This is one of the few books here that I gave all ten
stars. It was the most cutting-edge, innovative and strange novel I've
ever read, and this also made it one of the best. It's a little difficult
to explain, but here we go ...
The story follows a young man who becomes obsessed
with a dead man's obsession over an unfinished novel. That novel tells
the story of a photographer who makes a documentary about his family's
haunted house. But there is no spirit haunting
this house; rather, it's the house that
is haunting its inhabitants. The house changes
its shape and eventually reveals an entire ghost world, horrible in its
eery silences and encroaching darkness.
The two things that make House of
Leaves so compelling are its format and its reality. Its reality
is constructed in such a way that the story seems to hover between
fiction and documentary. Several of the references and footnotes are
real, and several are not. But what's real and what isn't? Since the
story's characters are so layered, with a person discovering the story
of a person discovering the story of a person making a documentary,
it often seems that certain of the layers might have really happened.
Sadly, they're all fictional, but Danielewski's skill at rendering
each character's descent into a psychological obsession, into the depths
of their own individual, increasingly darkening house,
draws the reader in as surely as it drew in the book's protaginists.
But the book's format is even more striking. As the house changes
shape, its investigators following each new twist and turn, so does the
actual prose rotate and stretch through the book. This unpredictable,
frightening deviation further allows the reader to identify with the
novel's cast to such a point that the lines between reader and character
become blurred. The reader must jump back and forth throughout the book,
following footnotes, sources and documents in the same process that the
characters originally discovered the information. Overwhelming at first
glance, it becomes easier and easier to follow the book's/house's
twisted logic, until you rush to keep up with, to outpace, the dizzying
spiral down, into the darkness, into the house ...