- Megan Bingham
Johnny Truant is an L.A. tattoo artist looking for a new apartment. His friend says an elderly blind man who lived in his apartment complex recently passed away. Traunt figures it wouldn't hurt to check out the apartment. Inside, Traunt discovers the man, Zampanò, has been meticulously studying a documentary film, The Navidson Record, about photojournalist Will Navidson. When Traunt goes to look up the documentary, there isn't a record of the film ever being made.
So begins Traunt's descent into the madness of Zampanò.
Zampanò collected large amounts of records and evidence on the fictional film, such as small transcripts from the Navidson and his main character's loved ones—such as his brother Tom and partner Karen. However, these narratives are quite disturbing, as well as confusing. Zampanò's papers are filled with sorrow, terror, and insanity. Navidson's family discovered a curious factor about their new home: doors seemed to appear out of nowhere, and Will discovers the parameters of the house are off. The inside measurements are greater then the outside measurements. As time went on, the house formed what the documentary refers to as "The Five and a Half Minute Hallway," a mysterious set of detailed rooms with a constant, low—almost guttural—hum. Navidson and the other narrators begin to descend into madness due to a haunting mystery of the endless passages, discovering no explanation.
Although the paranormal story is convincing, the format of House of Leaves draws even more readers to its uniqueness. House of Leaves was developed by author Mark Z. Danielewski in freehand. With an unusual page layout and style, it has a large number of footnotes, which sometimes contain footnotes themselves. As the reader dives deeper into The Navidson Record's terrifying story, some pages are found to contain only a few words or lines of text arranged in strange ways. It is often said that this type of writing creates a claustrophobic effect. In the color edition of House of Leaves, each narrator's text is printed in a distinct font and color, making it easier for the reader to follow the occasionally challenging format of the novel.
Many readers have either not finished House of Leaves, or it takes them an incredibly long time to finish the complex novel, due to the format and distressing plot line. It took me well over a year to finish it. I had to put it down when I didn't think I could handle the uncomfortable feelings of the narrators inside the immense labyrinth. However, House of Leaves is truly unique piece of experimental fiction. Danielewski wants his readers to feel uncomfortable, almost sick with fear and confusion while they uncover the secrets of the Navidson house. The spiraled and the short blocked text, the one-word pages—all of these strange factors make you feel the words instead of just reading the words. If you're up for a challenge for 2017, House of Leaves could be it.