House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Apparently this was an internet sensation where bits and pieces of the story were posted online for years before it became a printed book. It has a cult following.
Even though I can read a book a day. I have yet to finish this one because it is a schizophrenic mind fuck that hurts my brain and I have to take breaks. Some pages need to be read upside down or in a mirror or you have to turn the book clockwise; some of it is in a different language. On the first page of the novel it says this is not for you, which of course made me think this is for me.
It starts off normal enough. A family moves into a new house: Karen Navidson, an ex model, and her husband Will Navidson, a photojournalist. Before we get to that information, though, we meet our narrator Johnny, a tattoo artist with endless amounts of time to kill who spends that time doing drugs and fucking any girl he can find with his boss, the tattoo shop owner. They somehow come across this old guy's burned-down apartment. The old guy's name is Zampino. He was a blind packrat. This is where Johnny comes across Zampino's writing about The Navidson Records.
If you have ever watched a found footage film, then this book is for you. The Navidson Record is two films.
The book is 662 pages long. I am on page 341. In the past 341 pages so far, Johnny looked through an eccentric old man's belongings and finds out he was obsessed with these found footage tapes and did a lot of strange writing about it. The novel cuts back and forth between Johnny's adventures and the Navidson family's story or what the viewer was seeing while watching the Navidson tapes.
Some pages have just four words written sideways or one word or one letter or one paragraph at the bottom of the page. Reading this is an exercise in patience. Meanwhile, on the full pages the Navidsons are living in a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Will Navidson even calls up his estranged brother Tom, who he hasn't seen for years, to come and measure the house with him. They find that the house has grown bigger. At some point, Karen and Will's two children manage to get lost in a wall. Later on, a room appears off their bedroom while they are at a dinner party. They call the police and everyone is baffled. Karen starts using Feng Shui and reads her tarot cards. Will investigates a door that wasn't there before and almost gets lost in these dark tunnels. Karen begs him not to go down there again. They make the door off limits to the kids and even the dog avoids it. Will can't get the growling sound he heard while he was down there out of his mind. He calls in some guy named Holloway and his team to investigate.
Throughout the telling of the tunnel investigations, the reader has to read through pages of random history on Magellan like it is from an encyclopedia. Random lists of names are in italics. Random words with a comma after each in blue boxes. Johnny, who has been fucking some more women, now has an obsession with a stripper. He reads more of old guy's rantings on The Navidson tapes. Johnny thinks a monster is following him. Then there is random scholars, film critics, professors dissecting the tapes and writing essays, pages and pages of this.
By page 341, the tapes have been made. Holloway and his team have gone in with ropes and lights, survival gear, and guns. Everyone has come out after days of wandering dark hallways with no sense of time. There are bullet wounds and everyone is battered physically and psychologically. Karen is packing up to move with the kids. The kid's guidance counselor stops by and is horrified by the seemingly aftermath of war scene and promptly leaves.
So I am thinking this feels like the end of the book, but I have 320 pages left---what the hell is that going to be about? So I put it down and haven't picked it up again yet. The book so far was all: What is that growl in the hidden tunnels of the strange room. What will they find? Oh my God, they are going crazy, will they ever get out? Who stole Karen's Feng Shui objects? Her kids are really upset about the turtle one.
I don't know if I will finish it. I flipped through the remaining pages just to see what I was up against. I saw a half a page of bold xxxx's. A screenplay written by Karen. Several more pages of bold XXXX's, with just footnotes on the bottom of the page that make no fucking sense. Several pages with just the words don't be scared written upside down so small you have to look for it. Pages with just musical notes. Johnny's journal entries. Letters from Mommy to Johnny and from Johnny to Mommy and that's it. I am exhausted from just skimming those last 320 pages.
In conclusion, I did not find this book as scary as the Amazon reviews indicated. It is experimental in a way I don't want to experience again. Reading in the mirror sucks. The story was great but having to weed through a weird mind art exhibit to get to the story. I don't know, a journey is a journey. Maybe I will finish it next week and post about it then.