Maps and House of Leaves

Obviously, the house’s changing corridors and shifting structure, as well as its effects on compasses, chronographs, and other scientific devices, makes it impossible to be mapped. The book diverges on many tangents about analysis, interpretation, and symbolism, but the subject of maps is not taken very far. This is odd considering their imagistic qualities and the novel’s attention to images (Navidson as photographer, Zampano’s blindness, etc).

Maps are the result of an attempt to systematically rationalize the world. They are never completely reliable, as they try to represent a world which, like the house, is constantly changing (road maps in Pennsylvania, for example). Of course though, maps are taken to be accurate, not only for convenience, but also to lend a sense of control over or permanence of time and space. Such pretensions of dominance are mocked by the house’s protean nature.

The text itself breaks the usual map of a page or book.  Several sections almost require a map to be read (which of course does not cover the book as a whole).

Another space which defies mapping is cyberspace or the internet, which is constantly changing and has fluid boundaries, yet there are those who nonetheless try to contain it. The forays into the house are listed as “Explorations,” as if Navidson, Holloway, and the others are explorers in undiscovered lands, seeking to map these new territories. Gentry from William Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive seeks to find the overall “shape” of cyberspace, an end he seeks with an unsettling level of devotion.

As science reveals more of life and the world, maps offer not only an imagistic representations but also alternative representations. For example, the Human Genome Project has often been described as an effort to “map” the human genome. The body is no longer something natural but rather something quantifiable. The Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis map from Neuromancer (43) constitutes human activity as digital transactions, as humanity removed from the body and itself. The house, however, rather than being an alternate map, is an alternate reality, or at least a mapless one.

The (or one, at least) difference between the house and the internet is that the house, as far as the reader knows, changes itself, where as the internet does not. Regardless, both are spaces which are not easily mapped and do not easily allow the type of control and relief maps offer.

Zack Manko 


Danieleswki, Mark Z. House of Leaves. 2nd Edition.  New York, New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York, New York: Ace Books, 2000.


~ by gottgeist501 on March 14, 2010.

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