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Back in the day, Dan Morgan wrote several of the greatest X-Files episodes, including the hilarious Humbug and Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. His achievement was to retain the creepiness and horror of the series but to leaven it with humor. Meanwhile, in 1996, Alan Sokal notoriously pranked the world of academia when he got a bogus article published in the journal Social Text, Transgressing the Boundaries - Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, dressing up physics in the jargon of deconstruction to appeal to editors who care more about politics than comprehensibility. Others have followed in his footsteps. A few years later, Frederick Crews wrote Postmodern Pooh, in which he mockingly analyzed the titular Winnie from a variety of trendy intellectual perspectives, using footnotes to genuine journal pieces.

For his first novel, Mark Z. Danielewski tossed these sorts of strategies in a blender, added Blair Witch Project and The Shining and Jorge Luis Borges and an encyclopedia on typeface, and, after ten years of writing, poured out a 700 page shaggy dog of a novel that is ingenious and funny and scary and baffling and maddening and, not surprisingly, has a cult following. At the center of the book is a film--if it's real--called The Navidson Report. Will Navidson, a Pulitzer-winning photographer, moves with his wife and two children to a house in rural Virginia, trying to save his troubled marriage. One day he discovers that the house is bigger inside than outside. The mystery deepens when a hallway appears in the house that leads, impossibly, into other rooms and then to a spiral staircase that leads downwards seemingly forever. Exploration of the extra-dimensional space in the house leads to madness and murder.

Or so we are lead to believe, but only snippets of the film survive and the account we are given comes from a manuscript compiled by an old blind man, Zampano, who can never have seen the film. However, he became obsessed with it and with the extensive "scholarly" exegeses that grew up around the film. And the tale is actually presented by an unreliable young tattoo artist, Johnny Truant, who found the manuscript when he moved into the deceased Zampano's apartment. Truant tells his story in his own copious footnotes supplementing the original text. As the story proceeds, he too loses his grip on reality, assuming there is any reality to the Navidson house in the first place.

The strangeness of the subject matter is reflected in the very presentation of the text, which uses multiple fonts, colors of type, nearly blank pages, pages with words running sideways or sentences sculpted into shapes. Keeping the narrators straight, going back and forth from body to footnote, turning the book so you can read what's written and the story itself all add up to a uniquely disorienting experience.

Now when an author makes these sorts of demands on our attention and indulges himself in this many games and inventions there are two things I personally expect of him: (1) he'd better be all in on the endeavor; and, (2) he'd better make it fun for writer and reader alike. Mr. Danielewski succeeds on both levels, so we are willing to exercise the patience his novel requires, though everyone's attention must flag over the course of such a massive book (which, like the Navidson house, is much bigger on the inside than the outside). you'd like to think that, after this, there's not much left of the pretensions of post-modernism and meta-fiction. But, as we've pointed out, the novel was post-modern from the git-go. After all, a resentful Cervantes complained about having to change the tone of his writing and the character of Don Quijote because of his readers' demands and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy was playing with the printed word and indulging digressions in the mid-18th century. From that perspective, House of Leaves is oddly traditional.

But wait, it gets weirder. when the author went out on his book tour he was sometimes accompanied by his musician sister, Anne Decatur Danielewski, who performs under the name Poe. Her album, Haunted, includes tape recordings of their father, Polish-American filmmaker Tad Z. Danielewski. The album is kind of a dialogue with a distant Dad that had never occurred during his lifetime:
Recorded entirely on Poe’s Mac 9600, the critically acclaimed “Haunted” was released in November 2001. The album tells a remarkable story about life, love, loss and the architecture of memory. Inspired by her discovery of a box of audio-cassettes containing “letters” that her father had recorded before his death, the creation of “Haunted” implemented technology in the most personal way imaginable. “I’ll never forget the moment I pressed play on a tape recorder and heard my father’s voice. A considerable amount of time had passed since his death, and yet here he was, speaking directly to my brother and I, sharing his thoughts about everything that was important to him. He said strange and wonderful things, things he had never told us when he was alive. Finding these tapes provided the necessary clues to uncovering a past I still hadn’t made sense of.”
One of the album tracks is called House of Leaves and, almost inevitably, one of the songs from the album was used on the soundtrack of the Blair Witch sequel. So is her brother exploring the same familial issues in his novel that she is on her album? How deep do the depths of this house go?


