It’s over. My stay at the house of leaves has ended and I feel a faint sense of relief and a strong sensation of regret. The two emotions are pulling me apart as the book was one which threw me out of the world and plunged me into its own. A horror story which manages to affect the mind and senses. Yet at its heart, this novel is a heartbroken romance of two men struggling with their own moral dilemmas.
Johnny Truant sets himself the task of compiling and old man’s work, a set of record and manuscripts about a film. The film is about a man named Navidson moving into a new home with his family which isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. A film which may not be fiction. As new rooms appear within the house, endless corridors and winding staircases forming Navidson forms a crew to explore the new rooms and find out the secrets, much to the distaste of his wife. Scenes are analysed and dissected, discussions from motive, film technique, boredom, to Minotaur and echoes. Each topic is split carefully into chapters, littered with footnotes and quotes giving it a realistic appearance. Reading a documentation of a film which doesn’t exist may not sound the most exciting of reads, but the story really grips you as the pages become manic in presentation and Truant tells his own tale in the footnotes. A tale which starts happy and curious, turns into an emotional thrill ride.
I told myself the story was fiction each time before I set foot within the pages, but the sheer power of the writing and story pull you into the world. The film is now real, the characters encounters and situations actually happened and I saw myself secluding myself from the real world as I turned to the house for comfort. The horror of a house forming new rooms which seem to go on forever doesn’t sound particularly scary yet the novel manages to make it one of the most terrifying things imaginable. Claustrophobia’s beware. It plays as a metaphor to the families problems, it ties in with the old man documenting and then to Truant who starts to take on the weight of the tale he’s trying to keep together.
In a sense, the story is but a trigger for Truant’s own as his life takes over the pages as certain sentences or quotes bring back memories of recent or past events. We have on one side a carefully documented story of a film about a family falling apart as the house clearly, then on the other an emotional tale of a man who becomes secluded and depressed as the notes draw him in. At the start he’s getting high, drunk and sleeping with different women every night. It sounds like a dream life but you see how empty and crushing these encounters are. The way he learns about the women but has to have the detachment the morning after. We see him fall head over heels for a stripper, yet he sees she is taken and far from him. None of his thoughts and dreams seem to be coming into fruition, past events with women just have a melancholy weight in his mind. the horrors of the house isn’t the true story of House of Leaves, it’s a gloomy romance which reads like a mix between an essay and Henry Rollins thoughts on the world. It freaked me out, it made me cry and made me aware of my own problems in a way no book has ever done.
It also contains moments which leave me breathless. As things fall apart midway
become so terrifying
I tell myself ‘pu dekcuf woh’
and the insanity gets to me.
What am I r*e*d***
The removed moments make you think why
And the letters at the end are so frantic and full of anxiety.
It will have you 4 5 3 15 4 9 14 7 (Each number represents a letter in the alphabet. It will have you reading hundreds of footnotes of fictional books and people *. Reading a word per page, or upside down. The characters seeing there flaws thanks to the creation of one film is something.
House of Leaves is something.
* Walker, J, Man Eat Man (Spain, 1989) Page 34