House of Leaves

July 15, 2023
David Sunnyside

The heft of house of leaves and some of the design choices may seem intimidating or gimmicky at first glance but for those who can embrace its more demanding qualities this is a truly engrossing and impressive work. While the book may be light on gore and monsters it does deliver a sense of unease by utilizing text and page structure in ways that make it difficult to read, and even more so to understand.

Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves may be the first major experiment in fiction of this new millennium. A ragged cut-and-paste job with scattered original bits, it is a behemoth of a novel that is both genuinely frightening and frustratingly hard to fathom. Some of the tricks that evoke spatial disorientation work, but others, like footnoted references to Gaston Bachelard and Jacques Derrida, squash suspense rather than build it.

What makes the reading experience of house of leaves so confusing is its circular, intertwining metanarrative. Instead of a straightforward beginning, middle and end the whole story is meant to feel impossible to map, just like the house that Johnny Truant discovers.

A whirlwind tour of different literary styles and genres, House of Leaves stretches and contracts, folds in on itself, moves left and right and even opens up in places. It is all about language, shape and narrative, and it is this that adds so much of the terror to this work. It is not for the faint-hearted but for those who can embrace its more demanding aspects House of Leaves will become one of the most enduring and memorable horror works ever written.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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