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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part X

Okay guys, so last time was just a little bit confusing, frustrating and sad, due to the weird layout, pointless looping footnotes and the (presumed) deaths of Jed and Wax. I can only imagine the layout gets weird from here on in, so you may as well brace yourselves for various bits of ranting sprinkled throughout this particular post.
Back with the rescue team now, where of course we have the tensions between Karen and Navidson brought up again. I think it's pretty clear that their attempts to salvage their relationship has failed rather badly. There are remarks about the kinds of images of the spooky bit of the house, mostly about scale and emptiness; this might well be why the pages are so full of blank space. There seems to be about one paragraph per page maximum. I'm really beginning to pity the printer or whoever had to format the pages for these last two chapters.
Anyway, they make it to the staircase, where Reston makes camp. Navidson and Tom are going to go down and try rescue Holloway and his team, but Tom suddenly panics, leaving Navidson to go by himself. Have they not figured out that going alone is a very bad idea? Yet he goes down the staircase, that he'd estimated as about 13 miles deep, and gets to the bottom only 100 feet down; I suppose that makes sense considering the corridors branching off from the staircase and how everything seems to shift. Anyway, Reston makes his way down the stairs, so Navidson is effectively forced to take him along; while this at least improves on the whole "going on alone" thing, a physically handicapped man is probably not most people's top choice of companion in a dangerous situation, no offence meant. They continue their search, following traces of Holloway's team, when suddenly Reston is nauseous; this is a new development, probably not a good one either. Zampano theorises that this is to do with the explorers' expectations: Holloway et al went in with caution (initially anyway), so everything is huge and uncertain, but when Navidson go in, they know the staircase is not bottomless so it's tiny in comparison. This is all very well when explaining size shifts, but that doesn't explain how the rooms change place. Unless maybe that reflects Navidson's original panic when he couldn't initially find his way back out. But this general theory now brings up the question that if there was no human perception anywhere in the house, would all this spooky stuff actually exist? Maybe this is something in the house responding to something in Navidson, always described as the "man of action", and creating a situation that fulfills a sub-conscious desire for adventure. If you take this theory as the truth of whatever's behind the spooky stuff in the house, it certainly portrays Navidson in a different light.
That discussion about perception continues for a bit, then Johnny pips in again. He's gone to the doctor's with his panic attacks, causing me some confusion before I remembered that the American health system is very different from here (or at least it was, I have no idea what the state of that National Health scheme is in). They give him meds which he promptly crushes, making it seem a bit of a waste really, as well as throwing out the rest of the drugs in his apartment, of which there seems to be an alarming amount. I somehow doubt clearing his system of all those drugs isn't going to help him much though; his general health might be a bit better for it though. Yeah, this is why optimism is rare in horror, it just sounds silly.
Back to the main narrative. Navidson and Reston make camp, but nothing happens overnight. The second day they're down there, they hear something; personally, while I'd like to be proven wrong, I very much doubt that either Jed or Wax are alive so the noise is either the creature that's presumably down there or a batshit crazy Holloway. I'm putting my money on Holloway. We find out that something's wrong with Karen via Tom, but we don't find out what because the radio cuts off. I don't know why, but I suddenly get the distinct feeling that Karen's going to take the kids and make a break for it, maybe shutting them in the spooky part of the house before she goes; or maybe I'm being too harsh on her. Anyway, they continue following the cries until they find a door that's locked, another new development; maybe this is where Jed and Wax are, with the locked door being their attempt to keep away from the axe-crazy. And I actually turned out to be right! Except now he's been shot in the head goddamnit. Of course Holloway has to butt in. And the blank space has increased, with there only being a few words per page; slowing things down maybe? And we're back to a paragraph per page now; at least they gave Jed's death a bit of emphasis. Of course they had to kill the most sympathetic one first; I'm not surprised though, this seems to happen to all my favourites. Although I've just figured something out: he was shot in the front of the head, with the bullet exiting through the back. How did Holloway make that shot? He has to either be behind them and either shot between Navidson and Reston or through one of them, or he has to be in front of them, which they would notice surely? Either way I think they're pretty screwed. Anyway, Reston starts firing back, because he apparently had the forethought to come armed; I see they're (well, some of them anyway) becoming more genre savvy. Although it seems a bit pointless moving Jed out of harm's way, seeing as he's kind of dead now. Oh no, not quite, but pretty much dead. Wax, on the other hand, is very much alive. Hooray for the little things. Looks like my prediction that the quiet one would live was completely wrong though. The chapter ends with Navidson and Reston loading Wax onto a makeshift stretcher and making their way back.
So, all in all a pretty decent chapter, both in terms of action and things to think about, even if my favourite character was killed off. RIP Jed, I'd hoped you'd be the last man standing, but apparently not. Hopefully Wax will make it though. It would make things kind of pointless if he got killed on the way back. Now I've said it, it'll probably happen.

