House of Leaves

2000 novel by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves (2000) is the debut novel by the American author Mark Z. Danielewski.

This is not for you.
God's a house. Which is not to say that our house is God's house or even a house of God. What I mean to say is that our house is God.
That House answers many yearnings remembered in sorrow.
Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind.
Who has never gone for a walk through some unfamiliar park and felt that it was huge, only to return a second time to discover that the park is in fact much smaller than initially perceived?
The finest act of seeing is necessarily always the act of not seeing something else.

The plot is centered on a fictional documentary about a family whose house contains a seemingly endless labyrinth. The format and structure of House of Leaves is unconventional, with unusual page layout and style, making it a prime example of ergodic literature. It contains copious footnotes, many of which contain footnotes themselves, including references to fictional books, films or articles. One such footnote references Not True, Man: Mi Ata Beni? by Eta Ruccalla. Another references "All Accurate" by Nam Eurtton. Note that "Eta Ruccalla" is "All Accurate" backwards, and "Nam Eurtton" is "Not True, Man" backwards. In contrast, some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often creating both an agoraphobic and a claustrophobic effect. At points, the book must be rotated to be read. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other in elaborate and disorienting ways.

Introduction edit

  • This is not for you.
    • Introduction, tagline.
  • In fact I slept all the time. That was before my friend Lude woke me up at three in the morning and asked me to come over to his place. Who knows, if I hadn't heard the phone ring, would everything be different now? I think about that alot.
    • Introduction, p. xi
  • Lude didn't need to have the answer, but somehow he knew I would. Maybe that's why we were friends. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he did need the answer, he just knew he wasn't the one who could find it. Maybe that's the real reason we were friends. But that's probably wrong too.
    • Introduction, p. xvii
  • [...] neighbors and eventually even Flaze poking their heads in to gawk, wonder or just graze on a scene that might someday resemble their own end.
    • Introduction, p. xv
  • If, however, you discover that reads are less than sympathetic and choose to dismiss this enterprise out of hand, then may I suggest you drink plenty of wine and dance in the sheets of your wedding night, because whether you know it or not, now you are truly prosperous. They say truth stands the test of time. I can think of no greater comfort than knowing this document failed such a test.
    • Introduction, p. xix

