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House of Leaves

House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski
"The purpose of that place still continues to elude them. Is it merely an aberration of physics? Some kind of warp in space? Or just a topiary labyrinth on a much grander scale? Perhaps it serves a funeral purpose? Conceals a secret? Protects something? Imprisons or hides some kind of monster? Or for that matter, imprisons or hides an innocent? As the Holloway team soon discovers, answers to these questions are not exactly forthcoming."

Big mistake cracking the binding and reading the first few chapters as I laid my head down to sleep. Although my first night went quite smoothly I anticipated a restless night. Luckily the visions of my dead dogs visited me, providing me quiet comfort. However; I was awakened by the sound of falling indistinguishable objects at 4:30 A.M. which after a period of instant panic was attributed to the perils of owning a young Bombay cat. Again, who was the one that thought it would be cool to have a domestic version of a black panther prowling in your home? I would personally like to thank them for allowing me to have mine, but I would also like to give them a swift kick in the ass as they're walking away. At least I hope it was my cat making all that noise and not my walls caving in on me or my house playing other tricks. Had I have known, I would have read the Echo and Ovid's Metamorpheses section, that would have prepared me for a certain good night's sleep. As the book settles down the feeling of fear subsides, but the air of mystery is ever-present. The author is setting the tone as the first few sections are a precursor of things to come. This book is an opiate-fueled, rage virus inducing, sexually hypnotizing thrill ride resulting in a state of sleep deprivation with all of the head-on-a-swivel, sensory sensitivity sort of frightening aspects that leave you begging for more. "BRAINS"..."MORE BRAINS".

" 'Darkness is impossible to remember. Consequently cavers desire to return to those unseen depths where they have just been. It is an addiction. No one is ever satisfied. Darkness never satisfies. Especially if it takes something away which it almost always invariably does.' "

There are two interrelated stories at play cohabiting the pages in this book that are set in the eerie streets of late nineties Hollywood and the lonely existence of the Virginia countryside. We are first introduced to the L.A. story of Johnny Truant which involves the seedy underbelly of the city with the typical sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle. When Johnny's good friend Lude takes him to the apartment of a recently dead, old blind man named Zampanò, Johnny quickly realizes that his life will never be the same again. Zampanò's life on the surface was underwhelming to say the least. He lived a life of solitude in an apartment complex not having anything more than acquaintances and a peculiar relationship with localized stray cats. When Lude and Johnny examined the body they both saw some peculiar indentations alongside his body leaving Johnny with some questions. And when Johnny finds the appearing ramblings of a madman tucked away in a trunk in the corner of Zampanó's room, Johnny has found a new raison d'etre. But when the thoughts of a dead man start consuming your own life, by possession he realizes there is no turning back and he wouldn't have it any other way even if he knows it may lead to his very own demise.

" 'Patience has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.' "

The story in Virginia involves a house on Ash Tree Lane which was built in 1720 and has had .37 occupants every year. The new family that has just moved in are Will "Navy" Navidson, his longtime companion Karen Green, their children Daisy and Chad, as well as their dog Hillary and cat Mallory. Will and his twin brother Tom had a rather turbulent childhood with a mother that abandoned him to become an "actress" at the Whalestoe Institution and an abusive, alcoholic father that moved them around every two years to a new house in the mid-west. Will has turned his passion of photography and videography and has made a successful career out of it as a photojournalist. Will's artistic drive for perfection in photojournalism has mirrored that of Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist Kevin Carter and with his current mental health and traumatic childhood in mind he thought it would be best to take a temporary leave from trauma and take the time to film the family as they settled into their new home. Will unknowingly appointed this home as his security against the transience of the world that he felt when he was a child, and a good place for Karen and him to repair their relationship. After a four day vacation in Seattle, Will realizes that the house on Ash Tree Lane has changed, becoming alien, exposed, and unsettling. At first glance doorways have been added, hallways have been lengthened, and there is a small incongruous crawl space, but after further investigation there is a great spatial disparity between the inner dimensions of the house with that of the external dimensions. With the help of his estranged brother Tom, his engineering paraplegic
friend Billy Reston, a professional hunter and explorer Holloway Roberts and his team consisting of professional tracker Jed Leeder and mountain climbing prodigy Kirby "Wax" Hook they set out together to perform a thorough analysis of the construction of the house and try to figure out the labyrinth that is continually changing from within.

"Or in other words: shy from the sky, no answer lies there. It cannot care, especially for what it no longer knows. Treat that place as a thing unto itself, independent of all else, and confront it on those terms. You alone must find the way. No one else can help you. Every way is different. And if you do lose yourself at least take solace in the absolute certainty that you will perish."

This book is really unconventional with a variety of narratives, page layouts, and copeus amounts of footnotes and appendices that for better insight, command attention while reading. As a helpful reminder, I am not much of a note taker but I would suggest using a few different coloured pens to set your house in order for when you look back for reference. There is so much going on it is very easy to get lost if your not prepared. After reading this novel I feel that the horror aspect is greatly overrated, and this is just as much a multi-faceted love story. I went into this book believing in my heart that I was going to fear sleep. As I got further into it, the psychological dimensions became very involved and thoroughly dissected, but at the end of the day, like clockwork, love prevailed.

"Zampanò himself probably would have insisted on corrections and edits, he was his own harshest critic, but I've come to believe errors, especially written errors, are often the only markers left by a solitary life: to sacrifice them is to lose the angles of personality, the riddle of a soul. In this case a very old soul. A very old riddle."

Everyone has to explore their own personal dark space. While one man is searching for the answers to the mystery in his home the other is searching for the monster that is lurking around the corner. With the fallibility of man firmly entrenched their search to discover that mystery could provide the means to their unfortunate destruction.

"I just thought it would be nice to see how people move into a place and start to inhibit it. Settle in, maybe put down roots, interact, hopefully understand each other a little better. Personally, I just want to create a cozy little outpost for keeping and my family. A place to drink lemonade on the porch and watch the sunset."