Signing off,

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part IX

Hi guys, here we are again. Part 9. Just before I start I was wondering if I could direct your attention to the little rating boxes down at the bottom of each blog entry. I can see that occasionally people have been looking in and I'd love to hear your opinions about anything that comes up in these blogs, even if it's just a little click on the box you think most appropriate out of the ones listed below. Thanks.
Anyway, last time we had the SOS chapter, where everything seems determined to go pear-shaped. The rest of the team have gone in to try and rescue them, although personally I'm not sure why; call me a cynic but if they've been down there for 8 days already, the other team aren't going to be that successful either, especially seeing as they hadn't prepared for being a rescue team. But it does have to get worse I suppose.
We start with a footnote of Johnny's, in which he seems to be getting even more paranoid about getting out of the house. Although I'm sure the result of leaving the house is graphic enough that I'm sure he's rather glad he did; I mean, admittedly there's been sex depicted in this already, but that was a bit of a shock.
Back to the main text again, it begins to talk about mazes and labyrinths, which I suppose is rather apt really. What's interesting though is when some of the text is crossed out, specifically that of the Cretan Minotaur myth; maybe a hint that the house is the entrance to the minotaur's labyrinth (so to speak) and that the current cast reflects the figures of the Athenians sent down there to be eaten by the minotaur? Certainly the fishing line is very close to the magic thread used by Theseus. This certainly brings up some interesting implications if this is the equivalent of that mythic labyrinth. Zampano seems to make the case that the minotaur of legend was merely a metaphor for deformity, which is interesting in itself, but he seems to have wanted this section to be destroyed. Maybe whatever is/was/used to be in the house was more dangerous than the mere deformity argument would suggest? Any answers don't seem to be forthcoming any time soon though. What we do get though is lots of stuff about centres and structures, so basically stuff that is incomprehensible to me due to my general lack of interest in architecture and/or physics. I probably should, seeing as I'm kind of actually studying centres in a way when analysing the city, but I will studiously ignore this in favour of being dumbfounded. We seem to talk a little about how perspective changes the view of a maze, which is fair enough but somehow I don't think we can really apply it here, seeing as it's impossible to see it from any other view but inside the maze. The film itself is compared to a maze, which is apt; the irony being here that the entire narrative of this book so far is maze-like, having been given a glimpse of "the end" with Johnny and never quite knowing what is going to happen next. Frankly the text and footnotes have been a bit all over the place this chapter, so that increased the weird, dreamy, maze-like feel to it, although that's probably the point. The footnotes keep going back on themselves; I'm treading the same paths over again, which is really unsettling. As is the line I've just read regarding the structure of mazes; it's not especially openly scary, but it's certainly put me on edge a little:
  • "And if you do lose yourself at least take solace in the absolute certainty that you will perish."
Somehow Johnny seems to have interpreted Zampano's theory that in the face of a maze like the house, all solutions are personal to mean that Johnny's personal way of continuing a normal life is to have sex with any of the girls in his life. Well, I guess he took the "personal" aspect to heart. In any case, none of them seem to answer their phones. Actually, have any of them ever answered the phone? Oh well, he's gone drinking with his best mate Lude, which does seem the next best thing. Never mind, it's evolved into a one night stand. I should've have guessed, huh?
Back to the main narrative, we're finally beginning to find out what Holloway and his team have been up to. Seems they actually got to the bottom of the staircase and decided to explore further. Holloway's exploration seems to be getting more frantic as well, desperate to find something down there maybe. Maybe it's a reflection of how weird this is getting, but one of the footnotes has been boxed off and is floating towards the top of the page. The footnote itself seems too rambling and generally unimportant to be granted such detail and separation from the rest of the footnotes. Regardless, all Holloway's search finds is more empty corridors and more empty rooms. I really shouldn't be as tense as I am right now, I mean I just scared myself accidentally knocking something over on my desk. I'm going to come out of this a quivering wreak, aren't I? Just as you were getting to know me too. I've just turned the page and the layout's gone insane: the boxed footnote from the last page is there but in mirror-image, the footnotes are at the side, there's a new boxed footnote; it's just all over the place, but somehow still recognisably structured. Well kind of. The footnotes aren't even self-contained anymore. Please excuse me if I begin crying, seeing as I've realised I just have to backtrack quickly. Maybe that's the point. And that bloody boxed footnote was still completely pointless! I don't think I'll bother with the side ones either, seeing as that looks like a list of names again and the ones on one side are upside down. This is one screwed up layout, as you may have guessed from the barely coherant rantings I've just subjected you to.
In the main narrative (which is thankfully still pretty much recognisable) we've moved from the house's structure to the question of occupation. Specifically that of "who is the true occupant of the house?", which in turn brings up the idea that the house's original owner might still be there, a concept which is somehow vaguly terrifying.
On the way back up, Holloway and his team, having left some caches of food and supplies on the staircase to ensure they had stuff on the way back, find that their second cache has been destroyed by something with claws. Oh dear. In light of this, Holloway decides to explore some more, securing his status in my mind as a Grade A moron; if there is something destroying your stuff and obviously doesn't wish you well, why explore more or try to follow it? When his assistants say they're going home, he doesn't seem to take it well; then again, he's probably gone just a bit crazy now so I suppose it makes complete sense to him. While his assistants are smart and head back, he storms off by himself. Good riddance, I hope he gets lost. At least he hasn't gone postal, although knowing me and knowing this book I'll probably eat those words. Anyway, there's no sign of Holloway coming back, so it seems he has gotten lost. Yay. Never mind, he's back and has managed to shoot Wax. I should've known. Instead of helping Jed get Wax back to the main house, he wanders off again, hopefully for good this time. And he's back again, shooting at the assistants again. They run, understandably, but get lost in the process, hence the SOS signal last chapter. Somehow this links to Johnny's recollection of meeting a ghost;don't ask me how, I'm not all that sure myself. This leads on to meeting Ashley, a girl who keeps calling and seems to know him while he doesn't have a clue who she is. Fun. If very weird.
Back with Jed and Wax, things don't seem to be doing too well for them. Wax is in shock (the clinical version, although I would imagine the original version is there too) which I'm really not surprised at. This leaves Jed with medical duties, which can't be an easy job, especially when they can hear the evidence that Holloway has gone completely off the deep end. And I've lost track of the footnotes now. Hell, I'm just making do now, it's far too confusing to be made like this by accident. It diverges into comparing the current situation to mutiny, which is an interesting use of the word, although you can't really say that Holloway didn't deserve it. This has branched off from a discussion about how similar the Navidson Record is to Hollywood produced horror/ghost stories. Somehow, I'm kind of losing track now. Anyway, the main difference seems to be that the use of familiar actors, techniques and CG creates a sense of disbelief, reassuring the audience that it's all just entertainment, which the Navidson Record doesn't do. But, with the proliferation of CG, it's becoming more and more difficult to determine whether a picture is real or not, an idea that does make a bit of sense, even in my numbed state. This leads on to whether the film is genuine or not. Again.
Johnny chips in with a story of another one night stand, this time a girl that he scared off by screaming weird stuff in his sleep. Eerie, if vaguely funny at the same time; maybe the chapter's been too long to maintain tension for. And the girl in question seems to have contacted the editors about this bit, asking where Johnny disappeared to. Hold the phone, what the hell is this? That was a bit out of the blue. How can Johnny just disappear, I mean, he's one of the main narrators.
The chapter ends with whatever is making the growls beating at the door that Jed and Wax are behind. It's the last clip that is seen from them. But then, if that's true, how did they get the clips? In any case, I'm kind of sad to see Jed go, I thought he was sweet.
Anyway, I might read another chapter tomorrow (later today), but I may well need a recovery period after that.

