due.

4 stars
August 6, 2022
I finished House of Leaves. A synopsis of the book - if such a thing were actually possible - might go something like this: This is the story of the assembly by one man, of the notes of another man, written on random bits of paper into a review of a movie - actually a documentary film - and the scholarly research spawned by the film. The film is about a house owned by the photojournalist who created the documentary. Or is it the house that owns him...and his family? Writing a review of this book at this point would be difficult at best, because there's so much there. Fortunately, as I was reading the book, I added comments about it on Goodreads. I've assembled those notes here, along with a couple of messages to a friend who had read the book and loved it.

I got through the intro Sunday night, but only the first chapter last night. I already know I'm going to like this a lot. After the few pages I've read, there are so many questions I want answers to. I always like writing that has no wasted or useless words - what I call dense writing because of its "density" on the page - and this definitely falls into that category. I also get the impression this is one of those books where you need to read every word between the front and back covers...footnotes, chapter epigraphs, maybe even the review excerpts and publication information.

Made it through the second chapter last night. Not really into the crazy part yet but I can sense it coming. I can see already this won't be a quick read but that's okay because I want it to last as long as possible. I see what you meant about extra bookmarks. Four-page footnotes that get totally off the subject make it hard to remember what was being discussed by the time you get to the end of them, but for some reason that just feels right in this book. After my comment about reading every word between the covers I went back and read the review clips and the publication info. Nothing out of the ordinary on the reviews. In my edition, "house" is printed in blue everywhere it appears even if it's only part of a word like household. Since the publisher is Random House, every House is in blue. I really like the way that you can tell whether Zampano or Truant is "writing" just by their different styles. One of the reviewers compared Danielewski to a combination of Pynchon, Joyce, and King. I don't see any Joyce in there so far and I've only read one Stephen King book but I definitely see some similarities to Pynchon. I'd say he's in a class with Pynchon, Woolf, and Eco. Strange class but I get the feeling he may be kind of a strange guy...which is good because, in my experience, most of the best literature comes from strange people. I can foresee some nights coming up where I start reading and the next thing I know it's 1 or 2 in the morning.

Although footnotes having their own footnotes is interesting, it's going to take me a while to get used to tracking them and then getting back to the narrative. After reading Truant's account of his "feeling" at the tattoo parlor, I kept sensing movement across the room out of the corner of my eye. I would never have guessed that a description of books falling off a bookshelf could give me a shiver down my spine that spread to my whole body or that thinking of that description a couple of hours later would cause another shiver. Saying that this is a great book doesn't seem like quite enough.

So, in Chapter V - the "Echoes" or "_allways" chapter - Zampano has a two-and-a-half page footnote consisting of names of photographers who are supposedly examples of those who show "an extremely original manner" relative to their subjects. When I read Truant's footnote to this footnote, in which he points out that the list of photographers is entirely random, I thought, "Of course! The man's blind!! What does he know of photographs - or films for that matter?" Now I'm hoping that somewhere in this labyrinth I'll find how Zampano became blind and that it will turn out to be a result of, and occur during, the time of his research on The Navidson Record.

I notice here that I'm discussing this as if it were non-fiction. A good sign for how well the book is written because that's what it's trying to portray. Possibly a bad sign for my sanity.

Toward the end of Chapter V, an editor's footnote tells us that one who wants to better understand Johnny Truant's past would do well to read his father's obituary and his mother's correspondence during the time she was institutionalized. So off I go to Appendix II. (Jess - I now have two bookmarks permanently in the book and one that comes and goes as needed.) The obit is brief. The correspondence covers sixty-seven pages. You can see the progression of his mother's illness in her correspondence. You can also see how her letters could adversely affect a young boy. I also just realized that the fact that the letters are here in the Appendix means that Johnny received all of them even if he wasn't very consistent in replying to them. The glimpses of Johnny's life during this time are also pretty revealing relative to his personality and behavior during the time he was caught up in Zampono's scribblings but you have to question the reliability of those glimpses because they're filtered through his mother's illness. I was reading through her letters, watching her slow but steady, Poe-like, descent into insanity when I came to the May 8, 1987 letter. I thought the book had been transformed into my copy of Ulysses. I was suddenly reading three pages of randomly-strung-together words with punctuation thrown in here and there. About halfway through the second page - it was late and my brain was tired - I remembered that, in her previous letter, she told Johnny she would have to write her next letter in code, so I dug out pen and paper and found that the steady decline was back on track, albeit at a little steeper angle now. I think there may be something to the capital letters in the middle of words randomly scattered through the letter but, if so, I haven't figured out what yet. The last book I read that was this interactive was Pat the Bunny.

And now I see that my comments on this book are sounding more and more like Truant's footnotes. Oh well, back to the labyrinth.

I had a status comment from Mandy the other day in which she asked if I was able to follow the book so far. I answered that "it's not really hard to follow because it's structured so well." Ha! That'll teach me to get cocky. Started Chapter VI late last night (I've got to start reading this thing during the day when my mind is a little more functional) and was pretty well lost within the first few pages. The chapter starts with footnotes to the chapter epigraphs and those footnotes have footnotes. The actual narrative of the chapter starts somewhere on the second or third page. There are footnotes that reference not only each other but footnotes in previous and subsequent chapters. I think there may be Zampano footnotes that reference Truant footnotes and Zampano never knew Truant...at least there's every indication so far that he didn't, but who knows what the future-past may hold. There are long passages - and their related footnotes - that are lined through rather than simply deleted. There are footnotes in sidebar format - left page right side up and right page upside down but two different footnotes - that go on for pages and pages and pages, making you turn corner after corner after corner in search of the end. There are footnotes in boxes in the middle of the page like you're standing on a sidewalk looking at a sign painted on a store window. You turn the page and exactly opposite the footnote on the page you just read is a box with the same footnote but it's backwards as if you've gone through the door and are now looking at the sign from inside the store. The chapter is somewhere in the 40-50 page range. Around the fourteenth page I remembered Mandy's question and my answer and I thought, "I don't see how anyone's ever supposed to follow this," followed immediately by a palm slap to the forehead. You see, Chapter VI is about labyrinths...the structure, history, nature, philosophical meaning, and so forth of labyrinths in general as well as the fact that the house both is and is in a labyrinth...but the best thing about Chapter VI - the labyrinth chapter - is that it is itself a labyrinth in which it is fully intended that the reader get lost. Is this an amazing book or what?

I'm beginning to wonder if Johnny's sexual exploits (escapades?) - while interesting in themselves - aren't similar in nature to his frequent visions (delusions?) of his own destruction...possibly even just different forms of destruction.

So...last night I decided to restart the labyrinth chapter to see if I could make any more sense out of it. The first thing I noticed is that it's not Chapter VI as I indicated a couple of comments ago. It's actually Chapter IX. One of the Chapter IX footnotes referenced a Chapter VI footnote, so apparently I went back that way and became temporarily (temporally?) lost. In the process of trying to locate, in the Appendices, a Truant reference to some Zampano writing about Natasha I came across a list of potential chapter titles that Zampano had considered. At first, I was a little gratified to find that the titles were the same as what I had thought of for some of the chapters. Then I became a little concerned that the titles were the same as what I had thought of for some of the chapters. Oh, well. While re-reading the "store window" footnote - which lists every kind of housing fixture imaginable by way of stressing the absolute absence of anything but walls, floors, a shitload of stairs, and maybe some ceilings in the labyrinth - I kept picturing Zampano wandering through a Lowes or Home Depot, aisle by aisle, writing down the name of every product on every shelf. I made it back pretty much to the same place I'd stopped at the night before - kind of like travelling through the maze in a circle - and even though I'd covered the same ground and was still pretty much lost I felt better about that and at least knew one way not to try again...hopefully.

