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Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Prince of Mist - Part 2

Hey guys, back again for part 2. We left off last time just after Max and his family had arrived in their new town, without much in the way of weirdness yet, apart from an unnaturally smart cat and a clock that goes backwards.
So the chapter starts with a description of the new town and house. And to be quite honest, I'm a little confused. Having read a couple of Zafon's novels, I automatically assumed that it would be set in Barcelona (or at least it would initially); the description of this place seems to be more quintessentially English, like Blackpool or Torquay maybe. So far though, we haven't been told where this is set, so I'll just have to alternate between the two I suppose. In any case, the town seems pleasant enough, although it is, of course, met with several different reactions: there's the dad who's wildly enthusiastic, little sister who regards it with "calm curiosity" (an oddly mature response for an 8 year old, but I suppose I'll let it slide for now), big sister is sulking and mum is still strangely reticent. Why do I get the feeling that the mum will be psychic in some way? Or will this be yet another example of how adults are useless in the literary world?
The house is introduced and it sounds pretty enough, apart from the minor signs of wear and tear, which I suppose is inevitable when it's right on the beach. We also find out about the house's former owners, a surgeon from the city, his wife and, after a little while, their young son Jacob. After Jacob's birth, the couple integrate themselves into the community and are well-liked. Until Jacob dies. Because we couldn't see that coming. After the surgeon dies (presumably due to grief), his widow put the house up for sale, with Max's family being the first actual people to buy it.
The family now arrive at the house, with Max's dad knocking down a considerable length of their fence almost immediately. Hooray for auspicious starts. So their first view of their new home is...a room covered in dust that obviously hasn't been cleared away in the 10 years that the house has stood empty. It's not exactly the kind of welcome they'd been looking for, I'd imagine. That makes their first job cleaning the house out so that it's actually habitable; I'm sure Alicia will love this, judging from the numerous irritating and unhelpful comments she's made so far. At the end of the day, Max is given the extra duty of clearing the bedrooms of spiders, because Alicia's making a fuss.
The spider hunt goes fairly well, as he's helped initially by the cat, who eats a particularly big specimen then gives him evils. In checking the other rooms in his spider hunt, Max sees a garden of statues in the field behind the new house's back garden. It's quite badly overgrown and surrounded by a fence topped with six-pointed stars. Wait, isn't the Star of David a six-pointed star? The garden's Jewish? Or am I just being stupid? The chapter ends with his parents going out to get food, leaving him to take care of Irina. Why they couldn't leave both of them in the care of Alicia, I don't know. Unless she's really rather useless, which I can fully believe. I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm picking on her, but thus far she's embodying all that I hate in teenagers.

Anyway, overall another good chapter. Nothing special, but quite pleasant.