Signing off,

Monday, 24 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part VIII

Hey guys, sorry for the wait, I had a bit of a weird, out-of-it kind of weekend where I wanted to get things like this done but just felt like time was going faster than usual somehow. I think staying up until ridiculous hours of the morning might have had something to do with it. Oh well, not important now. On to part 8 of the Navidson Record, where presumably Exploration 4 will be looked at and my suspicions that they should've gotten out when the cupboard appeared will probably be confirmed.
The chapter starts with a definition of SOS. I knew it.
We first have Reston keeping check on the radio equipment and other signs of the team's progress. Looking at the page now, I've just noticed the paragraphs are being separated by the morse code for SOS (...---... for anyone curious); I'm not sure whether to consider it a clever little touch by the author, to see if the reader is paying attention, or creepy, to make you wonder what else you've missed. Or it might just be the paranoia speaking.
The focus of the film seems to be entirely on Reston and the other still in the reletively normal part of the house at the moment, building the anticipation as it were. Hell, I'm getting tense and there's nothing to jump at. Everyone's getting more and more tense, especially when the exploration team end up spending longer than 5 days in there. On the 8th day, someone or something (most likely Holloway or whatever remains of his team) knocks SOS in morse code. So everything has gone horribly wrong, just not in the way I thought it would; unfortunately no Cthulu bursting through the floorboards or Holloway coming through the door shooting everyone in sight.
Navidson and the others decide to go in and rescue them, again bringing up this Delial person, who I admit I'd completely forgotten about until s/he was mentioned just now. There's a little mention of Navidson's editing, ordering the shots in bursts of 3, in the pattern of morse code; I'm sure the irony hasn't escaped you either. Except that the second SOS he goes to do is missing the last letter, leaving it as SO. It's an interesting word to use, considering the context. This leads on to Johnny ending the chapter with him having a semi-date with Thumper, which is really kind of sweet. It's a nice note to end on, even if it jars a bit with the tenseness that's been building up for the past few pages. Lull the reader into a false sense of security maybe? Anyway, regardless of the purpose, it's nice to get a bit of relief there.