Last night I read the chapter in which the house goes berserk. Don't remember the number and have no idea what I would call it, but it reminded me why I prefer my horror in written rather than cinematic form. In horror movies, the predominant means of scaring the audience is by startling them with a sudden action or image and a large part of the scare is a reaction to the reactions of the rest of the audience. A given scene that would "scare" an audience might therefor have no effect at all on an individual watching alone. A writer of good horror stories, on the other hand, knows that in order to scare his reader - or listeners in the case of stories told or read to a group - he has to engage the "fear center" of the reader's imagination. We all are capable of imagining far scarier things than anyone can ever put on film and Danielewski is very, very good at just pricking our "fear center" often enough to keep the imagination going and the skin crawling. If The Navidson Record film actually existed I'm sure it would be frightening, but I doubt that it would come close to being as scary as the written description of it. I think I may have just realized the answer to the oft-asked question of why I so seldom watch movies...books are so much better at engaging my imagination.

"'Staires! We have found staires!'" A fairly innocuous few words...until you put them in the context of the preceding four hundred and some-odd pages. Put them in that context and they'll make the skin on the back of your head crawl and the hair there stand on end...every time they pop into your head for days and days. And they will pop into your head over and over again...maybe for the rest of your life. Therein lies Danielewski's genius. He's so patient in building up structures that he has every intention of knocking over. And when he does knock them over, he does it with such simple, innocent words and events that it scares the crap out of you. And yet, you keep right on reading because you can do nothing less.

I finished House of Leaves. More accurately, I finished my first reading of House of Leaves. I'm not sure this is a book that you can ever really finish...or that it will ever be finished with you.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
405 reviews2,201 followers
May 22, 2018
Posted at Heradas

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”

If you’ve ever wanted to read a novel about a group of editors who have re-compiled a second edition of a book, that was originally found (and edited) by a slowly mentally unraveling tattoo artist apprentice junkie, and was originally written in a mixed media form by his junkie friend’s neighbor (found when he died under mysterious circumstances), that is a written description, history and analysis of a “found footage” documentary (that doesn’t exist) about a family inhabiting and exploring a house that is (much, much) larger on the inside than the outside, and is told in such a nonlinear and disorienting fashion to the point of inducing trepidation, extreme boredom, claustrophobia, anxiety, and general unease, then I’ve got some great news for you! House of Leaves is all of these things and tells all of these stories. It’s also kind of fun if you’re into weird mental puzzles.

I enjoyed it. Going into it, it was hard to deny the thematic similarities it shares with Infinite Jest, but as it progressed it started to diverge quite a bit from the direction I expected it to travel toward. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain any of the amazingly beautiful prose or “new sincerity” of David Foster Wallace’s writing, but it has other qualities that make it very interesting. Mainly, the form of the novel mirrors the story. When characters are crawling through ever shrinking passageways, the margins on the outside edges of the text start to crawl inward. When characters are falling into ever deepening chasms, the text will angle or fall down the page, etc. It’s a very visual novel, and in that way I don’t think it could ever be an eBook. It’s a piece of art that is reliant on the exact physical specifications of the book containing it.

“He knows his voice will never heat this world”

Would I ever read it again? Nah, I don’t think there’s really much of a point. The story itself is overly soap operatic, the prose is good but it’s nothing amazing. The amount of cruft in this book is just mind-bogglingly excessive, and without the amazing prose or story to make that cruft serve a point, it’s just sort of there to make the experience disorienting, which I get is part of the form mirroring the story, but still, it’s the illusion of complexity rather than complexity itself. There are puzzles encoded into it that would probably be kind of fun to suss out, but I can pretty much guarantee that they aren’t going to provide some sort of satisfying answer to any questions left lingering. Reading it was an experience that I’m glad I had, and I have to admire the dedication and exacting nature it must’ve taken to bring something like this to life -- it definitely rewards attention to detail -- but, having read it, I have no desire to read it again.
Profile Image for Char.
1,638 reviews1,488 followers
February 14, 2016
House of Leaves is an experience.

I've decided not to go into the plot, because it, (they?) really can't be fully explained in such a limited venue as a book review. Depending on how you look at it, there could actually be 5 different plots going on, perhaps more, and again: limited venue.

After mulling it over for a few days, I find that I'm comfortable saying the following:

1. The portions of the story dealing with the house itself were my favorites. I think these sections were truly scary-among the scariest I've ever read. I've seen other reviewers say they weren't that scary and I've been thinking about why that is. All I can come up with is I guess it depends on what scares you most. If it's a guy with an ax or a ski mask, or maybe Hannibal Lecter, then perhaps this wouldn't be that scary to you. However, if you're afraid of the big, black, empty and what might be hiding in it, then you will most likely be scared and/or disturbed by this book.

2. If you're looking for an immediate pay off as far as scares, this book is the wrong place to look. The building atmosphere, the use (sometimes excessive?) of foreshadowing, plot lines suddenly left hanging while other lines are pursued are just some of the techniques used to keep the reader off balance. This is like the long term con, not 3 Card Monty.

3. If you think you're going to come out of a first reading knowing everything there is to know about House of Leaves, I just want to tell you- you're not. There is SO much going on here, it's crazy. Mythology, song lyrics, poems, quotes, codes and themes all combine to create this unique story. I'm not sure it's even possible to "get" everything you're supposed to "get" on a single reading. Maybe it is and I'm just dumb? It's definitely possible. ;)

I don't know what else to say, so I'll wrap it up. I recommend this book highly, solely for the experience of reading it. The varied plot lines may or may not appeal to you as I've mentioned, but the experience of reading this book itself is not to be missed. What books have you read that could be called an experience? If the answer is none, you need to read this book!
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,242 followers
June 24, 2020
If I may borrow ( steal from Dickens), it was the hardest book I've ever read, it was the easiest, it was the most enlightening, it was the most obscure, it brought daylight to the world, it brought in the darkness of the night.. Reading the upside- down words, trying to decipher the silly footnotes, and the crossed- out comments, making sense of the narrative, both of them on the same page, well you get my drift, some will be frustrated, the rest amused; good luck...All the above is true...House of Leaves, love or hate you will not forget...Johnny Truant, in his early 20's, works at a tattoo parlor, a drifter, junkie, plagued by bad, horrendous dreams, waking up dripping wet in bed, very afraid, maybe inheriting a family curse, he needs the drugs to function. Mr. Truant has many problems, seeing things not there, is one but he will soon get more. Still his stripper girlfriend is loyal and thought six years older, quite lovely. Nevertheless he has a roving eye and finds plenty of women, they like the attractive man.
An insane mother who has recently given up the ghost; at the age of four she tried to strangle the boy, saved by his gentle, late father, ( a former pilot who had been grounded because of health) his wife was placed in an institution for life. Alone, a foster parent who assaulted the boy, the marks on his face did not prevent, in reality encouraged him to fight and lose to older boys...Going from home to home, job to job, arriving finally as an adult in Los Angeles. His best friend Lude, just Lude and nothing more, brings him to a dilapidated apartment, an old, blind man died there, Zampano, left behind countless manuscripts, purportedly a true tale of a house that has bigger inside dimensions than outside, an expanding evil, halls, numerous empty rooms, a staircase of enormous size, descending, mile after mile to infinity ?... Strange noises heard, and unstable walls. They grow and shrink, terrifying a family of four, living there, Will Navidson, a famous photojournalist and his girlfriend another celebrity, former fashion model Karen Green, with their two children, Daisy 5 and Chad 8. Will Navidson, is a brave man, wants to explore the building, not a wise idea . The house on Ash Tree Lane, in the Virginian suburbs, away from the bustling city of New York. The big question is this...fiction or non-fiction, some believe others do not, a documentary film is made, The Navidson Record, causing a cult following to develop . Articles are written in magazines debating it, college professors discuss the merits of the case, the pictures are unclear, so is the truth...hoax or authentic ? The author has talent but gimmicks and fads quickly fade , one- trick ponies don't last long...
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
January 26, 2023
Wow! I’m definitely shaken, absolutely wooed!
What a great choice for flashback Saturday read!

