Scariest. Book. Ever. – “House of Leaves” by Mark Danielewski

Reading “House of Leaves” is one of those experiences with literature that are few and far between.

I’ve read a lot of horror literature in my life, and yet very little of it truly terrified me.

Monsters and demons and werewolves and vampires don’t really scare me.  While fascinating and wonderful to create stories around, there isn’t much shock value left in them, as far as I’m concerned.

“House of Leaves” is, hands down, the scariest book I’ve ever read.

Reading it reminded me of the first time I saw “The Blair Witch Project,” before it was revealed that it was actually a movie with actors.  At the time, fooled by hype and that danged Sci-fi channel “special,” I went into “..Blair Witch..” thinking I was seeing a documentary about some people who were really and truly killed by mysterious tent-rattling weirdness in the woods, and it wrecked me.

(Then two days later, I saw Heather and Josh from the movie on Regis and Kathie Lee, and the magic was gone…but far be it for me to digress from the topic at hand.)

Within “House of Leaves” there’s a lot going on.

You first have the narrative of Johnny Truant, the tattoo-parlor worker who moves into an apartment vacated by the recent death of a mysterious old man.  In the apartment, Truant finds a collection of papers – a scholarly exploration of an underground documentary called “The Navidson Record.”  Within these papers, we get a detailed analysis of said documentary – which is about Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Will Navidson and his wife and children leaving their fast-paced lives behind to move into a country house. Upon moving into the house, they realize things are weird.  As in, the house is moving around them.    Walls and doors literally appear and move in the blink of an eye right around the inhabitants of the house.  One door in particular leads to a hallway that sometimes is the size of a closet, and sometimes stretches for imperceptible miles.

I’ll stop with the plot synopsis here, but please note it goes so much darker and deeper than that. You’re going to have to read it for yourselves, though.  I refuse to spoil this amazing book for anyone.  Weird things happen – then weirder things happen.  It’s kind of relentless – for just as you think there’s a resolution, something else happens.  The Navidson and Truant storylines basically batter the reader until you’re just plain scared.

Mark Danielewski is out-of-this-world as a writer.  “House of Leaves” isn’t a plain, narrative-driven, straightforward novel.  One review I read called it an experimental novel, which I think might be the only way to explain the way these pages work.

The text of Truant’s narrative and the Navidson papers often exist on the same page.  There are copious footnotes, some of which are nonsensical.  Also, at some occasions you literally have to hold the book upside down to read.  There are also pages that contain only one or two words.

Owing to it’s clever layout, it’s far from being an easy read.  However, all the effort is completely worth it.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a book.

It’s a nightmare book.


About JamieP

Books. Adventures. Chicago. Married. Mommy. Cat.

Posted on October 12, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hey Jamie, I love the new blog! I’ve been following along and took note when you asked for scary book recommendations. As a result, I also grabbed a copy of House of Leaves and am about 1/2 way finished. I’m with you — I’m completely terrified. I think I’m cool, but then I turn the lights out in my bedroom and my mind just starts playing tricks on me. Thanks for the great recommendation, I can’t wait to finish it!

  2. Ok. This is next on my list after I finish “Room” (only 30 pages left!)

  3. Elizabeth Kennedy

    Great review of one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. My copy is dog eared and torn from multiple reads and being lent out to friends. So glad you enjoyed it!

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