Signing off,

Thursday, 20 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part VII

Okay, part 7, we're about to meet Holloway and presumably do some more exploring. I'll probably be wrong, but I think that whoever goes in there is going to get lost and/or something will follow them out. I'm still waiting for Cthulu.
Holloway is scaring me already and it's only been 2 sentences. Who knocks on the door of people he doesn't know holding a whacking great rifle?! He looks to be a friend of Reston's, but still, seriously? And it seems my bad feeling might be validated, as we have this troublesome phrase crop up:
  • "Never for a moment did I suspect he was capable of that."
He's going to be an axe-crazy psycho, isn't he?
Anyway, we're introduced to Mr Axe-Crazy's assistants, a shy nervous guy Jed and young prodigy climber "Wax", the latter of whom will probably be the first to die. It's almost always the overconfident one who goes first (unless it's the unfortunate token black guy). Of course, the newbies all think it's nothing to serious until they're actually confronted with it. I would laugh, but it's not the place.
Navidson and Holloway don't like each other, because this wasn't messy enough without some male testosterone-based posturing to screw things up. That and Holloway seems to be making a move on Karen, so I guess you can understand Navidson's source of dislike and anxiety.
So, Exploration 1 sees the newbies, equipped with fishing line and halogen torches, find the same hall that Navidson did, only to find that at the other end about 1500' away is a huge arch. They go no further after hearing a growl and running out of fishing line. So far, relatively normal and nothing overly creepy.
Exploration 2 sees them go back in with more fishing line, going through that large chamber into an even bigger room, with a spiral staircase going down in the middle of it. Why do I get a very bad feeling about the staircase? In any case, this only increases Navidson's dislike for Holloway, as the newbie is effectively taking over his role as leader. I can only see this getting worse really. Especially when Karen's still being unyielding about Navidson joining them, although her point of view is entirely understandable considering they have young children.
Exploration 3 sees them start walking down that staircase. They go down it for 7 hours and still don't seem anywhere near the bottom. The scale of this is getting a bit ridiculous now.
We now have a German quote that Johnny has to get translated; I'm afraid that the only thing I can gather from it is something about black and shadows. Whilst trying to find this translation (which Zampano surely should have provided himself?) he gets a bit distracted by the German girl his friend introduces him to. I'm sure you don't need me to spell it out for you. Turns out the quote means something about the inability to comprehend distances.
Back to the main narrative, where we find that compasses don't work anywhere inside the house, which I suppose is fitting after finding that the corridors change direction. And we're preparing for Exploration 4, which looks like it'll be the big one. Somehow it seems too soon, I mean, I'm only on page 91, but the Navidson Record doesn't finish until page 528. Oh well, I suppose there'll be a new development somewhere along the way.
Prior to Exploration 4, tensions are rising. Holloway's getting paranoid, even if he does enjoy the talks of success with Navidson, the same talks are angering Karen as it means more time spent with the house and the son Chad has come home from school having been beaten up but won't say what happened. This links to a footnote where Johnny talks about the foster home he lived in after his dad died; it's not a position I can personally relate to, but I can't help but feel sorry for him, this little 12 year old who's just defensive after something hugely traumatic.
Anyway, back to the exploration. Or pre-exploration anyway. Holloway's preparations are pretty meticulous, as you'd expect them to be when you think you'll be spending 4-5 days down there.
The day of Exploration 4. At last. Holloway's decided to take the rifle. This is where it all starts to go horribly wrong, isn't it? The exploration team thinks the growl is from something in there, not just the walls moving as the layout changes, and it has to be said I agree with them, although I question their judgment if that's their theory. There's going to be no radio contact after day 1 due to deteriorating conditions; sounds like something will happen in days 2-5 to me. The chapter ends right after Karen has a little moment with Wax; while it's kind of sad that she strayed, considering that she wanted to strengthen her relationship with Navidson, but not really that surprising, seeing as she has been portrayed as quite sexual. I am a little concerned about the cause of Navidson's lack of surprise when he finds the footage of it later:
  • "By that time Karen was gone along with everyone else. Nothing mattered."
Now I'm sure that could be interpreted in terms of their relationship breaking down, but there's something about it that seems undoubtedly supernatural. Maybe that's just me.
Anyway, that's the 7th part of the Navidson Record done, and it seems obvious that something's going to go horribly wrong, most probably to do with Holloway, axe-crazy that he seems to be.

Anyway, signing off,

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part VI

So, last time on the House of Leaves, Navidson had just gotten back from his exploration of the corridor(s) and his daughter has been revealed to play in the hallways. Eerie stuff. Part 6 now, a chapter that seems rather short considering the importance of what happened in the last chapter. Oh well, maybe it's a lull in the narrative.
The chapter is headed by two quotes discussing the mental differences between animals and man, focusing on the lack of self-awareness in animals. So far, nothing that I haven't encountered in college psychology lessons. It seems that we're up for a focus on the family pets. Whilst chasing each other (as cats and dogs are perhaps wont to do) they both run down the corridor that Navidson was having some much bother with last chapter. Except that they don't get lost in a maze of corridors; instead they end up outside. It doesn't seem like the subject will be revisited, but maybe the corridors are fuelled by self-awareness or something like that, meaning the corridors don't exist for them like they exist for the Navidson family. My questions surrounding this mystery, however, are pushed aside by the one sentence introduction to Holloway, right before the main chapter ends; if I remember correctly, Holloway was the guy who appeared in the second short film they released. For someone who is presumably going to be important, it seems a rather blunt way to introduce him for the first time.
The chapter ends proper with an endnote from Johnny. He notes the lack of analysis about the pets, but declines to give his own interpretation. His main concern at this point seems to be his tragic love life and yearning for Thumper (the stripper, in case I haven't mentioned her name before). He decides to give her a copy of that stream of consciousness that he wrote previously, which of course doesn't go down well; I mean, it's very sweet of him but it's got to be awkward if she doesn't like him back. Well, she seems to like him at least a little afterwards, giving him her card, so I guess it's not too bad. Except she isn't answering his calls. Damn. Leading us to another stream of consciousness thing, wishing he were a cat, to lose self-awareness, and it just goes from there.... It all inevitably leads to this creature that he's already "seen" twice, that he knows is still out there, waiting. It's an odd thing to say, but there's something unnerving about this creature that seems to be down to this self-awareness theme; it seems to lack self-awareness, or at the very least higher thinking, but the relentless nature of the hunt seems more human-like and calculating. It's an odd combination, which is really creeping me out to think of. But anyway, this seems like a good place to stop, so I'll see you next time.