Firstly, I’m bumping my head so hard against the wall, cursing myself to wait too long to read this book! The long pages made me intimidated for sure but I was not ready enough to appreciate the main complex concept with lots of plots intercepted and the richness of subtexts, messages behind the lines hiding inside poems, mythology, lyrics!

I have to admit! I’m still not capable enough to appreciate each chapter, deep meanings inside eccentric and enigmatic world building but I can honestly say: this book scared me sh*tless!

I’m not regular horror movie fan who is afraid of villains or serial killers. I always get terrified from the things are not alive, things cannot be logically explained and of course high tension- slow building mystery always gets under my skin, triggering right points to give me enough nightmares! Claustrophobic house theme always pushes my buttons! Each time I read a book with this concept, house itself made me scream more than chainsaw killers!

Each word I say not enough how this book rocked my world! But it’s freaking classic and it already took its place as my all time 10 best reads! So I absolutely recommend you not to skip it!

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“You might try then, as I did, to find a sky so full of stars it will blind you again. Only no sky can blind you now. Even with all that iridescent magic up there, your eye will no longer linger on the light, it will no longer trace constellations. You'll care only about the darkness and you'll watch it for hours, for days, maybe even for years, trying in vain to believe you're some kind of indispensable, universe-appointed sentinel, as if just by looking you could actually keep it all at bay. It will get so bad you'll be afraid to look away, you'll be afraid to sleep.”

“Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves.”

“We all create stories to protect ourselves.”

You shall be my roots and
I will be your shade,
though the sun burns my leaves.

“You shall quench my thirst and
I will feed you fruit,
though time takes my seed.

And when I'm lost and can tell nothing of this earth
you will give me hope.

And my voice you will always hear.
And my hand you will always have.

For I will shelter you.
And I will comfort you.
And even when we are nothing left,
not even in death,
I will remember you.”

“Losing the possibility of something is the exact same thing as losing hope and without hope nothing can survive.”
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews861 followers
June 25, 2022
“Maturity, one discovers, has everything to do with the acceptance of ‘not knowing.”
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves:

An amazingly multi-layered chiller suspense story with lashings and lashings of storytelling innovation and creativity, and with copious foot notes and myriad text structures to further illustrate the stories. This book is also a big 'Bizzaro' genre flag bearer! The cult around this book is pretty intense, and when you meet someone that loves this book, they REALLY like it; the downside being that this book, which predominately relies on word of mouth recommendations, has the tough job of meeting the very high 'horror' expectations of the book's advocates. OK newsflash, it's not a horror read; although it is pretty compelling at times, especially with the suspense before some of its reveals. Overall it's a case of a massively over hyped book, which although really innovative, lacks real cohesion, another one of those books that may fare better as a reread. 5 out of 12

2020 read
Profile Image for Aloha.
133 reviews360 followers
May 18, 2017
...Then no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comforts of your own home, you'll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You'll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you'll turn, unable to resist, though try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you've got not to face the thing you most dread, what is now, what will be, what has always come before, the creature you truly are, the creature we all are, buried in the nameless black of a name.
And then the nightmares will begin.

--Johnny Truant
October 31, 1998
Hollywood, CA

I heard of this book through the Horror Aficionados forum. It sounded intriguing because most people in the forum cannot finish this book and thought it was odd. When I first ventured into the book, I thought it was about a haunted house. When I finished the book, I discovered that it was entirely about something else. To me, it is about the journey through the labyrinth of our psyche, and encountering and befriending our Jungian shadow to come through to the other side. Befriending our shadow involves forgiveness and love.

The beautiful maze of a book follows two major paths, that of the tattoo artist Johnny Truant and The Navidson Report. The Navidson Report is a documentary film detailed in a manuscript by Zampano, a deceased blind man. Johnny Truant procured the manuscript when his friend Lude called him to view Zampano’s apartment, “nailed shut and sealed with caulking...to retain the various emanations of his things and himself.” The academic manuscript contained notes about a film called The Navidson Report. The Navidson Report is a documentary done by a prize winning filmmaker, Will Navidson, of the strange events within the House on Ash Tree Lane. Navidson originally intended it to be captured cherished moments of his family’s life in the countryside. It became disorienting moments of horrifying explorations in mysterious hallways that appear and disappear, changing position and dimension.

Johnny became obsessed with the manuscript and writes his own notes and addendum in an impressionistic style, journaling his downward spiral into insanity, with a formless Minotaur monster pursuing him. Zampano’s manuscript reveals his own obsession and death perhaps at the hand of the formless monster emanating from the foreboding house. Since the book itself is actually Zampano’s manuscript modified by Johnny, and footnoted by the editors, we are then led to a confusing labyrinth of narrations, weaving from Johnny’s to Zampano’s with editors’ footnotes.

Since this book is a conundrum, I’ll break it down to important references in the book.

The House on Ash Tree Lane:

The inhabitants of the house, Will Navidson and his partner Karen Green moved into the house on Ash Tree Lane in a Virginia countryside in order to repair their crumbling relationship strained by his frequent travels for his work as a film documentarist, and her infidelities. Although not married, Karen and Will are devoted to each other. Waiting for Will to come home, Karen has a frequent look of longing with every passing car. Will lovingly records details of Karen's hair on an old hairbrush. The move to the countryside was also due to Will feeling burned out from his job of documenting war. Will is haunted by "Delial", a film capture that made his career but caused a deep conflict between his journalist's impartial documentarian code and the reality of being a participating human being. Each also has personal childhood demons. Will was traumatized by abandonment and instability, making visual documentation a stable passion he can rely on. Karen has disabling claustrophobia possibly from being molested by her stepfather and confined to a well.

According to Zampano, Will only mounted Hi-8s inside the house. Thus, any events outside of the house is recounted personally. The House on Ash Tree Lane was introduced via the written documentation about the “Five and a Half Minute Hallway” within the Navidson Record film.

The family came back from a wedding after 4 days to discover that the house has been spatially violated. The inner space of the house has changed significantly. They immediately called on friends and expeditionists to help investigate the oddity of the measured inner space being bigger than the outer space of the house. The dark, ashen-gray hallway that moves and expands, magnifies what was buried in the inhabitant's psyche. Karen lost her sex drive after encountering the claustrophobic hallway and Will became driven to explore and document.