Signing off,

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Prince of Mist - Part 1

So, first chapter of The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I've been looking forward to reading for months, especially in those last pointless chapters of House of Leaves. Having read Shadow of the Wind and The Angel Game, my expectations are pretty high, so you may well see me being either A) being a total and utter fan-girl or B) criticising this quite a lot.
But anyway, on to the actual story. The first chapter introduces the reader to Max, a 13 year old boy who is told on his birthday (along with his mother and two sisters) that they're moving the next day. A bit of an abrupt way to break the news isn't it? And it's certainly not taken well by our main character, who can't comprehend having what is effectively his entire world being taken away. Having gone through a similar move when I was 6, I can totally sympathise with what is a huge task to a young child: hell, it's still a difficult thing when you're my age. Considering this, I thought the characterisation was spot on, although I'd have preferred to have seen what Max is being uprooted from before he has to prepare for the move, as opposed to confronting the reader with it on the first page. So it turns out that Max's father is moving them to a small town on the coast in order to avoid the effects of World War 2, which is fair enough (although hindsight makes it seem a little pointless, if this is set in Spain like Zafon's other novels). So Max gets his birthday present, a pocket watch, after his dad has talked through the bad news he's gotten: presumably Max's dad is of the school of thought that dictates that regardless of how bad the news is, kids will be distracted afterwards by shiny things/presents/both. Although the description of this pocket watch is pretty damn cool:
"The hours on the face were marked out by moons that waxed and waned to the rhythm of time, and the hands were the rays of a sun radiating out from the centre of the dial. On the case, engraved in fine script, were the words Max's time machine." 
If I didn't already own a pocket watch, that would be an absolute must-have. Or something close to it would be anyway.
So Max ends up spending a sleepless night before he has to move, a condition mirrored by his dad, who gives Max a book on Copernicus that he spent the night reading. Quite why a 13 year old would want a book about Copernicus, I'm not sure. His dad leaves to give everyone their wake-up call, while Max sits there and reads. Seems an odd thing to do while your family's getting ready to leave, but I'll let it slide. He has a rather awkward conversation with his mum, then they leave. All very to-the point at the moment. Plus, there's one sentence that just doesn't seem to fit with the action; after she's had a bit of a nostalgic moment in which she reveals that Max and his sisters were all born in the house, and he reassures her that everything's alright, there's this line, which doesn't make much sense:
"His mother had a way of reading his thoughts." 
What does that have to do with it? That line just seems to come out of nowhere, unless there's something I totally missed just then.
There's a paragraph dedicated to Max's first glimpse of the sea now. This bit bugs me a little: granted, the passage is well-written and I'll admit that the sea is a beautiful sight in the right conditions, but Max seems to get over the fact that he's moving away from the only place he's ever known far too easily; just because Max had a little bit of a mope earlier doesn't mean that he can just accept the move like this. They haven't even been away for more than a few hours!
When they get to the town, Max's first impression of the town is that it looks like one of those towns you can buy as part of a toy train set. Which just brings a kind of Sims sort of situation to mind really, although I doubt Max and his family will go through events as cruel as some players create with Sims. Although Max's mum has been the victim of sloppy editing already: "veredict"? Really? But in any case, the dad seems wildly optimistic about the place, while the mum is supportive but much less sure about the move. Max's younger sister Irina makes a friend almost instantly, in the form of a stray cat. His elder sister, Alicia, on the other hand, seems to be acting in the spoiled brat/unappreciated centre of the universe way that is unfortunately prevalent in most teenagers; I dislike her already. The little sister wins out in any case and is allowed to keep the cat so long as she looks after it. The chapter ends with a little moment of weirdness that will hopefully be explained later: when they arrive at the train station the clock says that it's half twelve (which is an hour and a half slow by Max's watch) but when they leave, the clock reads ten to twelve. Why have a clock that goes backwards?

So, other than a few moments that seemed a bit out, I thought that this was a really nice way to start a story. Ideally I would have preferred a bit more focus on what they left behind and actually have Max miss it a little more even after he is charmed by his first sight of the sea, but so far I'm enjoying it. Hopefully this won't begin to drag like House of Leaves did, considering that this has an undeniably shorter word count. Granted, this isn't as good as Zafon's other books thus far, but I still have several chapters with which to be wowed yet.

Signing off,

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

From House of Leaves to The Prince of Mist

Well, this is it, my final blog entry concerning House of Leaves. My final overall review.

Firstly, the plot and set-up of the book. I'll admit, Danielewski hit on a really interesting idea for a story set-up: a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, something that is incomprehensible to most people. Unfortunately, the way the story was actually told put me off a bit. Firstly, there was the use of an academic text to tell the story with: while this puts an interesting intellectual perspective to it, it is very emotionally distancing and I found it very hard to identify with the characters that were supposed to be the main focus of the novel; I personally found Johnny Truant to be the only really engaging character, if only because he isn't presented through a filter as such. Secondly, due to the academic nature of the format, there were quite a few chapters that I felt the book could have benefited without, simply because they were boring or because what they were trying to get across could have been communicated in a much more concise way.
Secondly, the characters. I felt that the characters were for the most part well-constructed, with a variety of personalities that worked well in combination. I did feel however, that the main character Navidson was made stupider than perhaps was believable: I appreciate that he's used to danger through experience of war zones, but even so there is no real reason why anyone would be stupid to explore something that has eaten his twin right before his very eyes.
Overall, an interesting story idea that was let down slightly by the odd format and some of the overly stupid behaviour of the central characters.  3/5.

So, that's House of Leaves finished, now on to the next book that I'll be reviewing. From now, I'll be reading and reviewing The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Having read the previous two books of his that have been translated into English and loved them both, I'm seriously looking forward to this. Here's the blurb as a basic preview of what I'll be reading:
"1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . . . "
Overall sounds pretty good, and not on the mind-screw level of House of Leaves. Again, thank you for following my progress through House of Leaves, I hope you enjoyed my reviews and I hope you will join me in perusing The Prince of Mist as well.