Signing off,

Monday, 17 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part V

And we're back and still fuming over that cliffhanger ending of the last chapter. Academic writings don't usually have cliffhangers, just as a general rule. Oh well, the intention was successful, as I'm now eager and raring to go.
But of course, Zampano immediately stops talking about what we want to know; he instead talks about the use of echoes. Damn, foiled. So we're told two myths of Echo from Greek mythology, the first ending with her pining away for Narcissus until only her voice remains, the second ending with the god Pan ripping her to pieces and burying all but her voice. Either way, Echo isn't the luckiest (but then in Greek myths, the mortals rarely are). The emphasis here, unlike many versions that I've previously read for this myth, seems to be placed on the immortality of her voice and how in this way she continues to defy the Gods; this is an unexpectedly positive way to perceive this and seems somehow out of place, considering that it's obvious something has gone horribly wrong in the Navidson house. All is not well with Johnny either as he interjects with one very long, rambling and increasingly scared sentence. He seems to think he's going to hell; if it were any other story, I'd laugh. But returning to Echo, Zampano has now created the image of Echo as a divine messenger; interesting as this all is, I'm just confused as to how this all links to the main plotline. It's certainly affecting Johnny more than it's affecting me right now, as he's just waxed lyrical over the phrase:
  • "one simple word - perhaps your word - flung down empty hallways long past midnight. 
While that is a very vivid image, I can't quite see what the problem is, although his equating the word to claws of that very creepy unseen monster always behind him does make a bit more sense. If I'm totally honest, the beginning part of this chapter has thus far bored me for the most part, to the brink of dozing off; it just feels like an info dump (albeit bringing up the theme of space) and Johnny Truant's footnotes, while more interesting, aren't as good as I'd hope. I can only hope I'm on to the good stuff soon. The final footnote of this opening section is about a girl and very much a stream of consciousness; the pedant in me is begging for some full stops, but the eye just takes it in faster and faster. Now that it's more structured, he's sounding, well, sweet. This is very cute and all but very weird at the same time. Definitely weird now that I know she's the stripper called Thumper he mentioned fancying in the intro.
Now: the good stuff (hopefully). So it looks like the walls expanded without them noticing, so now the difference between interior and exterior dimensions has grown. Reston, the engineer from before has joined their cause and so far I like him, especially after summing up the house as:
  • "a goddamn spatial rape"
Tom's departure, while touching, seems pretty underwhelming, seeing as I don't really have much of a sense of character about him apart from "big, laughs easily but has hidden sorrowful depths". With Tom gone, communication fails between Will and Karen, causing them to neglect the kids. Somehow this doesn't seem all that surprising, considering how little the narrative focuses on them; if the narrative neglects them, why not the characters within the narrative too? Of course, they go exploring: down a new black-walled corridor that wasn't there before. Okay, now it's getting creepy again. I mean, that's got to be any parent's biggest fear, losing their children; the fact that there's something seriously wrong with the house only increases the prospects of losing them. Scary stuff. But at least the whole essay on echoes makes a little more sense considering their use just now.
We now have some character development for Karen, who seems to have morphed from a tomboy who was friends with everyone to a girl who never speaks to anyone and yet is the most popular girl in high school. The thought that someone can change so radically in such a short space of time is terrifying. It seems to hinge on her crippling claustrophobia somehow, which I'm trying to figure out. And now I find that her panic attacks caused by claustrophobia increase in frequency and severity when she's more intimate with Will and her children; that is a seriously messed up woman. For a guy who's looking for intimacy to make up for his childhood, Navidson sure made an odd choice. I want to hug them both....
So, back to the corridor, and Tom seems to have returned. Hopefully he'll get some character development this time. There's a very sweet moment between Karen and her son Chad, which grounds the weirdness in some reality for now. But this is offset by the corridor growing from 10' to about 50'. Wonderful. Communications between Navidson and Karen don't improve so we see Tom interacting with the children instead, which is sweet. The tension between Navidson and Karen worsens, which is understandable seeing as they both want different things; he wants to explore the corridor, she's adament he doesn't. Personally, I agree with Karen, you don't need to be a genius to not explore unexplainable spaces; it's just common sense. They have guests over, he shows them the corridor and they leave. Because of course it wasn't going to freak them out completely. He decides to go and explore because he's an idiot (seriously, what person in their right mind would do that?!). Gets to the end of the 70' corridor and finds nothing. Turns and finds a door that wasn't there seconds ago. This is usually the point where you turn and run. Unless you're in a horror movie. Or, apparently, in the House of Leaves. He takes various different turnings, into corridors that get longer and longer, until he finds a room that he can't actually gauge the size of because his torch doesn't hit the walls or ceiling. While Zampano breaks off momentarily to talk about Navidson's filming style, he provides us with the longest, most random set of names in a footnote 2 and a half pages long. Why? Just why?! There's only so much you can make up without crossing the line between credible and ridiculous; this leaps across the line bodily.
Back to Navidson, and he's gotten lost. I would laugh, but it seems inappropriate. So it seems as though the corridors and rooms change at will, so remembering a route or leaving signposts seems to be a pretty futile exercise. Eventually he gets back into the house, hopefully having learnt his lesson. Considering that was "Exploration A" though, I highly doubt it.
Zampano starts the next section summing up what the reader has already guessed about these corridors, when we get a footnote from Johnny. His day starts out well, but then when he goes to get something from the back-room, he feels that creature behind him again. Ends up with him falling down the stairs and finding out he has long stratch on the back of his neck. Eerie doesn't cover it.
Back to Navidson, who decides not to tell Karen about his exploration, but has decided with her to get someone else to explore it, which I suppose is fair enough. The mood is lightened until his daughter Daisy comes in and asks him to play Always with her. Sounds a lot like hallways, huh?

So, in summary, a very good, very creepy chapter that is only spoiled by the info dump at the beginning of the chapter. Looking forward to the next chapter, which looks a fair deal shorter.