Each member who came in contact with the hallway became more of who they deeply are. The house, oddly, became the echo/reflection of the labyrinth of their individual minds, with the offshoots of empty rooms resembling the hidden dimensions.

Synchronously, Johnny began to imagine his own hallway of a nameless monster, as he slowly loses his mind, gets deeper into drugs, and has mindless sexcapades.


Space is handled in varying and unconventional ways. Space is labyrinthine and three-dimensional in perception, actively involving the reader in its maze. There is more to spacing than the obvious theme of the odd spacing of the house in which its inside space is larger than the outside space, and the emanations of the empty hallways.

Space is via varying personal perspectives, from our real world to the innermost world of the book. The space of the perspectives is of a space enclosing a space, enclosing a space, like a Russian nesting doll. We are forced to mentally shift from the content of the book to the real life facts about the book, in and out of the nesting doll. The two worlds sometime interchange. The book was reputed to be circulated in pieces on the internet, with the first edition incomplete. Since pieces of the book became popular, this forced MZD to finish the book. The actual book, as we know it, is the 2nd edition. This history of the book moves into the story with Johnny observing that his story was circulated around via the internet and gained legendary status. In The Navidson Report, Will was forced to burn pages of the House of Leaves book in order to see in the hallway. MZD's sister Poe, came out with the album Haunted, which reflects the content of the book. Vice versa, the lyrics in her album and mention of her were in the book.

Space is reflected in the agoraphobia and claustrophobia of the characters. Will’s need to be free to pursue his interest, Karen’s claustrophobia, and the push/pull in their relationship. Karen is dependent on Will, yet does not want to marry. Will loves his family, yet cannot stop leaving for his job. Pelafina loves Johnny in a way that strangles him, literally and metaphorically.

Space is graphically represented in the book as almost every page is broken up between Zampano’s manuscript, Johnny’s journaling and notes, and the anonymous editors’ notes. In some passages, the words are confined in boxes, columns, upside down, mirror reflections, or alone on the page. The more disorienting the events within the Navidson report, the more disorienting the arrangements of words. The repeated use of [ ] in Holloway's story repeats the claustrophobia of the hallway, with the empty space varying between the brackets.

Space echoes.


Emptiness creates the “eeriness” and “otherworldliness” of the echo. The echo is a degraded repetition. As they are exploring the rooms behind the door that appeared out of nowhere, they are confronted by a repetition of rooms with no window or details of a regular room. They are only empty rooms echoing and off shooting from each other.

An echo is also a reflection. Bats use acoustic light to “see.” The bat creates a frequency from the larynx. The echo reflected back to the bat is read via the bat’s auditory cortex, which enables it to “see.” The house is the empty vessel that reflects and echoes the inhabitant’s thoughts and feelings.

We are never really directly exposed to the house. Zampano and Johnny were never directly exposed to the house. We and they are only exposed to the house via the echoes, echoes from the legend of the film that never existed and interviews regarding the house, some of which does not exist. Yet this house was capable of inducing terror. It caused Zampano’s obsession and demise. It caused Johnny’s mental dissolution.

Echoes are reflections that affects the perspectives of the mind.


Within the book itself, there is the Editors' perspectives, encompassing Johnny's perspective, encompassing Zampano's perspective, encompassing Navidson's perspective, encompassing the house and its inhabitants.

In total, counting us, the people, who had encountered or heard tales of the real "leaves" circulating via the internet and Poe's music, more than just within the book, it would be - us, MZD, Editors, Johnny, Zampano, Navidson, House and its inhabitants. This is a total of 7 perspectives.

Not only is it merely perspectives, but how the perspectives move within the physical and psychological space. Physically, the contents of the book move as leaves via the internet, to the book we're holding, and finally in Navidson's hands as he burned the House of Leaves book to be able to read. Psychologically, the point of view is constantly shifting and sometimes merging. There's the "us" perspective as we're reading the book, listening to Poe's music, as I did, and knowing about the legend within the internet, our movement within the book is dependent on our history, with the reaction from frustration to obsession with the book. There's the movement, frequently, from the Editors and Johnny all the way to the House and its inhabitants. The shift in perspective is so frequent that disorientation results, following the path of Johnny's own mental state, and finally, to his insane mother. We, the readers, are forced to participate in the disorientation and instability of the mental state. Thus, the physical and psychological space is unrelentingly circular and cyclical, instead of being within the comfortable confines of a linear narrative.

The labyrinthine and disorienting structure of the book affects us directly, imitating Navidson’s film style, cinema vérité. In that style, everything that distracts from the directness of the subject is removed, making it as real as possible. We are not told of the confusion, but are confused by the arrangement of the book, its chaotic content reflecting the events within the book.


Not only is the book itself laid out like a labyrinth, but references to the labyrinth and mazes are peppered throughout the book.

The Navidson Record is described as “meandering from one celluloid cell to the next”, as if not knowing what is behind the next corner. As we turn the corner, we see a different path, similar to walking in a maze, never sure what will come next. No one can comprehend “the entire maze and so therefore can never offer a definitive answer. Navidson’s house seems a perfect example. Due to the wall-shifts and extraordinary size, any way out remains singular and applicable only to those on that path at that particular time. All solutions then are necessarily personal.” Such is the individual path of each of the characters as we follow them on their personal journey that they must traverse and solve alone. Navidson, the impartial journalist, reacts to the labyrinth in a calm and curious manner. His filming of the house shows his sense of aesthetic and steadfastness even through the fearful events. The film records made by other members of the inhabitants are skewed by the events and are not as precise in its accounting. Each reader, also, came out with varying reactions and interpretations to the House of Leaves.

The mysterious hallway itself is a labyrinth that constantly shifts and change, with more empty hallways appearing out of nowhere. Some things in the hallway exists for all, such as the “Infinite Corridor, the Anteroom, the Great Hall, and the Spiral Staircase, but the size and layout changes for the individual, along with other patterning of the rooms.


The blind Zampano is like Homer, the blind Greek poet famous for recounting tales of the trials and tribulations of heroes. Zampano’s notes on the Minotaur were crossed out by him as if crossing out any references to the mythological creature would erase the unseen beast terrorizing him. The references to the labyrinth and the Minotaur in the book came from the Greek mythology of Theseus, the king of Athens, and the Minotaur, a human/bull offspring confined to the labyrinth due to its need to eat man for sustenance. In Zampano’s notes, there was a reference to a book on torture, particularly in regard to the brazen bull. The brazen bull is a hollow brass bull made to roast a man inside its cavity. It had placements of tubes and stops that amplifies the victim’s screams to sound like the bellowing of a bull.

The Minotaur has multiple symbolism. Not only does it represent a fearful creature keeping guard over the labyrinth of the mind, but as Jung’s shadow that can only be tamed by acceptance. Zampano’s crossed out passage states that King Minos’ paternal love grows for the Minotaur as his understanding for his son grows. After the Minotaur’s destruction by Theseus, the king’s tears were not tears of relief at being rid of a monster, but tears of sorrow for one he loves.

Will, Karen and Johnny all had to traverse the labyrinth to overcome the figurative Minotaur, and embrace and accept the shadow in order to come out to the other side. Zampano, who ultimately did not accept his shadow, as evidenced by his crossing out of all passages relating to the Minotaur, died.