Signing off,

House of Leaves - Appendix III: Contrary Evidence

Well guys, we're on to the third appendix, which I'm pretty sure is the final chapter left to read. Apart from the index, which I'm not reading. Who actually reads the index?
So this appendix is apparently a collection of contrary evidence collected by the editors. What this actually amounts to is 5 pages worth of pictures, none of which really contrast the book's events. I've finished it already, and that seems an utterly pointless way to do it. I'll admit, the pictures were rather cool representations of the Navidson house, including a comic book page of when Holloway is shooting at Navidson and Reston, but it's a rather anti-climactic way to end a book.

Seeing as that was the last chapter of the book, my next entry will be an overall review and an introduction to my next book. Thanks to those of you who have persevered with me, I hope you enjoyed this.

Signing off,

Monday, 28 March 2011

House of Leaves - Appendix II: Johnny Truant

Hey guys, back again for what I believe will be another interesting but ultimately pointless chapter. To be honest, none of this stuff after the Navidson Record seems to actually be all that necessary; sure it's mildly interesting, but it feels a bit like a bloopers reel or making of documentary that's been tagged on to the end of a film, as opposed to being available elsewhere. But regardless, I'll still review them. It's only this and one more left anyway, so it's not that huge a task. So today's instalment is the appendix provided by our chief editor and crazy man Johnny Truant.
So section A is a selection of sketches and photos. Compared to Zampano's picture section, this is pretty cool, seeing as Johnny's tried to recreate certain sections of the house in his sketches. The polaroids are nothing special.
Section B is another selection of poems. Johnny really seems to like pelicans for some reason: there's a mention of pelicans in quite a few of the poem titles. They aren't making much sense. Maybe Johnny identifies with pelicans? Having just finished them, I can again say that they didn't make sense; no sense whatsoever. Oh well, I'd hoped for something a bit better, considering the quality of Zampano's poetry last chapter, but I suppose Danielewski has to write in character.
Section C seems to be another picture section. It's an odd couple of pages.
Section D is his father's obituary. Okay.... A little morbid, isn't it? One odd thing that the editors have omitted at Johnny's request is Johnny's name; I mean, I could have guessed that Truant wasn't his second name, but Johnny seemed normal enough that it could have been his actual name. So why wouldn't he want people to know his real name...?
Section E is a selection of Johnny's letters from his mother while she was in a mental institute. While they're quite sweet, there's also something a little unnerving about them. I can't put my finger on what it is, but there's just something off somehow. I think it might be the sheer effusiveness of them and the way she never seems to blame Johnny for anything that he does in his life; it's not a healthy way for a mother to treat her child, certainly in my opinion anyway. She seems to be getting more and more paranoid as the letters go along as well, which is making this all the creepier. I think the thing that concerns me most is the fact that she places her entire happiness on his letters, which is really rather scary; to have someone base their happiness on you is a lot to live up to really, especially if they're as close a relation as a mother. The letters continue up until the day that she hangs herself with her bed linen. Despite the fact that she was rather scary at times, I do feel quite sad at her death, which is more than I've felt for pretty much the entirety of the rest of the cast.
Section F is a collection of quotes, which I can't really see adding to this much. As little as they do add to the novel overall, there is one quote that I rather like:

  • "Love is not consolation, it is light." 
It's a little oblique, but it's nice all the same. Plus it's easy to believe, as long as it's the gentle sort of light, like the sort you get in an English spring. Well, that was my day's allowance of waxing lyrical.

But in any case, the quotes section ends this chapter. I'm pretty much going to repeat my judgement of last chapter: interesting at times, but not actually that necessary to the story.

