House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Johnny Truant, a wild and troubled sometime employee in a LA tattoo parlour, finds a notebook kept by Zampano, a reclusive old man found dead in a cluttered apartment. Herein is the heavily annotated story of the Navidson Report. Will Navidson, a photojournalist, and his family move into a new house. What happens next is recorded on videotapes and in interviews. Now the Navidsons are household names. Zampano, writing on loose sheets, stained napkins, crammed notebooks, has compiled what must be the definitive work on the events on Ash Tree Lane. But Johnny Truant has never heard of the Navidson Record. Nor has anyone else he knows. And the more he reads about Will Navidson's house, the more frightened he becomes. Paranoia besets him. The worst part is that he can't just dismiss the notebook as the ramblings of a crazy old man. He's starting to notice things changing around him.
This book is such an oddity; I've never read anything like it. I barely even know where to begin here. I can't even decide how I feel.
First of all, it doesn't read like a story, it reads like a dissertation. I think this can be very deterring for casual readers, and this book is certainly not a light read. It requires a huge amount of effort from the reader, and it can be absolutely draining in places. I'm actually finding it quite difficult to explain my feelings for the book as there are so many layers to it.
It's presented as a thoroughly researched, extremely factual document. However, most of the references presented in the footnotes are entirely fictional, and the majority of people mentioned do not exist. The details present in the book are incredible, and there is no doubt in my mind that there are very few people in the world who could interpret these in their entirety, and successfully separate truth from fantasy.
I did really enjoy the typography. Different fonts were used for each narrator, and occasionally the text was arranged in such a way to evoke some empathy for the characters. For example, if the setting was a tiny corridor, the text only took up the tiniest square in the middle of each page. This forces the reader to quickly flip the pages, reading only one or two words at once, and therefore causing a slight panic or excitement. There were also some sections that were extremely claustrophobic, with hundreds of words crammed into differed sections, haphazardly distributed across the pages.
I also loved the comparisons to labyrinths and the analysis of the Minotaur. Greek myths always arouse my interest, and I found the similarities described here, not to mention the ones I derived for myself, absolutely astounding.
The tale is extremely post-modern in the sense that absolutely nothing is resolved in the end, and everything remains mysterious. I'd have liked a small portion of closure to reward my perseverance. I got nothing! I feel like my brain is spinning, still, trying to work out what just happened.
I feel like I'm rambling now. How very ironic considering what I'm reviewing. I shall end by saying that this has to be the most exhausting story I've ever come across. It's such an intricate mind-bend that it almost reminded me of a parallel universe. I really wouldn't recommend this if you're not prepared to work for it, I know many people who are planning on reading this book, so bear that in mind.
36 / 66 books. 55% done!