I bought a book.
It’s been about five years since I bought my first Kindle, and I’ve never really looked back. I love books, I love libraries, and I love the feeling of a book in my hands. But I love more that I have a hundred books at my fingertips, carried in my pocket, and my favourite book is a momentary thought away.
I love books, but stories are more.
So in the last five years or so I’ve hardly bought any physical books at all, and this week, I bought House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. This article will not contain any spoilers for events in the book, but does discuss they style and presentation, which spoils a surprise slightly.
The surface narrative is an unfinished academic-style critique of a documentary film called “The Navidson Record” about a normal family whose house sprouts mysterious and inconsistent dark corridors. The critique offers a scene-by-scene analysis of the film, with copious digressions and footnotes. Some of the footnotes are by the publisher, Truant, who found the critique and provides even more copious notes and digressions on the nature of the critique and his journey though understanding it.
The book is weird in every direction. The split levels of narrative are marked by serif/monotype font changes, with occasional sections struck from the critique and retrieved by Truant marked in
struck red text, the page layout and structure varies from the strange – as the footnotes expand themselves to multi-page stories – to the barely followable. At one stage you may find yourself confronting a page like this:
(Photo by TheMainMane)
(There, you have main text, three continuing footnote sections, and one new footnote section. It’s not a common thing in the book, but there’s a reason it’s doing that here)
or some sections where there are only a few words per page, evoking a sense of time and space beyond that which the words alone are conveying, and sometimes at odds with it.
In this short-attention-span world, it’s been rare for me to get lost in books. House of Leaves has captured my head for hours upon hours at a time, rendering early nights invalid, and promised appointments delayed. I’m barely halfway though, and would without question recommend it.
Here’s the thing, though. If you can, get the hardback colour edition. As much as it’s a heavy physical object, it’s an amazing full use of the medium, and perhaps one of the last.