Signing off,

Sunday, 27 March 2011

House of Leaves - Appendix: Zampano

Hi guys, back again and hoping to get a fair chunk of what's left of House of Leaves done today. While it's been interesting, I'm in the mood for something a bit different now, so I'll be trying to get this done fairly quickly.
So we start this set of appendices with a note from Johnny Truant announcing that this is material of Zampano's written outside of the Navidson Record, and is being included as something of a testament about his character, which has been largely absent even though he's the narrator for the majority of the novel.
So appendix A is a basic outline of the Navidson Record and some possible titles for the chapters. While possibly useful, it seems overall a bit redundant now. For one, this would have been more useful in the contents page and in terms of revealing more of Zampano's character, it basically just tells us that he wrote lots of notes for later use, which isn't all that much really.
Appendix B is titled "Bits", which I'm assuming means it's scraps of writing that don't really fit anywhere else. From what I've seen of the first page, it seems to be scraps from his diary, none of which really make sense on their own. He mentions having a son, although considering who's writing I'm not sure whether this is a literal or metaphorical son. I'm plumping for the former, but not without hesitation. He also mentions someone's life as a commitment-phobe, who eventually wants to start a long-term relationship but fails miserably because he's never known what to do; Zampano doesn't mention who "he" is but I get an odd feeling that he might be talking about himself. There's a real sense of loneliness about him in some of these later scraps of diary entries, which is sort of sad, but then I don't think I've gotten to know him that well yet for me to feel too sorry for him. His last entry is presumably the last thing he wrote before he died, and seems oddly hopeless even if it is a tad oblique. There's a hint that he's been writing to someone, but no hint as to who they are or why they're gone in the first place.
Appendix C is "...and Pieces" showing what appears to be a series of pictures. They seem to be photos of the original manuscript, which is appropriately messy considering Zampano's character. It's somewhat unlikely that it would have been read like this, considering how much publishers emphasise clean presentation in submissions, but I'll just have to take this with a pinch of salt.
Appendix D appears to be a letter to the Editor, that complains about an article that he read that was misinformed. An odd inclusion, but I'll run with it.
Appendix E is missing. I suppose I should've expected that.
Appendix F is a selection of poems that Zampano has presumably written himself. Seems an odd addition, but I suppose that poetry and imagery can reveal more than straight prose. The first, titled "That Place", is about a dragon that is there and perfectly threatening, but unnoticed by the majority of people; sounds like either the kind of paranoia that Johnny had or the Slender man. "The Panther" again seems to be concerned with a creature that is powerful and bloodthirsty, but is taken for granted by most, perhaps like the house. There's "Love at First Sight", which is pretty much what it says on the tin. There's an unnamed poem that seems to be about a lover. A second untitled poem depicts the disappearance of a mad hermit; perhaps a foreshadowing of his own death? A third unnamed poem is about the inconstancy of the world around us. "La Feuille" is entirely in French, so I'm afraid I have no idea what it actually means. "You Shall Be My Roots" is about the give and take of relationships, much like Navidson and Karen's relationship. Overall, some pretty good poetry, although it kind of makes me think that Navidson and Zampano could be indistinguishable really, seeing as these poems could apply to both of their stories or what we know of their pasts. Considering Navidson's probable non-existence in this book, maybe they are effectively the same person? But then that's me probably getting too much into sub-text.

Overall, an interesting chapter at times, but what could have been quite unsatisfying was saved by some very good poetry.

Signing off,

Thursday, 24 March 2011

House of Leaves - Exhibits

Hey guys, long time no see, huh? My stuff with uni is almost finished for this year, so I'll finally have some proper time off to blog more often. I might slow down again after Easter, seeing as I have exams, but they seem to be over pretty quickly in all honesty.
Anyway, on to this chapter, which I've decided will be the exhibits one to six, seeing as they don't seem all that long in total. Quite what they'll add to what I've already read, but I remain hopeful.
We start with a note from Johnny explaining what the exhibits are in general. So far, very academic. Apparently, these are instructions for exhibits that Zampano would have added, had he lived long enough.
Exhibit one is concerned with providing examples of architecture over various different periods and floor-plans (of the house?). This one seems a bit out of place, seeing as the descriptions of the house always have the creepy bit having no architectural features other than the absolutely necessary (when it was being mind-friendly in any case) and the non-creepy part doesn't change architectural style, so this exhibit seems overall rather pointless. Off to a good start then.
Exhibit two would have provided the reader with examples of hand shadows, presumably relating back to Tom's stay in the house. Sounds vaguely interesting, but again a bit pointless, seeing as you can find hand shadow pictures fairly easily, I'd imagine.
Exhibit three would have shown all the technical stuff about the carbon-dating they did on the samples of the house, the folder for which is missing anyway. Probably a good thing really.
Exhibit four would have re-printed the Reston Interview and the Last Interview, both of which are missing. Considering the number of quotes we got from it, we probably don't lose much by not having it to be honest.
Exhibit five seems to be instructions to duplicate some pages from an Air Force manual, which apparently does turn up in one of the appendices. Quite what it's for, I have no clue. If anyone remembers anything that this would relate to, please tell me because I'm at a loss here.
The last exhibit is a recreation of Karen's anxiety/phobia test before the Navidson Record, which also turns up in the appendices. Probably quite interesting, but we'll have to wait and see really.

And that's the exhibits section done. That was unceremoniously short. I feel like I didn't do it particularly well, as there wasn't really much to discuss about it. Hopefully the appendices will be a different story. Anyway, it's nice to be back.

Signing off,

Sunday, 13 March 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part XXIII

After that last chapter that seemed to wrap up the remaining storylines, I'm going to be quite honest and say that I have no idea what the remaining 130 odd pages will have to add; it seems pretty finalised to me. Oh well, I will continue, though it is tempting to just leave the story at that largely satisfying ending.
There is no quotation at the beginning of this chapter, so I'm going to assume that it's basically wrapping up the Navidson Record as an academic text, which sounds pretty uninteresting if I'm totally honest; having written academic essays myself, they aren't the most absorbing of things to read.
The chapter starts by telling the reader what happens to the Navidsons after the events we all know by now (and yes, the plural was intentional as Navidson and Karen got married, which is sweet). So on the surface it would seem that they lived happily ever after. Zampano, however, is determined to make this bittersweet by looking at the potential (but very likely) psychological damage they suffered due to exposure to the house.
So over a year has passed since they all got out of the house, and they've sensibly moved to Vermont. Navidson seems to be recovering well from the frostbite from the previous chapter. The kids seem to have moved on without any real mental problems (although Chad wants to become an architect when he's older, which is probably fairly telling). Karen's been diagnosed with malignant breast cancer, but seems to be responding to her treatment well, which is something I suppose. But despite this heart-warming stuff (apart from the cancer, seeing as that tends to be pretty difficult to make heart-warming), the house is still present in their lives in some way, as Navidson can't quite let go of it or at least the memories of it. But the chapter (and by extension the film) ends on a fairly positive note as it shows him going trick-or-treating with his kids, as a mild lampshading of the genre his work will inevitably end up being grouped with.

And that's the end of the Navidson Record. It probably signals the end of the story proper, but there are exhibits and appendices still to read, so I might as well review them too. Again, a very short and sweet chapter, wrapping up Navidson's storyline further. In terms of making their conclusion bit more bittersweet, I don't think the book entirely succeeded, but it at least isn't a straight Disney-style happily ever after ending. 

Signing off,

Saturday, 12 March 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part XXII

Sorry about the break between updates, I had some work to do with uni. Considering what I have coming up regarding that, I may well be a bit sporadic in terms of as and when I update this, but I'll do the best I can. But anyway, last chapter was a rather odd change of pace and has sort of left me confused as to where I stand in the narrative. I suppose I can note what I do (probably) know and try figure out what could actually happen in what looks to be the last few chapters: Johnny Truant's storyline seems to have ended with him as a hobo, but ultimately content, Navidson seems to be dying of exposure whilst either floating or falling, and Karen still has that wall of black yawning up behind her. Every other surviving character in the Navidson Record seems to have scarpered, rather sensibly really. Anyway, I'm now rambling, so on with the actual chapter.
Well the beginning of chapter quotation tells me a whole load of nothing. If you know what this could entail, I applaud you:
  • "Truth transcends the telling."
And that's it. I suppose it could refer to the film gathered, but then I doesn't give much of a hint as to what's coming. Anyway, the chapter begins with Karen finally turning round and facing the wall of darkness. She seems to panic a bit when she first sees it, but then she decides to go in there to look for Navidson, with surprisingly little ceremony: she doesn't even mentally prepare herself, which seems strange. I suppose her desire to see Navidson again kind of trumps whatever fear she has of the house, which is quite sweet really.
Just under an hour later, she and Navidson are found in the front garden, with Karen cradling him in her lap. There's also a weird little detail that she now has a pink ribbon in her hair. Why I don't know and can't really imagine. So they get him to the hospital and while he makes it, he's fairly badly damaged for life, having had to have his hand and eye removed due to frostbite as well as having to walk with crutches after (inexplicably) breaking his hip.
The chapter ends with a student interview of Karen as to what happened when she stepped through the wall. She finds him just by walking forward and wanting to find him (which makes sense if you consider the whole psychological influence they have on the freaky bit of the house). She starts to cradle his head and the house just disappears around them, leaving them to be found in the front garden. Overall, a bit of a weird way to end it, I mean it's pretty much the climax of the last exploration and the house just lets them go. Plus there's still no reason for the inclusion of that ribbon.

So a fairly short and sweet chapter, presumably just to wrap up the remaining plot points that I mentioned at the beginning of the review. Comparing this to the last chapter and Johnny's plot being wrapped up, they both had this weird sort of sedateness to them; it's not disappointing as such, seeing as there were hints throughout the Navidson Record that pointed to Navidson surviving, but it just doesn't seem to fit with what we've seen of the house thus far. There doesn't seem to be much difficulty actually reaching a happy ending with these final climaxes, so I guess it just jars a bit considering how voracious the house has been previously. But I suppose I should be happy that there weren't any other deaths, so I guess it's not all bad.

Signing off,

Monday, 7 March 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part XXI

Hi there guys, sorry for the wait. I would have done a post last night, but life got in the way. Anyway, that little scare is out of the way, so I now have a chance to review another chapter for you lovely people. Although after part 20 of the Navidson Record, hopefully this will either clear up a few things (like what the hell was actually going on in that place) or give me a bit of room to get my bearings again.
Well, the quotation sets the chapter up to be about disappointments, so I have very little idea of what's actually in store.
Regardless, I don't think I would have expected this as a beginning to the chapter:
  • "Lude's dead."
That has to be the most abrupt beginning that I've ever read. Presumably this is a chapter from the viewpoint of Johnny Truant then, which is a bit odd; he's got an appendix at the end of the Navidson Record, but I hadn't expected an entire chapter from him in the actual record itself. Oh well, I guess I'll just roll with it. From what I can tell, Lude's managed to kill himself with prescription painkillers or the crazy boyfriend who beat the crap out of him before got to him again whilst he was all drugged up. Either way, not fun. Yep, the drugs made him crash on his motorbike at 100mph, leaving his brains all over the pavement. Certainly, this is one of the more graphic death scenes I've read. And just as an aside, Johnny is sounding a lot more controlled and, to put it bluntly, sane in this bit; maybe he's exorcised whatever demon the notebooks unleashed by going out to Virginia. Or not, seeing as he's still got a few creepy imaginings going on, but he still sounds saner than he has done in a long while. Except he seems to be in an asylum, which would contradict my idea just now. This is odd to say the least.
I was wrong earlier about him being in an asylum. Presumably that was a figure of speech. But I'm kind of beginning to worry about him precisely because he's sounder saner. The creepy shit in his head and possibly around him is still happening, he just seems to have detached himself from it, getting rid of the fear at the same time. I don't know about you, but that's just a little bit unsettling. He seems to have gone to completely the opposite end of the scale, from fear and self-destructiveness to detachment and some weird sort of lack of empathy.
He's just been punched out by the creepy boyfriend guy, which comes as no surprise really, considering that if Lude got beaten up for being associated with Johnny, Johnny himself wasn't going to be let off. And he's just lost it completely, beating this guy to a pulp, I think to the point where Johnny's actually killed him. It's official, he's gone postal.
Yet the newest entry he's made seems not to realise it. Multiple personalities maybe? Because he seems to have reverted a bit to his fearful, paranoid mindset, which doesn't make sense in this new context.
New entry suggests that he can't remember what he's done since May and that he forgets whatever's happened as soon as he writes the journal, which automatically reminds me of Momento (even though I still have yet to see it).
Now skipping back to when he made his way to Virginia, so hopefully something should be explained. Regardless, he's gone down there, only to find that no-one's heard of Zampano or the Navidsons and there is no Ash Tree Lane. Seems like there's nothing in Virginia that Johnny can connect to the Navidson Record, but he's found traces of it in every place he's visited on the journey east. At the moment, it's sounding more like a trip of self-discovery than anything else. He even visited the place where his mother died, presumably expecting to find something of her there. Apparently not.
He ends up visiting friends of his who are doctors and they force him to start eating properly again. They've also put him on some kind of pill that's stopped his violent mood swings, which I'm a bit sceptical of, but then I am reading a horror novel. And of course, now that he's made it back home, he's revealed that the section about the doctor friends was a bunch of lies. I should've seen that coming at least. Regardless, he does seem calmer (and no going postal yet) after his trip, actually calling people up, like Lude and Thumper.
Now gotten past the part about Lude's death and his episode of going postal, only to find him leaving again. At least he sad goodbye to Thumper this time though; it was rather sweet if I'm honest. Maybe he needed that going postal episode, seeing as he's almost totally back to normal now. I'm wondering just how long it's going to last though.
And on his second trip, he ends up hearing some oddly familiar lyrics:
  • "I live at the end of a Five and a Half Minute Hallway."
Wonders never cease. If that doesn't set him off again, I don't know what will. Apparently the band have read the book, which is just great. At the end of this section, he seems content, which is nice. After all the torment he's gone through editing this book, he deserves to be content, if you know what I mean.
We now skip back again, to just after his going postal bit. Which apparently he didn't carry out after all, which is probably a good thing, despite how screwed up Kyrie and her psycho boyfriend are. What seems to be happening is Johnny coming to terms with what inhabits the darkness, which is a good idea in my book. I almost don't trust it, I mean you hardly ever get stuff this positive or cathartic in a horror novel.
We now get a story about a baby born without grey/white differentiation. Maybe this is Johnny and the only reason he's been so afraid of this is that he hasn't been able to tell the dark from the light or something. In any case, it is born unable to breathe by itself, so the doctors want to turn the machines off and let it fend for itself, only the mother won't let it. To prevent her baby dying, she stays up for (at the moment anyway) 3 days straight. On the 4th day, she requests that they turn the machines off. So the baby dies. And that's where the chapter ends, on that rather odd, sad moment.