A passage in Homer’s Iliad appeared in the book in several languages, probably due to the fact that it is one of the most translated texts. It refers to the clanging of the troops, with criers urging them, “Quiet! Quiet! Attention! Hear our captains!” This, along with Navidson’s steady and experienced camera hand, is symbolic of the need to maintain a warrior’s calm in the face of obstacles in order to adequately access the situation to overcome difficulties.


The ominous sound of the growl is significant throughout the book. Besides the growl that signifies the unseen Minotaur, the sound of the torture victim in the brazen bull, and the din of confused troops, Johnny’s journal contains passages on the growl:

"However, as I write this down--some kind of calm returning--l do begin to recall something else, only perceive it perhaps?...the way my father had growled, roared really, though not a roar, when he'd beheld my burning arms, an ear shattering, nearly inhuman shout, unleashed to protect me, to stop her and cover me, which I realize now I have not remembered. That age, when I was four, is dark to me. Still, the sound is too vivid to just pawn off on the decibels of my imagination. The way it plays in my head like some terrifying and wholly familiar song. Over and over again in a continuous loop, every repetition offering up this certain knowledge: I must have heard it--or something like it--not then but later, though when?"

When his mother tried to strangle Johnny because she wants to end his misery out of love, it said:

"...your father suddenly arrived and roared in intervention, a battering blast of complete nonsense, but a word just the same and full of love, too, powerful enough in fact to halt the action of another love, break its hold, even knock me back and so free you from me, myself and my infinite wish."

The growl came from the house as it changed form and structure, and from the unseen monster in the imagination of some of the house’s inhabitants. It also appeared in Johnny’s imagination as he was in the hallway of the tattoo parlor where he worked.

Leaves and Ashes:

The title, The House of Leaves, is significant to the book. Leaves are things people left behind, mementos, memories of themselves. Zampano left his writing, Navidson wanted Karen's hair that's on her brush, and Truant's mom left one sole thing to him along with her letters. Navidson’s career is about recorded memories. The book itself first made its appearance as leaves circulating through the internet.

The leaves also bring to mind of the ash tree, of the House on Ash Tree Lane. Ashes are remnants left behind, a symbol of sorrow. The pervading atmosphere of the book is memories and remnants of sorrow, ending in the sorrow reflected in Pelafina’s letters to her son.

A Deeply Felt Love Story:

...Be sure I looked up at her eyes
 Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me; surprise
 Made my heart swell, and still it grew
 While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
 Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
 In one long yellow string I wound
 Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
 I am quite sure she felt no pain...

-Porphyria’s Lover by Robert Browning

This disorienting labyrinth leads us to the gold mine of the poignant love letters of Pelafina Heather Lievre to her child prodigy son, Johnny. This complex love story is at once agoraphobic and claustrophobic. Pelafina is confined at the Whalestoe Institute for the insane. We discovered in her letter incidences of suffocating love combined with questionable accidents, which Johnny and Pelafina declared were accidents. Johnny was haunted by an act that Pelafina committed out of her love for him, an incident he denied as a mother’s gentle wiping of her son’s tears before they take her away. Johnny made his journey through the maze caused by his complex love relationship with his mother. Additionally, Karen and Navidson overcame their obstacles and nightmare of the House in a parallel love story.

This fascinating and original book plays with three-dimensional perception that extends from our world with the Haunted album based on the book by the author’s sister Poe and the legend of “leaves” of the book circulating throughout the internet, and into the core story of the odd house and its inhabitants. It cannot be categorized as purely postmodern, horror, romance or general fiction. It cannot even be categorized as purely literature, but under a type of literature called ergodic literature. Ergodic literature demands that the reader participates actively in the book, beyond the traditional linear reading of the text. The perspectives are spatial instead of linear, moving like a Russian nesting doll with a story nesting within a story within a story. It is a literary visual art. You cannot remove either the visual arrangement or the literary part without losing the full content of the book. The pictorial arrangements of the words and spacing are meant to add meaning to the story. The complicated journey into the manuscript goes to the innermost nesting doll of the House and its occupants, and out to us, the reader, as we are either annoyed or obsessed with solving the puzzle of this postmodern, beyond postmodern labyrinth. In the end, this book is about love and forgiveness overcoming the darkness in the labyrinth of our minds.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,645 reviews5,107 followers
November 12, 2020
1 part fascinating, 9 parts unbearable.

I may come back to this one day, if only to reread the parts that specifically describe the bizarre occurrences in this house/labyrinth/abyss. I think those parts were pretty good? Maybe? Happy to skip revisiting the gimmicky (and often laughably written) footnotes/digressions/analyses, and especially to skip the trash story of maudlin Johnny Truant - the latter of which, sadly, is both the heart and much of the body of the novel. I guess I'm more into its mind. Really, fuck Johnny Truant! He brings out the worst in the author.

Fun with formatting didn't bother me and sometimes kept me awake. But mainly the book helped relieve insomnia.

Nice title though.
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
653 reviews5,828 followers
August 11, 2022
Reading Vlog/In Depth Spoiler Filled Review: https://youtu.be/iQkzq5Ei15w

Boy Howdy was I up down and turned upside down. Never had a book put me through what this book has had the audacity to put me through.

Mark, are you okay? How did you write this? How did you come up with this? It's s debut??? I'm calling the authorities. You're going straight to jail.

I was 60% of the way through this before realizing it's an academic satire . I was out here thinking this is a book written by a Pisces white man, trying to get other white men to suck his metaphorical dick. And while it is certainly that to an extent, the level of white-man-pranks that Danielewski is serving in this book is top tier. When he will let the Zampano notes go on and on and on and on and then Johnny's footnote will pop in like "for us normal people, that must have all been based on hallucinogenic drugs cause I'm confused. So just skip it and move on" Okay Johnny! Like, it's annoying obviously cause you don't realize that until after you've slogged through Zampano's brick of text. But I found it hilarious.

When people say this book is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside - they're right. I felt like I would NEVER finish this book. It's really good ad wowowowowoowow the execution and story structure is unparalleled. But, it made me go through literal hell.

Like, this is what Dante was writing about. Once you get past the 12th layer of hell, there is - this book.

But, also, so happy I finally read it and understand what the hype and chaos is about.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
October 13, 2021
Science May Be Hazardous to Your Health

House of Leaves is certainly sarcastic. It uses a Borges-like found-manuscript containing numerous pseudo-factual references to ‘document’ the creation of a video production of questionable authenticity. The question is whether the book is frivolous or serious sarcasm. Frivolity would place it in a class with pieces like The Blair Witch Project which simply and openly waste readers’ time with pointless and unrewarded anticipation. Although that may be where it belongs as a whole, there are parts that might in fact be a more serious critique of the human obsession with abstract knowledge, what is generally termed Science (or at least academic science). If House of Leaves has such a serious component, perhaps it might qualify as a cautionary allegory.

The house on Ash Tree Lane, the cosmos of the book, as it were, presents an epistemological problem. It appears to be one quarter of an inch bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This is a typical start for a scientific inquiry. Some quantity is measured - size, speed, volume, trajectory - and is used to confirm or reject a theory or hypothesis. The only really interesting measurement, however, is that which detects a difference at some increased level of precision from previous measurements. This difference, once confirmed, is what provokes questions about existing theories and can lead to new knowledge. Or so some schools of the philosophy of science hold.

