Posted by: Sally Ingraham | November 21, 2011

House of Leaves: Johnny’s prediction (or, Appendix IV)

After utterly failing to find or purchase cheap tires, get my car inspected, or cancel my cable TV today (not through lack of trying on any count…), I am in no mood to write about House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, as was my plan when I got up this morning. It’s a monstrous book, a marvel, an irritation, and I liked it and liked to hate it. I hope to write about it at length someday, but I’ve already sat here for an hour staring moodily at my computer, grumbling to my cats about the terrible unfairness of life as a “grown-up”, and have come to the realization that petulance has won today.

In fact, I am grouchy enough that I’m beginning to think Johnny Truant’s words are coming true for me:

…no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comfort of your own home, you’ll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You’ll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you’ll turn, unable to resist, through try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you’ve got not to face the thing you most dread, what is now, what will be, what has always come before, the creature you truly are, the creature we all are, buried in the nameless black of a name.
And then the nightmares will begin.

– from Johnny Traunt’s introduction to Zampano’s House of Leaves

Oh great, now I’m nervous about falling asleep tonight…

I’ve been meaning to go back and read the review by L of omphaloskepsis that made me want to read the book in the first place and caused me to pick it for a Wolfish read, so instead of going on peevishly about my troubles, I will do something that is rather suitable for House of Leaves – I will collect in one place an assortment of some of the commentary on Danielewski’s work that I’ve read. Call it Appendix IV if you like.

L’s thoughts:
The House that Mark built

Sasha’s thoughts:
First Encounter[s] with House of Leaves
Style, structure, and the “endless snarls of words” of House of Leaves
“A goddamn spatial rape.” — An examination of the uncanny and the house on Ash Lane Tree in House of Leaves
“I never thought this labyrinth would be a pleasant thing to return to.” — My own quest for answers within House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and some remaining questions

EL Fay’s thoughts:
“the question of occupation.”

Emily’s thoughts:
House of Leaves

I’m going to wander through the insightful and brilliant scribblings of these ladies, and I encourage you to do the same.

I’ll leave you with one of Zampano’s poems, a melancholy scrap from section F. of the Exhibits found at the end of the book:

(Untitled Fragment)

Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind.

This was The Wolves October read and as I half predicted, I’m posting copiously late about it. Oh well. Theoretically we will be discussing November’s read, The Planetarium by Nathalie Saurraute in about a week. Lesser miracles have been known to happen…!


  1. an apt quote. sleep well. and I hope things come together and behave.

    thanks for the links. will be perusing the collection of thoughts for sure.

    • Slept fine, and today is a new day. I am confident that things will behave (although it is still early…)

  2. I liked it and liked to hate it.

    My thoughts exactly!

    Those Pelican poems, especially certain ones taken on their own, may have ended up being my favorite part of the book. Which is kind of crazy; maybe I should’ve just read some TS Eliot instead? But I am glad I read this. Certain parts were honestly enjoyable and others thought-provoking.

    • I feel like the small bits were better than the thing as a whole. Like the poems, which I agree were quite good – or the Navidson Record parts. I could have done without Johnny Traunt entirely, although some of his bits were funny or thoughtful. Definitely a worthwhile read, although by the time I realized I had to decode that letter written by Johnny’s mother, I was grumbling a little!

    • YES! Read T.S. Eliot! More Eliot the better!

  3. Ooh, I remember parts of this book being the creepiest I’d ever read. And the stories I’m reading now (China Mieville) remind me so much of it. Thanks for providing the links — I’ll take a closer look this weekend.

    • Ooo, time for more Mieville in my life! I read Embassytown in the summer (didn’t review it…) which I really enjoyed. Are those stories reminding you of The Navidson Record part of the book?

      • Definitely the Navidson record. (Frankly, 10 years after I read it, I don’t remember anything about the Johnny Truant narrative.) One story in particular is a collection of documents concerning a group of people investigating moving/disappearing alleyways in urban centres.

  4. I’m glad you found my post useful. I found I really didn’t have much to say about this book either because it’s so . . . so . . . much.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Yeah, it demands Sasha’s treatment – multiple posts. But that is way more effort than I could devote right now… 🙂

      Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!

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