This has been an odd chapter, full of emotional peaks and troughs. I think this is probably the weirdest thing about it, the amount of actual emotions that were stirred in the course of this chapter: thus far, I've only really had either creeped out or intellectual responses so far. But I think it's a good change, one I would have preferred to see a bit more often, but then that's just my preference. In any case, Johnny's storyline seems pretty much complete now, and in a satisfactory way as well.

Signing off,

Friday, 4 March 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part XX

Well, after the disappointment that was the last chapter, I think we might actually be back in the house for real this time. Otherwise I may well have to hit something.
Well, hitting things should be avoided pretty easily I think, if the opening quotation is anything to go by:
  • "No one should brave the underworld alone." - Poe.
If anything could be described as like the underworld, the house has got to be pretty close to the mark. Purgatory at least.
I am currently confronted with what looks suspiciously like braille. A bit of an odd inclusion, not because it's unlikely (seeing as Zampano was blind, this is probably the more logical format really), but because it's an inversion of what's gone on before; thus far he's been getting on quite well with dictation, so why have the braille section here, especially so late on? Maybe it's something he wants to keep, but doesn't want the scribes to know what it is? In any case, the editors have provided a translation, which describes a place that is totally bare and will not let traces of the outside world exist or survive. Sounds a lot like the house to me.
So we revert back to normal text, and join Navidson as he embarks on Exploration 5. He's taking with him lots of camera equipment and film (all of which sounds quite technical) and some survival gear, including 2 weeks worth of rations (did he manage to stretch that out into a month's supply?), all of which is loaded onto a bike. It may sound weird, but I hadn't considered taking a vehicle in there; I don't know about you, but most horror films that I've seen has the main characters running around being eaten on foot. As he starts his exploration, he decides not to head straight for the staircase, but explores the corridors first. Quite how he makes a conscious decision not to go to a specific place I'm not sure, seeing as the corridors and layout seem to change every time they go in. Unless it somehow can sense that Navidson doesn't intend to go there yet and accommodates him accordingly, in which case it's an unusually helpful house of horrors. In any case, while his journey starts off rather slowly, he soon picks up speed and realises that the corridor is on a decline, so that by the time he stops for the night, he's travelled 163 miles. The next day he decides to head back again, as it'll take him about 6/7 days to get back to where he started if he goes back uphill. Except that even though he points it back where he came from, he's still going downhill; whichever direction he goes in, it's downhill. It gets to the point where one day he ends up travelling 428 miles in 14 hours, so a steady speed of about 30 miles an hour; I take back what I said about the house being helpful. The height of the ceiling and the width of the corridor seems to be changing abitrarily as well, as if things weren't weird enough to start with. And just to add to that, each change is accompanied by the growl. Navidson, I really don't envy you right now. His odometer (measures distance for those who don't know) has just broken, so his sense of reality has got to be getting seriously weird by now. Although there's still enough of it to sense the abyss he was about to fall into and just about stop himself in time. At the edge of the abyss, he finds a tower with a spiral staircase inside it; what's odd about this staircase is that it extends sideways, out over the abyss. Now that's something I'm having a bit of a hard time imagining, to be quite frank. He spends the night inside the tower and wakes up to find the door outside has disappeared and the stairs that were horizontal are now vertical, extending upwards; whether it still goes out over the abyss, I don't know. After the stairs (which swallowed up a load of his water and food, so good move there Navidson) he finds himself in a room where the only exit is a ladder up a narrow shaft. It gives me the creeps just thinking about it. After the ladder is a narrow corridor, which is still freaking me out. It gets narrower and narrower until he has to crawl on his stomach to get through it. He then gets to a room where it says:
  • "here everything about the room suddenly changes."
What about it has changed? I don't know because it's been blotted out. I'm trying very hard to stay calm, but seriously: WHY?!?!?! According to Navidson, it's an enjoyable sight, but I still don't know what the hell it is.
It's a window. Holy crap, it's an open window. I cannot tell you how weird it is to find that out; it just seems........wrong to be there. He steps out of the window onto a terrace where he finds that there is nothing to see, which is incredibly frustrating; abyss above, below and to the sides. When he tries to turn back, he finds that the room has vanished and he's left on this terrace which doesn't seem to be supported by anything. Another great move right there. The flares that he ends up having to use as a light source turn out to be pretty interesting. The first one gets dropped over the side and vanishes before reaching the bottom, the second one floats and the third one flies upwards and vanishes before reaching the top. It's not interesting for any other purpose than I'm rather amused by the trippy physics. Go figure. In any case, this leaves him utterly disoriented, literally not knowing which way is up. But all he can do is sit and read by the light of a match until either something happens or he dies. Fun prospects either way. Severely unamused by the book burning, but then that's just me (although the irony that he burns the book in order to read it does amuse me).
By this point, he has no water, no food, no light, some film left which he can't use because the flash is dead and the slab he was on seems to have vanished, so he's either falling or floating. I don't know about you, but this is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to imagine in the course of reading something (apart from the spinny chair for centaurs in Artemis Fowl, but then that's probably through lack of knowledge about horses rather than anything utterly unknown). So he's left to float/fall in total darkness while he dies of exposure. I can certainly think of more dignified ends, to be sure. The delirious talking to himself/the camera/the microcasette certainly doesn't help things. Towards the end of the film, Navidson sees light, which appears as a fleck of blue in the corner. Then the film runs out. And the chapter ends there.