Grade: (B)


See also:

Mark Danielewski Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Mark Z Danielewski
    -WIKIPEDIA: Mark Z. Danielewski
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Mark Z. Danielewski (Penguin Random House)
    -WIKIPEDIA: House of Leaves
    -YOU TUBE CHANNEL: MarkZDanielewski
    -EXCERPT: from House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
    -AUDIO: Audio Reading: Mark Z. Danielewski : Reading From "House of Leaves" at the Housing Works Used Book Cafe (March 16, 2000, NY Times)
    -SONG: "A Christmas Eve Carol" (Mark Z. Danielewski, Dec 11, 2018, You Tube)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: Mark Z. Danielewski lectured in Knowlton Hall’s Gui Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 23 (Spring 2019 Baumer Lecture)
    -VIDEO: Mark Z. Danielewski | The Little Blue Kite (Strand Book Store, Nov 13, 2019)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: Mark Z. Danielewski: "The Familiar": Mark Z. Danielewski, the internationally bestselling author of "House of Leaves" and the National Book Award nominated "Only Revolutions," comes to Google to discuss his planned 27-volume epic, "The Familiar," of which Volume 3 was released in June 2016. (Talks at Google, 8/11/2016)
    -VIDEO CHAT: A chat with author Mark Z. Danielewski (Caroline Kellogg, Oct 30, 2012, Los Angeles Times)
    -VIDEO: Mark Z. Danielewski with Christopher O’Riley - The Fifty Year Sword (October 23, 2012, San Francisco, CA - Booksmith at the Swedish American Hall)
    -ESSAY: The Trouble With Language Is Language: Mark Z. Danielewski explains the confines of language and urges us, as readers, to explore outside our comfort zone. (MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI, Read it Forward)
    - BBC RADIO PLAY: Recording Recovered from the House of Leaves (BBC Radio Archive)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Mark Z. Danielewski (IMDB)
    -STUDY GUIDE: House of Leaves (
    -PROFILE: Spine tingler: House of Leaves is a horror novel with a difference - even its pages look creepy. Mark Danielewski tells Brian Logan about his frightening footnotes (Brian Logan, 7/13/2000, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: 'House of Leaves changed my life': the cult novel at 20: The nightmarish tale of a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside still inspires devotion. Fans, and the author, share what it means to them (Andrew Lloyd, 2 Apr 2020, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW: Five minutes with Mark Z Danielewski: Mark Danielewski spoke to us on the phone from Los Angeles, eager to talk about his shortlisted book The House of Leaves. Find out how his story of how a house that is larger on the inside than the outside came about, and listen to audio clips of the interview (The Guardian, 30 Nov 2000)
    -PROFILE: In Person: Mark Z. Danielewski and Poe at Borders South Monday, Nov. 13 (ROGER GATHMAN, NOV. 24, 2000, Austin Chronicle)
    -PROFILE: Mark Z. Danielewski (Eric Wittmershaus, Flak)
    -INTERVIEW: EXCLUSIVE: We Had a Chat With Mark Z. Danielewski About That HOUSE OF LEAVES Script (SCOTT WAMPLER, Jul. 16, 2018, Birth Movies Death)
    -PROFILE: Did Mark Z. Danielewski Just Reinvent the Novel?: The Author of 'The Familiar', on his 21,000-Page Book (Jonathan Russell Clark, May 13, 2015, Literary Hub)
    -INTERVIEW: Spooky Lit: Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword (Elina Shatkin, October 16, 2012, LA Mag)
    -DISCUSSION: Hotel Theory: The History of the Los Angeles Hotel, Part 2 (Erik Morse, OCTOBER 18, 2012, LA Review of Books)
    -PROFILE: Mark Z. Danielewski Embarks on One of the Most Ambitious Book Projects in the History of L.A. (David Kipen, May 5, 2015, LA Mag)
    -PROFILE: Mark Z. Danielewski drops three new House Of Leaves teleplays, is definitely up to something,/a> (Randall Colburn, 12/03/19, AV Club)
-INTERVIEW: Revolution 2: An Interview with Mark Z. Danielewski (Kiki Benzon, 03-20-2007, Electronic Book Review)
    -PROFILE: Mark Danielewski is here to answer your questions about The Fifty-Year Sword (Charlie Jane Anders, 8/23/12 , Gizmodo)
    -PROFILE: The Ghost in the Machine: Avant-garde novelist Mark Z. Danielewski is changing the way we read e-books. (KIM O'CONNOR, DEC 03, 2012, Slate)
    -INTERVIEW: The Fifty Year Sword: An Interview With Mark Z. Danielewski (INTERVIEW BY MATTHEW TREON, OCTOBER 16, 2012, Lit Reactor)
    -INTERVIEW: Mark Z. Danielewski: Building a house of leaves: an interview with Mark Danielewski (BookPage interview by Michael Sims, March 2000, BookPage)
    -INTERVIEW: Mark Z. Danielewski (Christopher O'Riley, Jan 1, 2013, BOMB)
    -PROFILE: Writing Should Be a Continued Exploration: Mark Z. Danielewski discusses how the interplay of words and images can open up new ways of perceiving both literature and the world (JOE FASSLER, MAY 12, 2015, The Atlantic)
    -ARTICLE: New, Crazy Book from 'House of Leaves' Author Out Now (CADY DRELL, 5/12/15, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: Font Functions in “House of Leaves” (Elise Hawthorne, digital storytelling)
    -THESIS: House of Leaves: Navigating the Labyrinth of the Deconstructed Novel (Molly Throgmorton, Ouachita Baptist University)
    -THESIS: House of Leaves: The End of Postmodernism (Joseph B. Noah, State University of New York College at Buffalo - Buffalo State College)
    -THESIS: Labyrinthine Literature: Reality versus Perception in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (RYAN JONES)
    -ESSAY: The Novelty of the Non-Novel: A Reflection on House of Leaves and Its Nontraditional Contradictions (Alex Taylor, Hothouse)
    -ARTICLE: Whatever Happened to Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar? (Sam Reader, September 6, 2019, Barnes & Noble Review)
    -ESSAY: How Not To Read House of Leaves (JOHN BROWNLEE, 02.15.07, Wired)
    -ESSAY: The print artifact in the age of the digital : the writings of Mark Z. Danielewski and Steve Tomasula (Kent Alexander Aardse, 2011, semantic Scholar)