The Navidson Record edit

  • Muss es sein?
    • German: "Must it be?"
    • Tagline.
  • Good story telling alone will guarantee a healthy sliver of popularity in the years to come but its inherent strangeness will permanently bar it from any mainstream interest.
    • Chapter 1, p. 7
  • He is not interested in showing all the coverage or attempting to capture some kind of catholic or otherwise mystical view. Instead he hunts for moments, pearls of the particular, an unexpected phone call, a burst of laughter, or some snippet of conversation which might elicit from us an emotional spark and perhaps even a bit of human understanding.
    • Chapter 2, p. 10
  • As a counselor once tole me—a Counselor For Disaffected Youth, I might add: "You like that crap because it reminds you of you."
    • Chapter 3, p. 21
  • Crazier still, I've just now been wondering if something about this passage may have actually affected me, which I know doesn't exactly follow, especially since that would imply something in it really does make sense, and I just got finished calling it non-sense.
    • Chapter 4, p. 25
  • To get a better idea try this: focus on these words, and whatever you do don't let your eyes wander past the perimeter of this page. Now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of you, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can't see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence. Find those pockets without sound. That's where it is. Right at this moment. But don't look. Keep your eyes here. Now take a deep breath. Go ahead, take an even deeper one. Only this time as you exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it's gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?, don't worry, that particular detail doesn't matter, because before you have time to process that you should be moving, you should be running, you should at the very least be flinging up your arms–you sure as hell should be getting rid of this book—you won't have time to even scream.
    Don't look.
    I didn't.
    Of course I looked.
    I looked so fucking fast I should of ended up wearing one of those neck braces for whiplash.
    • Chapter 4, p. 27
  • The following day both Karen and Will pursue the most rational course: they acquire the architectural blueprints from their local real estate office. As might have been expected, these blueprints are not actual building plans but drawn up in 1981 when former owners soon sold the property, claiming they needed something "a little smaller".
    • Chapter 4, p. 29
  • [...] having to decide between old man Z and his story is an artificial, maybe even dangerous choice, and one I'm obviously not comfortable making. The way I figure it, if there's something you find irksome—go ahead and skip it. I couldn't care less how you read any of this.
    • Chapter 4, p. 31
  • Les jeux sont faits. Nous sommes fucked."
    • French: "The game is set. We are fucked."
    • Chapter 4, p. 38
  • "Look to the sky, look to yourself and remember: we are only God’s echoes and God is Narcissus."56
    • Chapter 5, p. 45
    • Footnote 56 attributes to Hanson Edwin Rose, Creationist Myths.
  • Why did God create a dual universe?
    So he might say,
    “Be not like me. I am alone.”
    And it might be heard.
    • p. 45
  • Not seeing the rip doesn’t mean you automatically get to keep clear of the Hey-I’m-Bleeding part.
    • Chapter 5, p. 49
  • "[...]'Why won't you listen to me?' I demanded one time. 'You're writing like a freshman.' And he replied—I remember this very distinctly: 'We always look for doctors but sometimes we're lucky to find a frosh.' And then he chuckled again and pressed on." Not a bad way to respond to this whole fucking book, if you ask me.
    • Chapter 5, p. 55
  • Known.
    Without meaning—I'm afraid not.
    • The words are a reproduction of the Latin: Non sum qualis eram. "I am not what I used to be."
    • Chapter 5, p. 71
  • I felt like such an idiot. Lude had warned me I'd be certifiable if I showed it to her. Maybe I am. I actually believed it would touch her in some absurd way. But to hear her laugh like that really fucked me up. I should of stayed away from such flights of fancy, stuck to my regular made-up stories.
    • Chapter 6, Endnotes, p. 76
  • Zampanò liked animals. Far away. All those cats he would talk to in that weedy courtyard. At dawn. At night. So many shades slinking out from under that dusty place like years, his years, could they be like my years too? though certainly not so many, not like him, years and years of them, always rubbing up against his legs, and I see it all so clearly now, static announcements that yes! hmmm, how shocking, they still are there, disconnected but vital, the way memories reveal their life by simply appearing, sprinting out from under the shadows, paws!-patter-paws-paws!, pausing then to rub up against our legs, zap! senile sparks perhaps but ah yes still there, and I'm thinking, has another year resolved in song?-- though let me not get too far from myself, they were after all only cats, quadruped mice-devouring mote-chasing shades, Felis catus, with very little to remind them of themselves or their past or even their tomorrows, especially when the present burns hot with play, their pursuits and their fear, a bright flash to pursue (sun a star on a nothing's back), a dark slash to escape (there are always predators...), the spry interplay of hidden things and visible wings flung upon that great black sail of rods and cones, thin and fractionary, a covenant of light, Ark for the instant, echoing out of the dark and the Other, harmonizing with the crack-brack-crisp-tricks of every broken leaf of grass or displaced stick, and so thrust by shadow and the vague hope of color, into a rhapsody of motion and meaning, albeit momentary, pupil pulling wider, wider still, and darker, receiving all of it, and even more of it, though still only beholding some of it, until in the frenzy of reception, this mote-clawing hawk-fearing shade loses itself in temporary madness, leaping, springing, flinging itself after it all, as if it were possessed (and it is); as if that kind of physical response could approximate the witnessed world, which it can't, though very little matters enough to prevent the try-- all of which is to say, in the end, they are only cats but cats to talk to just the same before in their own weaving and wending, they Kilkenny-disappear, just as they first appeared, out of nowhere, vanishing back into the nowhere, tales from some great story we will never see but one day just might imagine (which in the grey of gentler eyes will prove far more than any of us will ever need; "enough," we will shout, "enough!" our bellies full, our hearts full, our ages full; fullness and greater fullness and even more fullness; how then we will laugh and forget how the imagining has already left us) slinking back into that place of urban barley, grass, fennel, and wheat, or just plain hay, golden hay, where--Hey! Hey! Hey-hey! Hay days gone by, bye-bye, gone way way away."
    • Chapter 6, Endnotes, p. 77
  • And so now, in the shadow of unspoken events, I watch Zampanò's courtyard darken.
    Everything whimsical has left.
    I try to study the light-going carefully. From my room. In the glass of memory. In the moonstream of my imagination. The weeds, the windows, every bench.
    But the old man is not there, and the cats are all gone.
    Something else has taken their place. Something I am unable to see. Waiting.
    I'm afraid.
    It is hungry. It is immortal.

