The Whalestoe Letters (brookeborglum and caroline yong)

Cox, Katharine. “What Has Made Me? Locating Mother in the Textual Labyrinth of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.Critical Survey 18.2, Friends and Family Figures in Contemporary Fiction (2006): 4-15.

This article focuses on how the confusing and changing layout of the labyrinth in Danielewski’s House of Leaves relates to the dysfunctional relationships between characters in the book. Specifically, Cox describes how Johnny’s perception of his mother develops as Johnny reads through The Navidson Record. Cox shows how Johnny’s analysis of Zampano’s writings allows him to reestablish memories of his mother in his mind. The article also details on how Johnny and Pelafina tie into mythological references (specifically about the Cretan labyrinth), relating them to certain characters in Greek myths. For instance Johnny is compared to Icarus while his mother, in context, refers herself as the “old Sibyl of Cumae.”

Pressman, Jessica. “House of Leaves: reading the networked novel.” Studies in American Fiction 34.1 (2006): 107+.

In this article, Pressman focuses on the supplementary texts and multimedia works which connect to Danielewski’s House of Leaves, such as The Whalestoe Letters, an album called Haunted, and different forums across the Internet. The article summarizes the background of The Whalestoe Letters and how the novella introduces two new narratives in the Foreword (Walden and Waheeda Wyrhta) as well as Pelafina Lièvre in the letters. Pressman also explains the placement of certain “clues,” such as altered typography, throughout the external texts for the purpose of analysis and decoding in order for readers to interact with the story outside of just reading the original book.

Timmer, Nicoline. “Johnny T.” Do You Feel It Too? The Post-Postmodern Syndrome in American Fiction at the Turn of the Millennium. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. 243-297. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 360. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2014.

In this essay, Timmer discusses Danielewski’s use of multiple narrators connected to each other in House of Leaves while leaving room for an extra narrative— the voices and analyses of the readers. One specific section of the essay called “The Madmother in the Attic,” Timmer refers to The Whalestoe Letters in order to describe the relationship between Johnny Truant and his mother, Pelafina Lièvre. The essay zooms in on how Pelafina’s voice, through her letters to Johnny, impacts her son’s own prose style and uneasy emotional states. Timmer also touches on the possible burden Pelafina puts on her son whenever she expresses her intense need to hang onto Johnny while she is locked away in the Whalestoe Institute.

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