    -ARCHIVES: Mark Z Danielewski (LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Mark Z Danielewski (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Ted Gioia, New Canon)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Steven Poole, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Robert Kelly, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Peter Beaumont, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Steven Moore, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Malcolm Jones, Newsweek)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Adam Begley, NY Observer)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Emily Barton, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Elizabeth Bukowski, Wall Street Journal)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Shipwreck Library)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (The Reader's Room)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Jennifer Marie, Bibliophile)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Nicolo’s Book Club)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Steemit)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Daniel W Cheely, Books of Daniel)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Corner Folds)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (sarah M. Cradit)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (KASEY CARPENTER, Lit Reactor)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Brandon O'Brien, The Rumpus)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Walking the Forest Floor)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Hamlets & Hyperspace)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Keeper of Pages)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Muse with Me)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Deborah Biancotti, Weird Fiction Review)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Bob Wake, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Whit, Literary Quicksand)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (michael Wheldon, Literary Quicksand)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Ryan Anderson)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (ian Wissman, Waxing Press)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Annie Neugebauer)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Lightning Droplets)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Theory & Philosophy of Visual Communication)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Doug Nufer, Rain Taxi)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (NYX Book Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Big Horror Guide)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (David Middleton, January Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Horror Novel Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Rick Klefel, Agony Column)
    -REVIEW: of House of Leaves (Roger Gatham, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolutions by Mark Z Danielewski (Steven Poole, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (Sean O'Hagan, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (Troy Patterson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (The Other Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (David Detrich, Innovative Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (John Freeman, News Review)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (NY Press)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (Jamelah Earle, Literary kicks)
    -REVIEW: of Only Revolution (John Dugdale, Literary Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar by Mark Z Danielewski (Michael Schaub, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar (Tom LeClair, NY Times Book Review
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar Vol. 3 (Jason Sheehan, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar, Vol 2 (Ryan Vlastelica, AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar (Ian Wissman, waxing Press)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar (Jeff Alford, Run Spot run)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar, vol. 2-5 (Karl Wolff, NY Journal of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Familiar (Bee Gabriel, Strange Horizons)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z Danielewski (Ted Gioia, Conceptual Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Stuart Kelly, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Matthew Love, TimeOut)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (daniel Handler, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Mordicai Node, Tor)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Kevin McFarland, AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Ben Myers, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Hal Parker, American Reader)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Eric Liebetrau, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifty Year Sword (Dan Coxon, Monkey Bicycle)
    -REVIEW: of The Little Blue Kite by Mark Z Danielewski (S. Tremaine Nelson, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Little Blue Kite (Justin Cober-Lake, Spectrum Culture)
    -REVIEW: of Little Blue Kite (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Little Blue Kite (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Little Blue Kite (Ansley Grams, Twin Cities geeks)
    -REVIEW: of Little Blue Kite (Michael Silverblatt, KCRW: Bookworm)

Poe: Anne Decatur Danielewski

    -WIKIPEDIA: Haunted (Poe album)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Haunted (Metacritic)
    -ALBUM: Haunted (YouTube)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Tad Danielewski
    -PROFILE: Poe ready to say “Hello” after 10 year hiatus (DEREK STAPLESON, FEBRUARY 01, 2010, Consequences of Sound)
    -REVIEW: of Haunted (The Red & Black)
    -REVIEW: of Haunted (Eden Miller, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of Haunted (Jason Mandell, LA Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Haunted (Mark Bautz, Entertainment Weekly)
    -MUSIC REVIEW: Haunted house music: A dysfunctional family inspired one of last year's most chilling books. Now there's an album. (Dave Simpson, The Guardian)

Book-related and General Links: