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Comments for House of Leaves
House of Leaves: 09/21/14
When I was a kid, I had this fantasy that there was an entrance to a secret passageway through the back of my bedroom closet. It didn't go Narnia; it went a variety of places — sometimes into secret underground lairs, sometimes to the mountains, and sometimes to other places within the house. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski takes a similar concept and turns it into something sinister.
The book (a literal house of leaves) is metafiction horror made up of multiple narratives. There's a tattoo artist who is telling his demented account of things. Then there's a scholarly essay recounting and analyzing the Navidson videos showing explorations of a rather ordinary house that over time becomes more and more extraordinary and wrong.
House of Leaves is old enough to predate many of the internet memes that it would have / should have embraced. For instance, the Navidson videos are shot on super-8 or on camcorders and somehow widely shared (before YouTube, back when most users were still on dialup and video was both expensive to put online and painful to watch because of the lag), enough so to be a thing. These videos are more like grudge ghost infested VHS tape of The Ring, where nowadays, the ghost would just be stuck waiting for a victim for years, possibly decades.
And then there is the carefully reproduced colors within House of Leaves. The author maintains a forum for anyone to discuss the colors or other themes and Wikipedia has some interesting thoughts too. Here are mine, taken with in the context of the book's publishing date, 2000.
Back in the early days of a publicly available internet when the emphasis was on the hyper-text part of HTML, rather than the mark-up language part, web pages consisted of text and links and nothing more. The default colors were blue for the unvisited links and purple for the visited ones. Later as font tags were included (in the precursor days to CSS), the blue and purple colors were still holy, untouchable things, because users might be confused if the link colors were changed. But red was adopted as an IMPORTANT color, to highlight things that needed a viewer's attention.
Astute readers who have a full color edition will see that the house and any synonym for it is rendered in blue. Purple shows up in the story of P. (Pelafina), the tattoo artist's institutionalized mother. And the minotaur's story is done in red. In the parlance of early internet, it tells me that the house, while on the surface, the story, is the part of it never actually visited. The house is either to scary to visit or is an illusion that can't be visited. Johnny's story of his mother with the purple links, while tied to the color of her fingernails and his tattoo ink, is also the color of links visited recently and perhaps frequently. Finally, there is the Minotaur — the half man - half bull trapped below ground in an unsolvable (unless you have enough of a klew/clue) labyrinth. In red, the Minotaur is the IMPORTANT part of the story. To understand the house, one must understand the minotaur.