Hi, y'all. I hope everyone has finished House of Leaves -- I know it was a big one. It took me fifteen days, and I took copious notes.
There's obviously quite a bit to talk about regarding this book, so while I plan to pose some questions below, don't feel like you have to stick to answering them. I'm sure there's tons and tons of stuff I haven't thought of, so please feel free to make random comments and ask questions. That said, here are some questions I jotted down while reading. I'll list page numbers where possible.
1. We all know the book is multilayered in terms of narrators -- there's the movie, and Zampano's book about it, and Johnny's edition of Z's book, and Ed (as I like to think of the editors that occasionally comment), and then the finished product that we each held in our hands while reading. It's not always easy to tell what layer a given part of the book corresponds to. For example, the jacket flap (in my copy) says that the book was originally released on the Internet. Is that "true" in in our (your and my) layer of reality, or is it just another layer of fiction? What about at the bottom of the copyright page where different editions are described -- full-color, two-color, etc.? Are these "real" in our reality? What about the editorial reviews on the first page of the book?
2. The book has some supremely boring sections, most notably the pages-long treatise on the mythological and scientific aspects of the echo. What's the point of these? Did Zampano/Johnny/Danielewski really find this interesting, or was he trying to bore us, or was he making a statement about academic writing, or...?
3. What made those claw marks on Zampano's floor anyway? (xvii)
4. How unreliable is Johnny? We know he lies several times - he admits, for example, that he just made up an entire section about living with a pediatrician and drinking carrot juice, etc. His footnotes are often false as well -- as early as page xx, he's wrong about the existence of the book The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft (it's real). On page 16, he admits he added a word to Zampano's narrative so it would better parallel his (Johnny's) life -- or so it would give him the opportunity to tell a story, in which he admits from the beginning he told a giant lie.
5. How much should we trust Ed, the ultimate level of narration? Is he just Danielewski, or someone else?
6. Did anyone find an instance in which "house" is not in blue? (I did not.)
7. What do we really know about Zampano? All that even Johnny knows about him is that he wrote The Navidson Record and that he took a walk every evening with some stray cats hanging around. We don't even know if he was actually blind, nor how he died. We do have some evidence that volunteers read to him a lot, so he at least convinced them that he was blind, and some of them say he asked them to help fabricate lists of citations for The Navidson Record.
8. What did you think of the crazy labyrinthine text mirroring the action in the house? I have to say that I loved it, and that it might be more than it seems to be. For example, I certainly didn't bother to read all of the long, long lists of authors or house-facets, because they seemed like dead ends....and then I realized that there were lots of unexplored hallways and rooms in the actual house, too, because Navidson and the rest of the bunch didn't have time to check out every one. Then I realized that "dead end" itself is a spatial metaphor that I was using to describe literature that describes space both in words and on paper. Then I got lost in a tangle of postmodernism....and "lost" is a spatial reference too...don't worry, I'm stopping here, but you get the point.
9. What other books have you read that are like this one? For me, the answer is simple: none. I'm not generally a reader of experimental literature, and I haven't even read any of David Foster Wallace's fiction, although I love his essays.
10. So like I said earlier, there are four or five layers of narration. They all remain pretty traditionally separate throughout the whole novel, until near the end when the book Navidson is frantically reading with his last few matches is called House of Leaves. All of a sudden, we have to question what the hell is going on here. Did Johnny make up that book title just to freak us out? Did Zampano name both Navidson's reading material and Z's own treatise that just to confuse us? Why is the book that we all just read called House of Leaves anyway? One interesting note is that Navidson's book is 736 pages long, whereas my edition of House of Leaves is only 709, including the index. Oh, and so Navidson has to burn earlier pages to read later ones -- is that related to how Johnny found Zampano's manuscript burnt and ashy in parts?
Also, here are some links of interest:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_leaves is Wikipedia's rundown of the book. It tackles a lot of the important issues and shows some hidden codes, but I think it's important to remember that it was written (presumably) by just another House of Leaves reader like ourselves and should not be taken as authoritative.
http://www.houseofleaves.com/forums/ The official site. It's interesting that it contains no actual from-above information -- it's just for readers to toss around ideas.
http://thatskannada.indiainfo.com/chowchow/picfortheday/images/sudan1.jpg The picture of Delial that Navidson took -- in "real" life, of course, it was another photographer. He won the Pulitzer Prize, took a lot of flak for not helping Delial, and then killed himself.