Once started, the inquiry to understand the difference in measurement takes on its own momentum. Other people are recruited into the effort - specialists with high-tech instruments, teams which invest time and resources, even family members who may be effectively ignored in favour of the inquiry. It is really at this stage that the inquiry becomes properly scientific in the sense that it is a publicly shared effort not merely personal research. Investigative work is planned, tasks allocated, responsibilities assigned.

What often happens then, with Science as well as the house as Ash Tree Lane, is that the inquiry opens up completely unexpected theoretical avenues - not unlike, say, the formulation of quantum mechanics from ‘established’ Newtonian physics at the beginning of the 20th century. Rather than determining the true dimensions of the house, those involved find that their investigations appear to be changing the house. Rooms appear, corridors lead to yet more distant rooms, great halls open up, stairways penetrate unknown depths. The mystery of the house deepens. As new spaces are discovered, the former level of ignorance looks trivial in retrospect.

From an insignificant initial difference, therefore, enormously different perceptions arise. Everyone involved becomes confused. Professional rivalries flare up. Careers are made and lost. Families fragment. Friendships are destroyed. The house itself seems a mysterious living creature which may be a hostile danger to those investigating it. Yet to those outside, those who are not part of the community of inquiry, the house appears as it always has. If asked, these outsiders would think the insiders were hallucinating. The insiders are aware of this so are hesitant to report their findings, largely because they really don’t have any. Typical science.

From a literary point of view, House of Leaves would probably have made an interesting short story or novella - at least if it does have any of the serious content I suggest. The fact that it goes on for 700 pages or so does count against my theory. It’s wildly excessive. On the other hand, the parallel narrative of the finder of the originary document who goes slowly mad as he reads it, does suggest that the penalty for pushing unprepared into the study of human knowledge has some very serious potential side effects. Perhaps that’s what the author indicates when he says, “See, the irony is it makes no difference that the documentary at the heart of this book is fiction. [The author] knew from the get go that what's real or isn't real doesn't matter here. The consequences are the same.” Like I said: sarcasm of indeterminate type.
Profile Image for Maciek.
562 reviews3,319 followers
September 10, 2012
Everything has been said but not everyone has said it yet.

- Rep. Morris Udall at the 1988 Democratic convention

I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality.

- James Joyce in a reply reply for a request for a plan of Ulysses

The thoroughly well-informed man--that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.

- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Reading House of Leaves reminded me of an essay I've read by David Foster Wallace, who was quoting someone on the output of the ever prolific John Updike (may both rest in peace): "Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?". This is a reaction one might have when first exposed to House of Leaves (of course sans the "son of a bitch" part). This is Mark Z. Danielewski's first novel, and he devoted 10 years (that's like 10 whole years!) to write it - and like so many first novels it is full of what the author wanted to show off about his knowledge: House of Leaves is the book which will jump up to you and scream in your face, "look at me! Hey, would you look at me? Do you have an X number of hours to spare to decode me, boy?". Many might find that they do not wish to spare the hours required by this tome; to them the book issues a warning right at its beginning, stating that "this is not for you.". However, as we know such warnings are like catnip for curious cats - I mean, seriously, who would have stopped reading right there? Have we all forgotten about all these horror movies where protagonists go exactly where they should not go, ignoring all the warning sings, because they want to "check things out"? I see what you did there, House of Leaves.

The story is this: A man named Will Navidson moves with his family into a new home on Ash Tree Lane, somewhere in Virginia (just next to West Virginia where they set all these hilbilly horror movies). Navidson, a recognized photographer (a documentarist of war) is accompanied by his wife, Karen - a former fashion model - and two children, Daisy and Chad. Some stress has been plaguing the family of the Navidsons, so they decide to change environment in hope of restoring family dynamics (Remember The Shining? Remember how it ended?). Only when they move in they discover that the house has changed: it appears bigger on the inside than the outside, by a fraction of an inch. But that's not it! Soon a mysterious new hallway appears. What does Navidson do? Take the kids and run out of this scary house like normal people do? No, of course they stay - I mean, if they didn't we wouldn't exactly have much to read about. Like a good horror protagonist, Navidson does exactly what the genre demands of him.
He goes exploring. now, that can possibly go wrong...or can it?

While this might not sound like the most original or compelling thing on the planet, you have to understand that House of Leaves is all about the execution as opposed to content. Althought the novel has everything and the kitchen sink in it, it's all about how these things are put together.

See, House of Leaves is a narrative which does absolutely everything to be as unconventional as possible - the story of Navidson, his family and explorations of the house are not narrated by him or the traditional third person omniscient narrator - that would be much, much too simple. The narrative is reminiscent of a Russian matryoshka doll: all we know about Navidson comes from The Navidson Record, which is the name of the documentary film Navidson has made about the house, consisting of the tapes he filmed there. Now, since we are dealing with a recorded narrative, there must be somebody who put it together for us - and there is. We never get to see the actual Navidson Record - what we get is an academic analysis of it, made by a man named Zampano. Zampano did an impressive amount of research and created a definite analysis of The Navidson Record - analyzing every scene in great detail, offering every possible interpretation, and making footnotes, lots and lots and lots and lots of footnotes. Another reviewer called the amount of footnotes in this book "retarded" and I can't really disagree. Even footnotes have footnotes. So, this Zampano feller must be really proud of what possibly is his life's worh, right?

Well, he can't really be - he's dead. What he wrote about The Navidson Record is discovered in his apartment by a man named Johnny Truant who was out of housing and out of luck, and with nothing better to do went to see the dead man's apartment. Here's the kicker - Truant knows that the decribed film cannot possibly exist, as he finds not even a mention of it anywhere outside Zampano's notes - and Zampano could not even see the film; he was "blind as a bat". Zampano himself described the Record in his analysis as having been classified as a hoax by most experts. Nevertheless, Johnny is drawn to Zampano's analysis and begins filling the blanks he left behind - a process which starts messing with his head (that and all the drugs he does). Johhny also inserts lenghty footnotes into the text, footnoting Zampano's footnotes and producing his own - many of which are unrelated to The Navidson Record (or are they?) and are concerned mostly with his cruising around L.A. and reminiscences of trips around the world, working junk jobs and sexual relations with at least a thousand hot babes. Now, although Johnny is the closest of what this book has to a protagonist, he is not the narrator either - the whole text has been put together by anonymous Editors, of whom we know nothing, and who claim to have never even seen or met Johnny - all matters concerning the text have been discussed via correspondence or in rare instances on the telephone. Thank God all of these at least have their own font!

Can it get any better? Yes, it can. The important aspect of this novel is how the text is arranged on the page. Well, at least that's what we're supposed to think when we're reading it. At first the text appears like any other academic journal, but as it progresses...footnotes appear upside down, words are posed to reflect what's occuring in the narrative (you know, when someone climbs the text is in the upper portion of the page, when someone goes down it's in the lower portion, when there's little space it's all crammed up, when there's lots of space it's all spread out, etc, etc, etc.). And is House of Leaves the book which will make you use the mirror to decipher it? Oh yes. Oh yes, dear reader, you are holding that book.

XKCD, a popular webcomic, does a pretty accurate impression of th structure of House of Leaves - with pancakes. Here's how it looks like.