Signing off,

Friday, 14 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part IV

So last time we left off, Zampano had provided us with some discussion on Will Navidson's character and why he would be the one to make the film specifically (ignoring the family in the process, but I suppose we'll get to them in due time). After a suitably creepy opening, I've been kind of disappointed that there's been no real discussion about what's actually in the house so far. Hopefully we'll be getting to that now (or at least reasonably soon).
And immediately, my patience is rewarded. Having gone on a trip, they come back to find something's different about the house; quite what is something we aren't told. Yet. What's interesting is that only Navidson's partner Karen seems to have a vaguely negative reaction to this; as readers we're expecting something horrific to happen, yet for those without the benefit of dramatic irony, it seems to be pretty innocuous. Sounds like the house will be one of those subtle horrors that stay with you, which is good. This revelation is followed by a huge passage in German. The memories of college German lessons are coming back.... For the most part, what I can translate by myself has something to do with fear and existential senses. Whatever that means. However, Johnny Truant has stepped in with a footnote to provide us with a better translation than I could ever do. And yet it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Or as Johnny puts it:
  • "Which only goes to prove the existence of crack back in the early twentieth century."
But somehow this weird passage seems to ring true to him, but then he seems to be having odd mood fluctuations which could be it. But then what he's just described doesn't sound like any mood fluctuation I've ever heard of, especially not the:
  • "scent of something bitter & foul, something inhuman, reeking with so much rot & years, telling me in the language of nausea that I'm not alone."
And just before I continue, despite how much that last line freaked me out, I have to say that that is bloody brilliant writing. Quite what the "language of nausea" is I couldn't say, but it just clicks when you read it in context. He asks the reader to just focus on the page and imagine that something behind them, never letting your eyes stray. Don't ask me how it happened, but it caused that feeling you get when the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and your stomach just sinks. It was so weird because I knew nothing was there, but because my brain decided that for the moment something was behind me, it was real. Never  has "the body is a plaything of the mind" seemed so true. Anyway, we're back to the main narrative where Zampano decides that the gibberish in German just means that uncanniness always comes in big packages, until it's too much for the brain to handle. I'll second that motion. I can only imagine how much worse it's going to get for the Navidson family.
At last it is revealed what the difference is; a new door that opens up into a space the size of a walk-in cupboard, with grey-black walls. Okay, kinda weird but at the moment not too creepy. After Johnny's last footnote, I'd be surprised if it were. And so we get several logical questions brought up: 1) has it always been there but we just didn't notice? (They get photos that show it wasn't there before). 2) Could someone have come in while they were away and built it? (Unlikely). 3) Could someone have come in and uncovered it while they were away? In any case, they check the cameras, but find that no-one could've come in because none of the motion sensors were triggered. Very weird.
The parents are understandably disturbed, but can't do anything until the next morning. They end up looking at the architectural blueprints, which don't show the new closet, but do show a crawl-space which has been thus far unmentioned. Odd. Anyway, they decide to call the police, which I suppose is fair enough, despite the fact that this would have to be the weirdest crime ever. After they run out of options, Navidson decides to compare the house measurements with the house plan and find that they don't match. While the outside is 32' 9 3/4", the inside is 32' 10". It's only quarter of an inch, but it's weird enough to take note of.
This starts to really niggle at them, understandably. Will is up and down ladders constantly measuring, Karen is trying to ignore it all and the kids get scared of the adults' moods and hide. Interesting to see just how quickly it all falls apart around them and how badly they seem to be coping. We get a little diversion from Johnny, arguing that he could have edited out a section of Zampano's writing just now, but didn't in order to preserve what's left of him. I don't know if this is just me but there's a part of me that always feels a bit odd when reading or listening to something where the creator has already died, like it's a somehow unsavoury exercise like grave-robbing; it's a dumb feeling, but this footnote kind of reminded me of that. Anyway, in the main narrative, we have Navidson briefly mention that he's called his twin brother over, who appears to be an architect. There seems to be some tension between the two, which strikes me as a bit odd considering that they seem to have been fairly close when describing their horrific shared childhood; an argument maybe?
So we now deal with the arrival of Tom, who Karen says resents Will's success. What do you suppose the likelihood is that this will boil over some time later in the narrative? Tom strikes me as a guy that is a necessary figure at parties and social gatherings as a whole: he's the kind of guy who makes people laugh and connect with each other. Quite how much laughter they'll end up needing is a bit beyond me.
Tom and Will's first interaction is devoid of anything you could call affection. They seem to have very different personalities for twins, which is a bit odd, but Zampano seems to believe they have the same kind of hidden depths. Anyway, brotherly love or the lack of it is put aside when the discrepancy increases from 1/4" to 5/16". So more help needs to be found. Personally, at this point I'd be moving my family out of there, but of course there must be a logical solution for them to find.
While the twins are out finding help, Karen gets together with a friend, providing us with a lull in the narrative. That is up until the snippet:
  • "before the bloodshed"
Where the hell did that come from?! Not content to make the atmosphere nice and eerie, Danielewski side-swipes the reader with that little hint. But I doubt it will stay as much of a lull considering there's another long footnote by Johnny. As he does a bit more research on Zampano, he meets up with one of his readers who asked him if he had children or family. His reply? No, but he then adds:
  • "Of course you're all my children."
So now he was either totally insane or he knew there were other things in the room. Neither explanation gives me much hope for Johnny in all honesty. He ends up talking about his dad's death. Really unexpectedly too, so I almost didn't know until I was partway through it. Is it weird, to not quite comprehend the seriousness of that, even when the description is so blatant? I don't know. Maybe he's just so jaded by this point that it sounds casual enough to be missed by the reader. But we go back to the main narrative where new help has been requisitioned, one Billy Reston, an engineer. All agree that something must be wrong with their tools, so more hi-tech ones are acquired. Persistant, aren't they?
Brotherly love ensues. Not really much to comment about. It's character development, but seems a bit out of place.
While the adults seem to be angsting pretty badly over this inconsistency, the kids have just accepted it. It's rather amusing really, I can just imagine them sitting around watching the adults fussing and wondering what all the fuss is about. But the way they play in the new room is just a little unsettling at the same time somehow. The adults meanwhile are measuring with this new equipment. At first all seems well, the discrepancy removed, problem (mostly) gone. However, when they go to repeat the test, something goes horribly wrong and...the chapter ends. So I'm sat here thinking "What?! What's happening?!" My guess is that it'll either be that the discrepancy will have increased, a new room/door will have appeared or something will have happened to the kids.

