Let’s be clear, you will never read a book like House of Leaves again. You may read better books and you may read scarier books but you are not likely to replicate this experience. Mark Z. Danielewski’s story can be broken down into three basic levels. Firstly it is the story of a young man named Johnny Truant who stumbles across the notes of the deceased Zampanò. These notes give a scattered account of the Navidson Record, a rare documentary that has become a lesser known urban legend. We learn Johnny’s story as he edits the found transcript and the book differentiates between the different accounts by using multiple fonts. Be prepared to keep a few bookmarks on hand in order to keep up with the footnotes.
The Navidson Record itself deals with the Navidson family’s story. The father, a notable photographer, is trying to document the process of his family’s relocation by installing strategically placed super 8 cameras. The exercise is an attempt to strengthen his family after a recent falling out. Soon Mr. Navidson makes an illogical discovery about the physics of his house, and faced with this singular impossibility his family is forced to reexamine how they previously assumed the world functioned. In addition to the transcript from Navidson’s tapes, Zampanò has provided many footnotes with his opinions on the account and through these we learn a good deal about the incident. Johnny’s life becomes consumed with completing Zampanò’s work and figuring out the full story.
Danielewski’s approach to storytelling is unlike most. He has crafted two believable worlds and included enough material to fully immerse yourself in the book, going as far as to make up hundreds of false interview excerpts about the Navidson’s for Zamponò to source in his notes. The text itself is arranged to mimic the tone of the story at the time. He weaves the complex premises together beautifully while cleverly hiding notes for the readers to discover during multiple read-throughs.
I almost don’t want to tell you what makes this a horror novel, but believe me it will take you to otherworldly Lovecraftian dimensions that are beyond the normal human understanding of the physical realm. It has been argued how to properly categorize this book, though. While the house itself is horrific the focus of the writing shifts between the various narrator’s lives, reflecting on how they each fall apart and attempt to put them back together. Please, if you get a chance delve into this book.