I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I Flipped the Pages of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves

The Remastered Full-Color Edition

ISBN 973-0375-70376-8

710 pages

Publisher: Pantheon

Bought: October 17, 2014 from Fulllybooked by my husband as a surprise gift after he "overheard" my book club mates talking about it online

Brand new, trade paperback, PhP 819.00

This book was not in my TBR. It wasn't a part of our book club's official line-up. It wasn't even in my radar. It crept into my life so suddenly. First somebody from our book club asked in our Facebook page if anyone has read it. A question like that is usually an indication of somebody itching to discuss it. And discuss it soon. Because there's something about the book begging to be talked about, to be processed. 

I guess I got swept into reading it when my husband surprised me with a copy. It's a hefty copy, with an equally hefty price tag. so I wouldn't have bought it myself given my towering TBR pile screaming "read us! read us!" 

But I read this. 

No regrets. 

And why do I bother to tell you this preamble of the story of why I found myself reading the book? I don't know.  Maybe because this book became more than a book--it became an entity, a "something" that was oddly special, an object I developed a relationship with. 

Or maybe I'm just afraid to start talking about the book. Because. 

It is like no other I've read before. It starts off with an eerie tone, like those horror films masquerading as documentary works, a mad blur of fact and fiction, reminding me of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. But that's only at the start.

It is about a House, a strange House, mysterious, breathing, growing by itself, sprouting rooms and tunnels that exceed the dimensions of the house, sucking human beings to their death. 

It's about people--broken, afraid, drawn into the story of the House, willingly or not. 

I can't say much about it really without giving away the surprises. 

One of the most unusual things about it is its form. And I do not have the literary jargon to explain it. It's a nesting novel--3 stories, a story within a story within a story, bound by parallelisms in some parts and in some parts, you wonder why they're even told adjacently. Some parts make sense. And some parts make me utter WTF. 

It's weird. It's scary. It's perplexing. It's 



You really have to read it to know what it's about. 

All I can write about now is what it said to me. Its message.

I heard it telling me that:

As people struggling with or against or despite our brokenness, we tend to look outward for the fix. We seek solutions from the world--in the realm of politics religion, science. We try to find answers from others. And we seek consolation from the externals--achievement, work, social acceptance, romantic involvements, thinking that whatever wounds we nurse inside could be cured by medicines from the outside. After all, whatever has caused those wounds inside came from the outside as well--we can only blame these external upheavals for breaking us. 

Pretty much like how people blame the House for the horrors and chaos it has caused on those cursed enough to enter it. 

But all of these upheavals--the shifting, the falling, the evil, the horrors are just frames that move to shake us, stir us, agitate us. They happen just to push us to look within ourselves, to find the persons we were or the persons we want to be, to hear the voice we want to hear but cannot or have not. 

It's not about the outside world after all. It's not about the House after all. The answers come from within. The healing starts inside. 

That was the message for me. Which is really useless information for you because I'm pretty sure that in the same way that House meant something different for each of its occupants, this book would mean something else for you, and every other reader.

Did I like it?


Because it's clever. Because some parts made me gasp. Some parts made me ache. Some parts made me cry. Some parts made me put the book down to catch my breath. 

It made some of my book club mates dizzy.

It made us flip pages to find out what happens next. 

And it made all of us wonder. Ask questions. 

It agitated us. 

I like it because of the love story, or rather love stories it contains. 

I like it because it transformed me from being just a passive reader to somebody part of the drama as I read it, made lines on it, wrote notes on it, turned it around,  smothered its pages, almost hurled it out of fear and exasperation, crumpled its cover, molested it, and found parts of me reflected by its characters. 

I love it because the form is part of the message. Very Mc Luhanesque with the medium being the massage. 

Some pages are filled to the margins. And some are almost empty. And that there is a logic to that. It might seem gimmicky to others, but it works for me. This form brought me deep into the the dark tunnels of the House. And I love that. 

I like how it is rich in plot and description. But I love it even more because it manages to delve deeply into the characters--their personalities, their backgrounds and motivations, and for most of them, their neuroses. No character is too minor not to be given its voice, its story. 

I love this part when one of the characters had to read the book in the dark and he only had one page  and one match to go. I felt what the character felt. The movie in my head looked so real, I saw the cinema audience gasp and clap along with me. 

I love how it honors the printed book. No electronic medium could really do justice to this story. Maybe an interactive ebook or a website could top the reading experience with technological wizardry, but it just cannot give that wondrous thrill of turning the crispy pages in various paces.

And I love the sex scene on page 89. I mean who writes sex scenes like that? Who talks like that? Who uses and weaves words like that?

I love and hate that many of our questions about the book will never get answered.

So read it. You might love it. Or you might hate it. But you probably would want to talk about it. 

Then buzz me if you want to talk about it. Because I don't want to stop thinking about this book just yet.


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