Well, that was a longer than expected chapter. It certainly paid off for the frustration set up in the previous 3 chapters, but has also presented more questions in its wake. Frustrating is an understatement. But then for horror, frustration is just part of anticipation I suppose. In any case, I doubt it will be long before I get through another chapter. Until then guys,

Signing off,

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part III

Hey guys, sorry for the wait between reviews. I had some work due for university, so I had to lay off the distracting stuff. Anyway, I've got a bit of a reprieve tonight, so part 3 of the Navidson Record it is. And we start off questioning why Will Navidson of all people is experiencing this. It's only the first line and I'm already on a mental tangent. I mean, from a writer's perspective, Will Navidson and his family are perfect for weird stuff to happen to because 1) they're all normal, and therefore relatable/empathetic and 2) he's a photojournalist, so he's used to recording his experiences. From a monster/ghost/eldritch abomination's point of view they're pretty good victims because they're normal and will scare easier. But if we suspend disbelief and imagine this is real, then it seems a bit too perfect. Maybe this implies fate or that the house has some higher conscience? I'm theorizing far too much in reaction to one sentence.... In any case, halfway through the second sentence we're interrupted by Johnny Truant translating some Dante and considering why he in particular was the one that picked up Zampano's notes, his basic explanation being that he likes collecting old abandoned things, all the while tempting me with hints about his childhood and the deaths of his parents. Knowing this book, I somehow doubt I'll end up finding out what that real story of his is. Back in the main narrative Zampano seems to say that Navidson himself wonders how he got where he is at that moment. While this is all very interesting, the interweaving narratives are starting to sound eerily familiar.
I now embark on Zampano's view on the argument that the house on the film is a manifestation of Navidson's psychological problems. While this initially sounds very interesting and intellectual, I'm just sat here wondering how in hell's name you project your own psyche onto film. Reading on, it seems to be arguing the case that every owner of the house (of which there appear to be many) has had their suffering imprinted into the walls; so what he's basically arguing is the authenticity (or lack of) of psychic imprinting, which is a theory behind ghost sightings, if I remember correctly. Perhaps a more understandable argument if you're a believer in the paranormal.
I am now treated to Navidson's biography, which should be fairly telling. And it's pretty damn depressing. Point 1) Drunken abusive father. Point 2) Father makes the family move every couple of years. Point 3) Mother proceeds to provide Navidson and his brother with abandonment issues. Point 4) Father dies (although that's perhaps no great loss) while the mother just disappears. Quite how this guy isn't a complete wreak as opposed to the fairly normal man portrayed in previous chapters I don't know. Although perhaps he is a bit of a wreak, but good at hiding it. Zampano seems to draw the conclusion that Navidson seeks to make up for the lack of love in his childhood by being a photographer and so make fleeting moments permanent. That's all very well and good, but surely being a good father to his children would fulfill that need for familial love just as well, if not better, surely? Yet again his wife and children seem to be sidelined in the narrative. And Navidson seems to agree in that he all he wants is to create:
  • "...a cozy little outpost for me and my family."
Although Zampano does seem to have a problem with Navidson's use of the word outpost, due to the defensive implication of the word; Zampano seems to interpret the film as protecting his family from transience. But then surely every good parent just wants to take care of their child and if that takes on defensive qualities, then does there have to be a deeper meaning to it? And I've just realised I'm debating with a book...probably not a good sign.
In any case, the chapter comes full circle and goes back to the question of "why Navidson?" and "why not someone else?". Zampano ends up agreeing with my writer's perspective that I mentioned earlier; he's the right temperament and the only one who can document it.

Considering the fact that this is probably the shortest chapter thus far, it's probably given me the most to think about as a reader. While I'm still annoyed that Navidson's family have been pretty much ignored so far, it's interesting to see some character development within the context of this academic essay format that Danielewski has chosen. So yeah, a pretty good chapter all round. Looking forward to my next session.

Signing off,

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part II

Part 2 of what looks to be a straightforward academic treatise on the Navidson Record again starts with Zampano asserting that the film is genuine and not a hoax, as many claim. All the while with Johnny Truant's assertion earlier on that the film doesn't even exist. Nice and confusing already. And here I am waiting for Cthulu to come bursting through the floorboards. Don't judge me. 
The Navidson family are introduced as they move into their new house and seem thoroughly normal. Because you never have horrific stuff happening to the crazy prepared people, do you? The children generally approve, although the son seems to miss the sound of traffic, and the classic argument of work versus family is brought up in Will's relationship with his partner Karen. So far, so very normal.
Navidson's method of filming is described and brings to mind the word "auteur" which is used for certain acclaimed directors; there is something very individual in the type of film used, the position of the cameras and the editing of shots that can change the tone completely. I guess it brings up the idea that what you choose to exclude in film and other types of media is just as important as what ends up going into the finished product. What I suppose I mean to say is that I thought it was kind of touching.
Zampano then describes two short moments at the beginning of the film that emphasise the family ties, particularly the bond between Karen and Will. While both very touching examples of love within a couple, I thought that the children were kind of neglected from Zampano's analysis, like they're there simply for plot purposes. We'll have to see how that pans out. The second extract is linked to a 2 1/2 page long footnote from Johnny Truant about a tall tale he told some drunk girls one night at a bar and somehow linking that to the fact that his water heater is broken, like the one in the second clip described from the Navidson Record. Phew. Quite how this fits in, I have no clue either. In any case, despite the largely sweet nature of the clips, both Karen and Will's behaviour is demonized by the media and a mysterious woman named "Delial" is mentioned.
Overall this chapter seems designed to leave the reader with the impression that while they aren't the perfect family, they are damn well close to it. And it seems almost a shame to think that within a few chapters at most they'll most likely be witnesses to horrors unimaginable. But then when was it ever said that bad guys left families alone?

