Sunday, October 17, 2010

(intentionally left blank) of Leaves/Mark Z. Danielewski

You have to read this book.
Sometimes, a book comes along that defies genres. Such a book dares you to pin neat little one-word adjectives to it (they won't stick, even if you try); it refuses to be shelved with its kin, is often a classic, and is always worth reading.
This book is not a book like that. Not only does House of Leaves defy any classification or attempt to cubbyhole it, it actively fights the format in which it is presented, as well as fighting you, the reader, in your attempts to comprehend it. You will face a gauntlet of confusion, you will unearth meaning buried beneath meaning like Matryoshka dolls of fear, you will sometimes have to read upside down. In the end, you will win through to the end of this book - only to see the spirit of the thing burn the truth of the matter to keep it from you. Sound like fun? I didn't think so either - but it is. Is this a book? Not as such. I would feel more comfortable describing it as a labyrinth/crossword-puzzle-mystery on paper. What in god's name is that? I don't know. But you really, really need to get in on it.
These first few paragraphs really give you no insight into Mr. Danielewski's bad-acid-trip-horror-thriller-lovestory -(documentary?)-thing. This is because any attempt to describe the book can be nothing but a reproduction of the book. But for the sake of giving this review a semblance of normality (which doesn't seem fitting, given the fact that this novel seems to have fallen out of an alternate universe) I'll give it a shot.
Ok. So there's a young tattoo artist named Johnny who is taken by a friend named Lude to a dead old man's apartment named Zampano. There, he finds a ragged, half-assembled critique of a movie that may or may not actually exist. The movie is a documentary made by a famous photographer who moves into a house and quickly finds out that it is larger on the inside than on the outside, and may or may not be (spoiler! except it may not be) Yggdrasil.
Does that make any sense? No? I didn't think so. Buy the book.


whaddayameandoihaveroomfordessert said...

It's funny you should review this book now--everyone in my office was having a debate about it a couple weeks ago. Some people thought it was totally groundbreaking, some people thought it was over-trumped, and some people (erm, me) had never heard of it. Apparently I missed a whole culture point. (Maybe you can lend me your copy? ;)

Simon said...

I've already lent my copy out in order to enlighten a friend, sorry. But you must buy this! Screw the economic crisis, I'm sure you can find some corners to cut. You don't really need electricity, food, or running water, do you? I would also suggest selling a kidney.

stacy said...

Simon, I've not read the book yet, but I love your review.