    Worse, it knows nothing of whim.
    • Chapter 6, Endnotes, p. 78-79
  • Sleep never really arrives. Not even rest. There's no satisfaction anymore.
    • Chapter 7, p. 90
  • A wild ode mentioned at New West hotel over wine infusions, light, lit, lofted on very entertaining moods, yawning in return, open nights, inviting everyone's song, with me losing myself in such a dream, over and over again too,[...]
    • Chapter 9, p. 117
  • "Don't be ridiculous," Jed says, starting to raise his voice. "You're not gonna go to jail. But if you sit there and let Wax die, for that they'll lock you up for life. And I'll make sure they throw away the fucking key.
    • Chapter 9, p. 127
  • Scars are the paler pain of survival, received unwillingly and displayed in the language of injury.
    • Chapter 9, p. 130
  • "In the future, readers of newspapers and magazines will probably view news pictures more as illustrations than as reportage, since they will be well aware that they can no longer distinguish between a genuine image and one that has been manipulated.[...]"
    • Chapter 9, p. 141
  • Heart may still be the fire in hearth but I'm suddenly too cold to continue, and besides, there's no hearth here anyway and it's the end of June. Thursday. Almost noon. And all the buttons on my corduroy coat are gone. I don't know why. I'm sorry Hailey.197 I don't know what to do.
    • Chapter 9, p. 150
  • Who has never gone for a walk through some unfamiliar park and felt that it was huge, only to return a second time to discover that the park is in fact much smaller than initially perceived?
    • Chapter 10, p. 166
  • [A] multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.
    • Chapter 10, p. 167
  • The Atrocity is lost along with its secret cargo and all aboard . . . shhhhhhhhhhhh . . . and who would ever know of the pocket of air in that second hold where one man hid, having sealed the doors, creating a momentary bit of inside, a place to live in, to breathe in, a man who survived the blast and the water and instead lived to feel another kind of death, a closing in of such impenetrable darkness, far blacker than any Haitian night or recounted murder, though he did find a flashlight, not much against the darkness he could hear outside and nothing against the cold rushing in as this great coffin plummeted downwards, pressure building though not enough to kill him before the ship hit a shelf of rock and rested, knocks in the hull like divers knocking with hammers— though, he knows, there are no divers, only air bubbles and creaks lying about the future. He drops the flashlight, the bulb breaks, nothing to see anyway, losing air, losing his sense of his home, his daughters, his five blonde daughters and . . . and . . . he feels the shelf of rock give way and suddenly the ship rushes down again, no rock now, no earth, so black, and nothing to stop his final descent . . .
    • Chapter 12, p. 299-300
  • That House answers many yearnings remembered in sorrow.
    • Chapter 17, p. 387
  • Do you believe in God? I don't think I ever asked you that one. Well I do now. But my God isn't your Catholic varietal or your Judaic or Mormon or Baptist or Seventh Day Adventist or whatever / whoever. No burning brush, no angels, no cross. God's a house. Which is not to say that our house is God's house or even a house of God. What I mean to say is that our house is God.
    • Chapter 17, p. 390
  • The finest act of seeing is necessarily always the act of not seeing something else.
    • Footnotes 471, p. 422
  • Here then at long last is my darkness. No cry of light, no glimmer, not even the faintest shard of hope to break free across the hold.
    I will become, have become, a creature unstirred by history, no longer moved by the present, just hungry, blind and at long last filled of mindless wrath.
    • Chapter 21, p. 497
  • My mother is right before me now, right before you. There as the docent, as the interpreter, maybe even as this strange and tangled countryside. Her shallow face, the dark lyric in her eyes and of course her words, in those far reaching letters she used to send me when I was young, secretly alluding to how she could sit and watch the night seal the dusk, year after year, waiting it out like a cat. Or observe how words themselves can also write. Or even, in her own beautiful, and yes horrifying way, instruct me on how to murder. One day even demonstrate it.
    She is here now. She has always been here. "Beware," she might have whispered. "Another holy Other lessens your great hold on slowing time," as she would have described it, being the mad woman that she truly was.
    She could have laid this world to waste.
    Maybe she still will.
    • Chapter 21, p. 502

Exhibits and Appendices edit

  • [B]
    March 14, 1969

    Who has never killed an hour? Not casually or without thought, but carefully: a premeditated murder of minutes. The violence comes from a combination of giving up, not caring, and a resignation that getting past it is all you can hope to accomplish. So you kill the hour. You do not work, you do not read, you do not daydream. If you sleep it is not because you need to sleep. And when at last it is over, there is no evidence: no weapon, no blood, and no body. The only clue might be the shadows beneath your eyes or a terribly thin line near the corner of your mouth indicating something has been suffered, that in the privacy of your life you have lost something and the loss is too empty to share.
    • B. Bits, p. 543
  • [O]
    June 19, 1994

    Prometheus, thief of light, giver of light, bound by the gods, must have been a book.
    • B. Bits, p. 546
  • [P: Written in the margin of the December 15, 1974 entry.]
    April 3, 1995

    "Forgive me please for including this. An old man's mind is just as likely to wander as a young man's, but where a young man will forgive the stray, and old man will cut it out. Youth always tries to fill the void, and old man learns to live with it. It took me twenty years to unlearn the fortunes found in a swerve. Perhaps this is no news to you but then I have killed many men and I have both legs and I don't think I ever quite equaled the bald gnome Error who comes from his cave with featherless ankles to feast on the mighty dead."173
    • B. Bits, p. 546-7
    • Footnote 173 appears on p. 137, where the original note from Zampanò's journal appears.
  • Little solace comes
    to those who grieve
    when thoughts keep drifting
    as walls keep shifting
    and this great blue world of ours
    seems a house of leaves

    moments before the wind.
    • F. Poems, "(Untitled Fragment)", p. 563
  • Je ne vois qu'ininfi par toutes les fenêtres. — Charles Baudelair, Les Fleurs du Mal.
    • "Through all the windows I only see infinity."
    • F. Various Quotes, p. 646

External links edit

Wikipedia has an article about: