Use of Space in House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves uses space within its story and within its physical pages to mirror the reader and the book’s characters’ emotions. Passages written sideways, in different languages, and in little blue boxes are instances where the reader may feel confused having to turn the book different directions or stop to decipher a language or code, which parallels the characters’ bewilderment throughout the novel as they live in and explore the house and its labyrinth.

In Rune Garulund’s Text and Paratext in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, they state, “nevertheless, for all its adherence to postmodernist literary conventions, House of Leaves departs from these in one very significant way: for confusing as it sometimes is, it succeeds in keeping a strong narrative core, the clarity of which owes a great deal to the visual presentation of the text.” This emphasizes that however strange the upside down words or blank pages may seem, they actually engage the reader in the characters’ journeys. Not only does the audience experience the adventures of the characters of the Navidson Record, but at the same time the audience experiences Johnny Truant’s escapades in different lapses of time as the novel progresses through his footnotes.

Such as in poetry, many times in House of Leaves space is used to dictate pacing within the story. Jed’s death is an example of this, with the moments leading up to it being four to eight lines written at the bottom of otherwise blank pages, the lead-up is calm (193). Once the event happens, it is rapidly explained in gruesome yet surgical detail. The moments after seem to slow to a near-halt as the book may only have one or two words per page in the pages immediately following the scene.

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