Well, here we go. The first parts of House of Leaves. I know I said I’d only do one chapter/part per post, but the foreword is literally a few sentences, so I don’t feel too guilty.
So the foreword is all very business-like notes from the editors, followed by the words:
- “This is not for you.”
The intro starts with what I assume is our narrator talking about how he get nightmares, followed by a rather worrying list of drugs. How has he not killed himself already? Anyway, he goes on to start talking about how he started getting these nightmares. And I must admit, though it’s only the first proper page, I rather like this narrator. How can you not like a character who says this upon hearing his landlord state that he is Charles de Gaulle:
- “…in my humble estimation he did not at all resemble an airport though the thought of a 757 landing on him was not at all disagreeable.”
The fact that the fate of his previous apartment (burned down by aforementioned crazy landlord) is delivered in such a matter-of-fact way only makes this better in a way; firstly because it’s an absurd image and secondly because if he can look at stuff like this in a neutral way, when the really weird stuff starts happening it’ll really stand out.
In any case, he gets into a new apartment after an old man named Zampano dies. One who doesn’t seem to have any documentation stating he’s a real person. Because of course the uncertainty has to be brought in early. Considering the importance Zampano seems to have to the story (according the the blurb anyway), his first appearance struck me as kind of disappointing; quite what I was expecting from a dead man I don’t know, but I guess I imagined his death would be more…supernatural I guess. But no, looks like it was just the day he was meant to go.
And now there’s mention of an “awful discovery”. And of course that simultaneously rings alarm bells and brings out the rubbernecker in me; so sue me, I’m only human.
First we hear about the cats that hung around Zampano when he was alive slowly disappearing, sometimes turning up dead in rather gruesome ways. Lovely. Secondly, claw marks next to his body. Because of course that isn’t suspicious. Although considering Zampano’s apartment, maybe not:
- “All the windows were nailed shut and sealed with caulking. The front entrance and courtyard doors all storm-proofed. Even the vents were covered with duct tape.”
That’s just a bit weird. As we get onto Zampano’s notebooks, the real reason our narrator is in the room, things start getting really creepy. You know when films want something to seem crazy by having them write all over the walls? These notebooks bring that to mind with me; I mean, you can tell just as much about a person and their message by how they write as you do by what they write.
So our narrator takes them home, because all main characters have to be an idiot in some way to get the story rolling, and starts going crazy. Nothing big, just making sure that the space that he’s living in is constant; somehow that’s a scarier thought that simply going postal.
Hang on a second…..
- “I haven’t even washed the blood off yet.”
Hold the phone. When did blood start coming into it? Now he really has gone postal as well, hasn’t he? Or not. He hasn’t killed anyone (I think), so where did the blood come from? But of course my questions are left unanswered as he goes on to talk about publishing Zampano’s account (ignoring the fact that it’s driving him crazy) and his emphasis on light, contrast, darkness and all other things concerned with sight. Impressive stuff for someone who is:
- “…blind as a bat.”
So by all accounts this is getting pretty eerie and I’m trying to figure out quite how the logistics are working with that whole “writing while blind” trick, but the narrator hopes that we just ignore this set of documents. But of course I won’t, seeing as I’ve paid for the book and there doesn’t seem much point at this stage and in any case the narrator, revealed to be called Johnny Truant (possibly the coolest character name I’ve come across in a long long time), thinks that it will linger on, causing you to doubt all you ever were.
It’s an interesting beginning to a book and has already brought up some very interesting issues, the main one being perception. And it does have a point, eerie as it may be; how can we know what we truly are, when all views are subjective? Change one tiny part in your perception and things can take on a whole new light. I’m looking forward to how they elaborate that theme later on in the narrative.
So, wishing you all a happy new year,