Footnotes in House of Leaves

A book designed perhaps just to be as complicated as possible, Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000) is a puzzle of sorts, with layers that must be solved before other sections can be viewed clearly. One of the main ways in which a puzzle is presented is that of the footnotes by “author” Johnny Truant. The fictional character that splits his time between compiling a dead man’s life work and nights of binging on alcohol and drugs is a complex point of access to the intentions of this book. Written as a man plagued by perhaps some very serious mental conditions, Truant’s voice is heard almost purely as footnotes in the text. In these footnotes he often goes on long seemingly unrelated tangents. A first glance at these ramblings would assume them to be just the ramblings of a man highly distracted from his work, but knowing the context of the text and the vision with which it was made one can assume that there is some greater meaning to these drawn out passages. With Zampano dead Johnny is the most direct point of access to the manuscript and therefore the way in which he is established as a character can add a great deal of context to the story. Much as the house drives the residents and their friends crazy the writings seem to drive Johnny into some disconnected state when he is studying them. This fascination goes beyond normal boundaries, perhaps approaching obsession at times. It is never clearly stated whether Johnny’s lack of focus can be attributed to the writings, drug use, or just some mental handicap left untreated but this ambiguity serves the same purpose as much of the rest of Danielewski’s tricks to make the book into a riddle. The main focuses of further work on this topic will be delving into possible parts of the manuscript that spark Johnny’s tangents as well as the reverse in how the footnotes provide a deeper understanding of the main text.

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