Holy crap, that was freaky. I really have no more words left to describe what that was like, I'm just.........numb, empty, I don't honestly know. I mean, it's incomprehensible really. On that bombshell, I shall take my leave of you.

Signing off,

Thursday, 3 March 2011

House of Leaves - The Navidson Record - Part XIX

Wow, part 19 of the Navidson Record. It's taken a fair while, but I'm definitely making progress. Last time, I believe heebie jeebies were caused by the wall behind Karen turning black (then negated by Madagascar being played in the room next-door). So now we get to find out what will actually happen to Karen.
The quote beginning the chapter talks about how photography doesn't bring us closer to nature, but actually serves to serparate us from it. Why do I get the feeling that Karen will be largely ignored in this chapter now?
Yup, the focus seems to be on Navidson again. Not amused. This chapter looks to me like it'll be concentrating on why he went back to the house and what's been happening to him while he was in there. We start off with another, less formal theory as to why he went back in: to get a better quality picture. It's so simple, yet the mind tends to pass over it because of it. That and it's a bloody stupid reason to go back in, frankly. Regardless, he seems to have ordered a lot of hi-tech filming equipment before he went back, so it was certainly planned, which seems missing from the other ideas.
We then are launched into an impassioned argument defending photojournalism as an art-form. Interesting as it is, and much as I would love to debate it generally, I'm really not in the mood for intellectual defences of photography at the moment: considering where it left off last time, I'm more in the mood for some pay-off, like Karen being eaten or something. Anyway, at the same time as it defends photography, it's demonstrating just how marvelous a photojournalist Navidson is: it wanders a bit too far to Mary Sue territory for my liking, but then I might just be biased. It then analyses what makes the Delial picture so fantastic, which feels a bit odd right at this moment, seeing as we kind of finished with Delial a few chapters back: why bring her back now? The chapter concludes with a statement that while Navidson has often photographed death, there's always been something between him and death for him to focus on, but by re-entering the house he is removing the other and photographing (well, filming in this case) something he'd never tried to photograph before.
The chapter then ends, rather abruptly I feel. I will admit that I've mostly enjoyed the book so far, but that chapter was just irritating really. Much as Navidson's profession as a photojournalist is probably important to the narrative, I don't see how gushing about his work for an entire chapter is necessary for the book.

One good thing about this chapter is that it sets us up nicely for re-entering the house with Navidson, but still not happy.

Signing off,