The House as a Inkblot

The act of reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves requires the reader to abandon any certainty in the idea of certainty. The degrees of separation between the house found in the Navidson Record and the reader creates a sense of skepticism in the ability to effectively communicate anything meaningful about the house. From the very beginning we understand the impossibility of reaching an absolute truth, as the entire novel is centered on a film adaptation of a fictional movie dictated by a blind man. Yet even when one accepts these certain impossibilities, our understanding of the House of Leaves isn’t truly our own, as it is inextricably bounded to the other voices in the Navidson Record, be it Zampano, Johnny, or the score of footnoted authors. In this way the reader is asked to make sense of a giant game of telephone, or more accurately a conference call, but the source itself (the house) may not even be something that can be coherently defined or understood.

Even in this mess of impossibility and ambiguity, the reader continues in his attempt to understand. The act of reading implies an intention to seek order, or at least a sense of closure. And so the various interpretations of the voices presented to us in the Navidson Record begin to take on a new meaning, as each can be seen as an individual’s attempt to define the emptiness of the house. As the house stubbornly refuses to offer up anything concrete, each interpretation of that darkness can be seen as a manifestation of the interpreter. In this way the interpretations are more revealing of the interpreter than the object being interpreted. As Zampano himself says, the house acts as a sort of Rorschach test, with each voice filling that empty space with their unique context.

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