There is a fair amount of humor in House of Leaves. Danielewski really hams it up here: the whole book is a fictional analysis of a fictional document which is a fictional study of a fictional film. But that is not all. Danielewski hams it even further, making the only expert on the non-existent film blind (and dead), and gives the task of analyzing his work to the most unreliable of all characters, Johnny Truant, a Bret Easton Ellis-ish character whose junkie lifestyle is such that half the time he is not sure he is even there (get it? Truant?). The footnotes? Oh God, the footnotes. Footnotes in this book often have their own footnotes (often concerning material appearing hundreds of pages later) and are a giant sandbox for Danielewski to play in. Most of the material he cites...does not exist (is this even a surprise by now?) and he goes ham with being creative with that. The Feng Shui Guide to The Navidson Record is cited when describing the house's interior, and a dismissal of something as crap is quoted from an article titled..."Crap", from New Perspectives Quarterly. There's a ton of examples like these in the text, and I am completely sure that D's grocery list is there, too. He has his fun with those who read these scrupulously - at one point Zampano footnotes an abysmally long list of names, which goes on for absolutely forever...to which Johnny Truant supplies his own footnote and states that the list is entirely random and made just for the kick of it. At another point Zampano claims that the Weiner Brothers cut a whole sequence from the theatrical release of The Navidson Record because it was too self-referential...but don't worry, you'll get it in a DVD release! And this is in a book where half of it is a commentary on the other half. Near the end Johnny starts wondering that maybe he too does not exist, which drives the poor boy nuts - along with the readers. If there was a troll of the year award when this book was published, mr. D should definitely have won it. His aesthetic is that of excess; with all its immense superabundance of all things it is reminiscent of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films, especially the first one - GoldenEye - where Brosnan engages in an unforgettable tank chase through St. Petersburg, undoubtedly the finest moment in the Bond franchise and arguably one of the finest scenes in contemporary cinema. The moment where he hits that statue and drives with it on top of the tank alone made it worthy of at least two Oscars.

Also, House of Leaves has a section with fake interviews with real people about The Navidson Record which is flat out funny and very well written, as the author manages to capture the personas of his interviewees: Hunter S. Thompson begins by stating that "it was a bad morning", Steve Wozniak is jolly and Stephen King wants to see the house. There's even America's most famous literature critic, Harold Bloom, who calls the interviewer "dear child" and quotes at lenght from his famous work The Anxiety of Influence (which is another joke inside a joke - Bloom's book is about the relationship poets have with their predecessors - it is a source of anxiety and troubles their originality - pretty spot on for a book which is a commentary on a commentary. More on it later).

Some readers wrote that this is the scariest book that they have ever read. Comparisons have been made between House of Leaves and The Blair Witch Project. Remember that movie? It's the one with a group of students who get lost somewhere in the woods of Maryland and can't find a way out. Of course they are in the woods because they're investigating a local legend of the Blair Witch - so lots of creepy stuff happens in that forest. Blair Witch has singlehandedly resurrected the genre of film known as the "found footage" - the viewer knows that these students have disappeared in these woods, and all that has been found of them is this video. The studios spend millions promoting it with the emphasis on the thin barrier betweeen reality and fiction, making many people wonder - is it real or not? Blair Witch has essentially brough back such filmmaking into the mainstream, allowing for movies such as Paranormal Activity to achieve success and become franchises; it has also aged quite badly, as now most kids with camcorders and Adobe programs can essentially film if again. Film lots of woods; rustle the leaves a lot; wait for the night to fall and make some scary noises. Voila! You've got your own movie. This approach did breed some interesting offspring, such as the intriguing YouTube series Marble Hornets - creepy and addictive!

House of Leaves takes the Blair Witch approach with the Navidson Record, but the constant footnotes and interruptions make it impossible to lose track of the fact that you're reading an analysis of an analysis of a film. It's like watching The Blair Witch Project with audio commentary, when the director and cast describe their experiences on set as the movie plays along. Imagine watching this suspenseful scene, where the heroine is all alone in a tent in these dark and creepy woods - at night - and she hears these creepy noises outside the tent which are getting nearer and nearer...and then you hear the crew speak: "so yeah, Hank was just running around this here tent to create the suspense, and then out of nowhere came this big moose which bit him right in the ass! Boy, you should have heard him yell. We had to cut the audio and redub it in the studio. Hank: yeah, I almost lost my balls." This is a pretty accurate feeling you get when you're reading House of Leaves - it never relaxes its grip on you, never fully allowing its reader to forget that they arereading and letting them start experiencing. You could say that Danielewski's is the biggest enemy of his own text: his analytical approach often kills the tension, as the reader is constantly aware that he/she is being toyed with. Many readers will feel that they are not experiencing the descent into madness; it's the writer who drives them mad with his big, if repetitive, bag of tricks.

But then, he is doing it consciously, and it works; it detracts the reader from noticing his weaknesses - The Navidson Record is really a pretty blank mish-mash of horror influences: shades of Poe's classic tales; A Descent into the Maelström is the one which immediately comes to mind, and of course Lovecraft; the whole book screams his name. Of more contemporary authors and their works Shirley Jackson and Stephen King come to mind: The Haunting of Hill House and The Shining can be seen as possible influences, particularly the latter with its genius loci/troubled family theme, and is perhaps its most famous example.

Zampano's analysis of The Navidson Record - which is an analysis of a nonexistent work - reminded me of Stanisław Lem's two volumes of similar topic. In Imaginary Magnitude (1973) he collected introductions for nonexistent books; A Perfect Vacuum (1971) is a collection of reviews and criticism of nonexistent works of literature. In Provocation (1984) and Library of the 21st Century (1986) are both collections of reviews of books which do not exist. Lovecraft (to whom this book oves an obviously great debt) invented whole universes and mythos, and Necronomicon is an account of their existence.Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut's famous satire quotes heavily from The Books of Bokonon, a sacred text of Bokononism. In The Blind Assasin, Margaret Atwood also employs a fictional text of the same name, which plays a crucial role. Jorge Luis Borges wrote of nonexistent works in his fiction: a good example is his short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. In 1988, Jerzy Kosinski wrote The Hermit of 69th Street, a fictional novel which is largely composed of quotations from real texts or utterances, all of which are sourced and credited to their respective authors - in no way a small feat, and it does make House of Leaves look a bit pale when you realize that mr. D is simply making up the vast majority of his referrences as he goes on.

Johnny Truant is awfully like a Brat Pack protagonist, straight out of novels by Bret Ellis or Jay McInerey. Of all the women Johnny interacts with, Danielewski has to commit the biggest cliche and make him be most devoted to a stripper - a whore with the heart of gold. A lot of this novel can be seen as autobiographical - Danielewski traveled to Paris, therefore Johnny has lived in Paris and traveled around Europe; sources are quoted in German and not always translated, and also in Latin and other languages; one can only imagine what the author must have felt when he was discovering LitCrit 101 and browsing academic journals. And he does include all that he can possibly think of: at the end of the novel the reader will find poetry (most of which is pretty bland) which is claimed to have been written in various European cities (dates are given, too) and illustrations/photographs. At the very end, the reader discovers a section devoted to Johnny's mother - letters she sent him from a mental hospital, sort of a reversed Flowers for Algernon. The damn thing even has an index! Ona can imagine Danielewski sitting in his chair, back to the reader, petting his cat and laughing devilishly, hiding behind his post-modern armor. You thought it was funny? Well, you don't know my art. What, you didn't thought it was funny? Well, shame on you, you missed my joke! He has cornered all the corners. He holds all the guns in a Mexican standoff. He cannot lose; he always wins. He's the Steven Seagal of writers.