Signing off,

Sunday, 2 January 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part I

Onto our second part, the main event that has been set up by a suitably eerie introduction, also known as The Navidson Record.
So we start with our narrator (who I will assume has switched from Johnny Truant to Zampano) discussing the authenticity of this Navidson Record and the wide opinion of critics that the film is a hoax. We end this discussion with a quote from Navidson, warning the viewer to treat the film as reality and:
  • "...if one day you find yourself passing by that house don't stop, don't slow down, just keep going. There's nothing there. Beware."
This followed by a hint as to the end of the film. I'm intrigued.
I am then told about the original version of the Navidson Record, a five and a half minute film where Navidson films the opening of an unusual door that leads on to a 10' long corridor that doesn't fit the measurements of the house outside; where there should be a 10' protuberance, there's only garden. Of course, no-one goes in it and the film is considered something of a curiosity by the public. Pity.
Later, a second short film comes out, this one distinguished by hurried, choppy edits and not making a whole lot of sense really. Kind of like Cloverfield I suppose, but less nauseating to watch and where you don't heartily wish for all the protagonists to be killed in ever more creative ways.
After that there's very little about Navidson and the house that comes out, so interest eventually dies except in the circles of hard-core fans and scholars (like any films that aren't hollywood blockbusters or retroactive cult classics then). Then the full Navidson Record is released, to international acclaim, with as much emphasis put on the non-appearance of its creator, Will Navidson, as on the inherant strangeness of the "story" told in this record.

I'll admit, I wasn't as taken with this chapter as I was by the strong start made in the introduction. Granted, it does mimic academic writings very well, but it just didn't seem quite as engaging. Does set the stage nicely for the actual events of the Navidson Record though.

Signing off,

Saturday, 1 January 2011

House of Leaves - Foreword & Introduction

Well, here we go. The first parts of House of Leaves. I know I said I'd only do one chapter/part per post, but the foreword is literally a few sentences, so I don't feel too guilty.

So the foreword is all very business-like notes from the editors, followed by the words:
  • "This is not for you."
Okay, odd....
The intro starts with what I assume is our narrator talking about how he get nightmares, followed by a rather worrying list of drugs. How has he not killed himself already? Anyway, he goes on to start talking about how he started getting these nightmares. And I must admit, though it's only the first proper page, I rather like this narrator. How can you not like a character who says this upon hearing his landlord state that he is Charles de Gaulle:
  • " my humble estimation he did not at all resemble an airport though the thought of a 757 landing on him was not at all disagreeable."
The fact that the fate of his previous apartment (burned down by aforementioned crazy landlord) is delivered in such a matter-of-fact way only makes this better in a way; firstly because it's an absurd image and secondly because if he can look at stuff like this in a neutral way, when the really weird stuff starts happening it'll really stand out.
In any case, he gets into a new apartment after an old man named Zampano dies. One who doesn't seem to have any documentation stating he's a real person. Because of course the uncertainty has to be brought in early. Considering the importance Zampano seems to have to the story (according the the blurb anyway), his first appearance struck me as kind of disappointing; quite what I was expecting from a dead man I don't know, but I guess I imagined his death would be more...supernatural I guess. But no, looks like it was just the day he was meant to go.
And now there's mention of an "awful discovery". And of course that simultaneously rings alarm bells and brings out the rubbernecker in me; so sue me, I'm only human.
First we hear about the cats that hung around Zampano when he was alive slowly disappearing, sometimes turning up dead in rather gruesome ways. Lovely. Secondly, claw marks next to his body. Because of course that isn't suspicious. Although considering Zampano's apartment, maybe not:
  • "All the windows were nailed shut and sealed with caulking. The front entrance and courtyard doors all storm-proofed. Even the vents were covered with duct tape."
That's just a bit weird. As we get onto Zampano's notebooks, the real reason our narrator is in the room, things start getting really creepy. You know when films want something to seem crazy by having them write all over the walls? These notebooks bring that to mind with me; I mean, you can tell just as much about a person and their message by how they write as you do by what they write.
So our narrator takes them home, because all main characters have to be an idiot in some way to get the story rolling, and starts going crazy. Nothing big, just making sure that the space that he's living in is constant; somehow that's a scarier thought that simply going postal.
Hang on a second.....
  • "I haven't even washed the blood off yet."
Hold the phone. When did blood start coming into it? Now he really has gone postal as well, hasn't he? Or not. He hasn't killed anyone (I think), so where did the blood come from? But of course my questions are left unanswered as he goes on to talk about publishing Zampano's account (ignoring the fact that it's driving him crazy) and his emphasis on light, contrast, darkness and all other things concerned with sight. Impressive stuff for someone who is:
  • "...blind as a bat."
So by all accounts this is getting pretty eerie and I'm trying to figure out quite how the logistics are working with that whole "writing while blind" trick, but the narrator hopes that we just ignore this set of documents. But of course I won't, seeing as I've paid for the book and there doesn't seem much point at this stage and in any case the narrator, revealed to be called Johnny Truant (possibly the coolest character name I've come across in a long long time), thinks that it will linger on, causing you to doubt all you ever were.
It's an interesting beginning to a book and has already brought up some very interesting issues, the main one being perception. And it does have a point, eerie as it may be; how can we know what we truly are, when all views are subjective? Change one tiny part in your perception and things can take on a whole new light. I'm looking forward to how they elaborate that theme later on in the narrative.

So, wishing you all a happy new year,
Signing off,