Billy Martin (docbrite) wrote,
Billy Martin
docbrite

House of Leaves

In keeping with my tendency to discover things ten years or so after everyone else does, I'm finally reading Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. Of course I've known about the book for years, but I think I subconsciously had some idea that I wouldn't be smart/patient enough to read it, and that if I did, it would somehow drive me insane with terror. A little over halfway through now, and I won't claim I understand everything, but I certainly didn't have any trouble getting into it. I figured it would give me strange dreams; some books/authors seem to seriously alter your state of mind while you are reading them*, and this one, with its infinite layers and digressions, hosts of voices, proliferating (sometimes backward/upside down) footnotes/sidebars/end notes/insertions, and steadily increasing sense of menace, seemed guaranteed to do so. I was right, but I couldn't have anticipated the other elements my mind would throw in:

I was wandering through what seemed to be the large, spooky seaside arcade in Neil's The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. Hanging in a deserted stall I saw the mask from the (creepy) cover of Billy Joel's album The Stranger. "It's the little face," I thought with dread. As I did, a tunnel opened in the wall where none had been before, and there stood Billy himself, a very young version of him, thin and pompadoured, wearing a loud plaid jacket and drainpipe pants and a skinny tie, staring at me with great glowing luminous eyes that I knew would lure me into the tunnel if I didn't look away. But I couldn't look away.

I didn't remember most of this dream until, while fixing squash fritters for lunch today, I was listening to The Stranger and my hands started shaking like, well, leaves when the title track came on. I didn't feel objectively scared, but I found that I couldn't safely handle a knife until I turned the music off. I expect House of Leaves has caused many nightmares in the decade since its publication, but I feel almost certain that I must be the first person it ever made scared of Billy Joel. (Must get over this! Soon I'll listen to some of his happier/snarlier/eviler songs and feel better about the whole thing. But not while I'm alone in the house tonight.)

Anyway, I'm sure a great deal has been written about House of Leaves and Mark Z. Danielewski, and I intend to look up some of it when I've finished reading the book. Until then, I'm cool with discussing the book itself, but I don't want to know anything at all about its history or the author. (If you have any interesting links, though, I'll take 'em for later reference.)

Also, now I see why greygirlbeast felt moved to make the word "house" blue every time she used it in her journal for several years. I mean, I knew it was because of House of Leaves, but I didn't realize how much this book had influenced her work over the past decade. Strangely, I don't recall any reviews mentioning this influence, especially on her most recent (and excellent) novel The Red Tree. Perhaps the reviewers were daunted by House of Leaves, as I was, and haven't read it? If they liked The Red Tree, they certainly should; the two books are intriguing to compare and contrast. Probably there's a dissertation in it for some really smart person. (And if I'm way off base here, Cait, feel free to use the riding crop gently correct me.)



*A very different example, one I posted on Twitter some time back: "Hunter S. Thompson's ultimate goal in life was to become a kind of drug himself, and he achieved this. Discuss."
Tags: billy joel, books, caitlin, dreams, hunter s. thompson, neil gaiman
Subscribe

  • Goodwill

    I can't keep up my daily journaling ambitions, but I limp along ... Back in the fall of 2010, I donated most of my "female" clothes to Goodwill. A…

  • Black (Conjure) Friday

    12:01 AM Friday through midnight Sunday, PZBART's Black (Conjure) Friday sale: 20% off everything in the shop! Signed books, authentic Voodoo and…

  • Strange Memories

    Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era -- the kind of peak…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 22 comments
Previous
← Ctrl ← Alt
Next
Ctrl → Alt →
Previous
← Ctrl ← Alt
Next
Ctrl → Alt →

  • Goodwill

    I can't keep up my daily journaling ambitions, but I limp along ... Back in the fall of 2010, I donated most of my "female" clothes to Goodwill. A…

  • Black (Conjure) Friday

    12:01 AM Friday through midnight Sunday, PZBART's Black (Conjure) Friday sale: 20% off everything in the shop! Signed books, authentic Voodoo and…

  • Strange Memories

    Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era -- the kind of peak…