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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,

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