Unlike Seagal's films (especially the latter ones), House of Leaves definitely shows the author's talent and devotion to the project. His sister also contributed - she's called Poe and her album is titled Haunted, drawing inspiration from this novel. Danielewski's work is opaque just enough; it's not translucent, making the reader see right through it, but allowing too see one's reflection; much of how this work will be read and understood depends on its reader, if not all of it. Some will see the most horrifying book of their lives; others will be bored; others will be genuinely interested, and some might even be fascinated. Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it even matter? Although House of Leaves does sound better than it actually is (but then what does not?) it still fulfills an important task: it provokes an emotional and intellectual response in the reader, making him think about literature, art, and life in general. Few of those who will read this book all the way through will be indifferent towards it. To talk about it, one has to expand and go beyond the book itself, towards one's outside knowledge and interests. Just like the book is not containted in itself, and is composed of quotations, other accounts and records. It is an excellent platform for discussion on influence, interpretation and meaning, and literary and structutal tradition. To think about what it means to track allusions in a novel. Literature as an art and history depends on us being able to do something with these allusions, have something to say about them - how we, as readers, make sense of them when we're looking at the evolution of the art form. This is why studies of literature consist also of historical and cultural studies, and students read from a historical range of works which represent major historical periods and movements, and have to learn, acknowledge and understand the literary tradition. Novels depend on novels written before them; this one is just a bit more virtuosic representation of this fact.
And the funniest thing I left right for the end - because of its crazy layout the book is smaller on the inside than it appears from the outside. Get it? Hats off!

Meanwhile, you can check out the nice and condensed version and analysis at the same time: Torching Leaves

This is a long review.I declare that I have oficially ran out of words that Goodrea----
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,929 reviews10.6k followers
December 5, 2016
So, I liked House of Leaves but wouldn't call it great or brilliant. I liked the concept of a cache of papers found detailing a possibly ficticious film about a house with impossible dimensions and the maze of mind bogglingly large size in its closet. It was interesting but at its core it was a thin story propped up by gimmicks and pretentious nonsense. I understand that the informational footnotes were supposed to make it seem more real and the rambling narrator's footnotes were supposed to show his descent into madness while he compiled the work but the whole thing felt like the author was saying "Look at me! I'm ever so clever!" Strip away the gimmicks and you have a haunted house that's a little thin.
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,624 followers
October 16, 2017
An Academic Analysis of "House of Leaves" by Mark Danielewski

This book, written in 2000, makes it onto many notable 'must read horror' lists [1 - Publisher’s Weekly Reading Scared, 2010, ranker.com List of Scariest Novels 2015, Guardian’s Holy Shit, did I just read that? 2006) and has been on my TBR for many moons, and what better time to read said genre but October?

There are those who tout the brilliant ambitions of this 700-something page tome [2 - Wil Wheaton, Goodreads review 2012, "Hipsters, Hipsters, Everywhere", pages 127-211, 2011] in which a family inhabits a house that spontaneously develops hallways and closets, and loses them too, resulting in madness and death.

However, I, like Dr. Sigmund Fizzlewizzle who denounces it as "a bunch of malarky" [3 - in the opening of his world famous speech at Reykjavik in 1999, known cosily in academic circles as He’s Had Enough and He’s Not Taking it Any More] found it too bizarre, too pretentious and too overly laden with footnotes to care. Whenever I was drawn into the story within a story within a story, I was doused with a 50 page pseudo-academic rambling, which had the same effect as a "monstrous bucket of ice water on a tiny little struggling flame" [4 - Chapter 7, "Ways to Ruin Your Novel" by I. P. Knightly, 2001].

At one point, there is a section that is written in code, solvable for the diligent reader if they take the time to note every first letter of each word, but I really couldn’t be arsed to figure THAT one out.

However, Danielewski gives readers permission to read his book as they see fit: "The way I figure it, if there’s something you find irksome - go ahead and skip it. I couldn’t care less how you read any of this.” [5 - somewhere in the pages of "House of Leaves"]

Alrighty then. So, with his permission, I did start to skip, especially the parts that were crossed out, blanked out because of "fire damage" to the text, or parts where any 's' is replaced with an 'f' (actually, that was kind of funny).

This book gets major points for "incessant, dogged originality" [6 - "Grade School Teachers Almanac - Ways to Stay Positive", page 3, 1995] and also "moments of breakneck writing" [7 - "Too Fast, Too Furious", intro, Nupart Jhunisdakazcriddle, 1994], requiring "a hell of a lot of work" [8 - "Reading should be FUN", John Updike, 1962], as well as an amusing reference to Donna Tartt that made me smile…. but ultimately "failed in every way to inspire horror" [9 - see: this review] in this reader.
Profile Image for Nathan.
233 reviews191 followers
September 21, 2007
One of the reviews I read of this book compared it positively (bewilderingly) to The Blair Witch Project. I agree, only I thought The Blair Witch project was primarily a ninety-minute gimmick, and not particularly engaging, at that. I should probably admit that I only made it 3/4ths of the way through House of Leaves before realizing that my skull appears larger from the inside than it does from outside. Every person I know who has a brain currently, previously, or aspires to one day have a brain, who has read this book, swears by it. Perhaps in the final 4th of the book the wizard was revealed, I just gave up too early, and everyone else was in on some giant joke I didn't get. Maybe I saw the previews too many times and all the tricks were spoiled. I should have seen it in the theater instead of on video. I dunno. I recognize that I am the only person in the world to feel this way, but I just plain did not like this book much. Pretentious garbage for people who want to like literature more than they actually like it.

Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,449 reviews7,561 followers
October 26, 2022
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Are you looking for a book with a plotline a little something like this????

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If so, House of Leaves might be right up your alley.

The simple synopsis (and the only one you're going to get from me) is this is the story of Will, Karen, and their dream home, told through various narrators.

I read House of Leaves before I started "writing" (a/k/a imaging) reviews. I don't make a habit of going back and posting something for a previously read novel, but occasionally I make an exception. House of Leaves is a book that deserves a review - mainly to justify the 3.5 Star rating.

To begin, reading this book is a daunting task. If anyone ever tries to tell you that House of Leaves was such an "easy read" you should immediately never talk to them again because they are huge liars. I'm not going to bullshit you. I mean, just look at a sample of what you're expected to wade through . . .

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Simple, right? Yeah, notsamuch. Looky here . . .

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Wait, it gets even worse better . . .

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After all of the flipping and turning around of the book and wading through gazillions of footnotes and endnotes and probably banging your head against the wall more than once, you might be like me and find yourself left feeling a bit confuzzled with your final reaction (or find that you found half of the story to be worthy of 5 Stars while the other half ranked maybe around a 2.5). However, when it comes to those "100 Books to Read Before You Kick the Bucket," I think House of Leaves is one books that EVERYONE should push to the top of the list and I wish it would pop up on more of those lists.

It's very rare that I have this type of reaction to a "scary" (kinda? sometimes???) story . . .

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But that house. Good godamighty that house!

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