“What’s real or isn’t real doesn’t matter here. The consequences are the same.”



Danielewski’s House of Leaves follows the harrowing lives of a family who, in an attempt to repair their failing marriage, move into a small home on Ash Tree Lane. There’s just one problem; the house is one inch bigger on the inside than on the outside- an architectural impossibility. This sounds odd, no doubt, but it does not prepare you for the horror that lies within this one inch gap (or is it 428 miles?).

Following the relationship between Will Navidson, a Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist, and his wife Karen, a former model, we are sucked into their struggling relationship- and the all-consuming abyss that awaits them.

A postmodern mixture of scholarly Gothic fiction, academic satire and strenuous typography, House of Leaves is a comprehensive metatext.

Starting with the manuscripts of Zampano, an old blind man who has become obsessed with The Navidson Record- a recording of the events from within the house – we are presented with various notes on the film. Writing footnotes to Zampano’s footnotes, we are then guided through an invasive and unreliable narration by a young tattooist, Johnny Truant. In turn, Truant’s own words are mediated through the scholarly lens of “The Editors”. Like the labyrinth of the house, we are forced to weave in and out of narrations, interruptions and academic notes- yet still making an incredibly enjoyable read.

Perhaps ‘enjoyable’ is the wrong word. Intense. Intriguing. Consuming. Yes, consuming.

As you delve deeper and deeper into the text (and believe me, there is no going back), the problems within the Navidson’s marriage are exposed, we witness Johnny’s life spiralling out of control, and his troubling childhood and relationship with his mother is revealed. Meanwhile, Navidson and a fellow group of explorers get sucked into the depths of the house. Into the darkness. The abyss. Into nothingness… Into purgatory? We are confronted with an immeasurable corridor named ‘The Five and a Half Minute Hallway’, an Escher-esque never-ending stairway and various rooms and caverns which are haunted with the growls of an unknown being. And then there’s the gravity. Or lack of it. Or is it too much? Maybe it’s both.

The laws of physics in this void are impossible and the typography may leave you feeling nauseous. But you forget this. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters outside of these pages. And you’ll never quite be the same again. This book will change you. The pages will haunt your mind. The words of Navidson and Johnny- how they felt, what they experienced- will never be completely forgotten. Before the book even starts, Johnny warns us that ‘this book is not for you’. He was right. No, he was wrong. It is for no one and everyone.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy read. It is difficult and frustrating. You will need a mirror to read parts of it, paper to decode letters, and the patience of a Saint. You may want to throw it from time to time. But you’ll pick it back up, whisper “I’m sorry”, and go back to cradling it in your lap.


Reviewed by:

Sammy Evans, Poetic Pieces

Added 26th April 2015