Following the Footnotes: nonlinear movement through “House Of Leaves”

Following the Footnotes: nonlinear movement through “House Of Leaves”

“In essence echoes are confined to large spaces. However, in order to consider how distances within the Navidson house are radically distorted, we must address the more complex ideation of convolution, interference, confusion, and even decentric ideas of design and construction. In other words, the concept of a labyrinth (HOL 109)”

Like the book’s narrative, the footnotes on each page come from a variety of places and vantage points. They are written by Johnny, Zampano, and by the editor, most notably. How can we talk about the footnotes without being completely overwhelmed and submerged by them? I, for one unlike Johnny, do not want to track down every source, real or otherwise, that this book references. During my initial journey through the book on spring break I chose the route of mostly ignoring the footnotes (with the exception of Johnny’s digressions) because there just seemed to be too many references to too many different things and just thinking about following those while also reading a book some 600 plus pages long seemed impossible and frankly I have my moments of laziness. However, after last class and Professor Bianco’s direction that the book and story can be pealed apart, piece by piece, I started focusing on the footnotes that navigate us to other chapters, later in the novel. My first impression at just the idea of undertaking this task was, “this is a shitty way to read a novel.” It is confusing to plot. It is confusing to our sensibilities as readers of a novel. From page one, and in fact the first paragraph, of the Navidson Record we are redirected to chapter nine.

The excerpt above comes from this chapter, and speaks to the complexity of the house and the novel. Spatial “distances” on the novel’s page are just as radically distorted and changing as the house’s inner hallways. Ditto for the “convolution, intereference, confusion, and even decentric ideas of design and construction,” relating to both the house and the novel. Also worth noting in this section is our introduction to the red, crossed text which we know to be Zampano’s crossing out of his own work. If this is our first time working through the novel, we are a.)confused, b.)immediately shown the eccentric font, text placement spatially, and c.) immediately shown Johnny’s relationship with women. Obviously, Johnny’s sexuality is no secret at any point in the novel really, but that we are presented with possibly the most up front pornographic imagery in the novel here seems interesting. What does this introduction to Johnny, the narrative, and the experience of the book do versus reading straight through chapters 1-8 before coming to chapter nine? What does skipping from one spot to the next, based on the footnotes, do to our reading of the novel?

Just like “Hopscotch,” our method to navigating the story creates an impact on how we make sense, or don’t, of it. How we come to view characters, and understand them works similarly. Most notably, during another early footnote, we are directed to Apendix II and Johnny’s father’s obituary and letters from his mother. Do we think differently of Johnny after reading through his mother’s letters? How about in relation to Johnny’s madness or Zampano’s for that matter? What difference would it make if we read the entire novel from page one on before coming to the letters? It seems to me that these footnotes that direct us to other parts of the novel help to give us various angles and vantage points from which to view the story and its characters, which seems obvious now that I say it. This movement adds a third dimension to the work. The movement to the letters and then back to where we left off in the “narrative” give shape to our understanding of the rest of the novel from there on out. Obviously, we are given extra information which, footnoted, displays itself as additional info rather than essential or even sequential. Another moment I would like to consider is when we move, following another footnote, from first when Holloway and his team arrive to when Mrs. Brookes, Chad’s teacher, comes to the Navidson’s home on Ash lane after suspecting abuse because of the two children’s strange drawings. She knocks and enters a bloody, postwar scene of death and destruction. Its really cool how we, as readers, were just beginning to learn of Holloway, Wax, and Jed, their personalities etc. and then, following the footnote, we are taken immediately to the aftermath of bloodshed and panic following the exploration. In this case, the affect of following the footnote is shock, awe, and most importantly, the want to go back and find out what you have missed. The novel seems most captivating in this way. It makes us want to invest and to search. There is always more to uncover, to unlock, and decode. Having said that, there is so much more going on in this novel than I can’t even express in this blog post, so we shall leave that to class discussion I hope.

Philip Petrunak


~ by philippetrunak on March 21, 2010.

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