House of Leaves, Some Thoughts

Tue Oct 24, 2006

I finished this recently, and I’ve also done a tour through the academic literature and some of the reviews. I have not, however, read through much of the forums (that link will likely annoy you, but I lack the will at the moment to give you a proper one); and what little I have read has left me uneasy.

Danielewski’s interview in Critique showed flashes of what seemed to me to be unpleasant arrogance, particularly in regards to the ostentatious anticipation of all critical comment (up to that point, at least). The fake citations seemed particularly clumsy in places, though the framing device may partially explain this.

Criticisms of a more conventional sort—lack of differentiation of voice and various irrealist implausibilities—are somewhat too conveniently anticipated by the highly self-conscious mediation, though I admire the effect of including (what I presume to be) this photograph by Alexander Gardner in a list with “Cottingley Fairies, Kirlian photography, [and] Ted Serios’ thoughtography” (3 n3)—only one of many encyclopedic juxtaposables.

The academic literature has seemed to (I haven’t read it all) avoid textual explication. Kevin Carter as fons et origo seems difficult to avoid (the photographer Navidson becomes a version of him), and the Delial/Belial trauma—what horrors Belial whispers in well-fed ears—at least recognizes the automatic obscenity of the confessional mode. At least that’s one way of looking at it.