House of Leaves

It starts in Courier. It starts as story. And if there hadn't been the 700-page-promis of a formal mindfuck without compare, this beginning would not necessarily have convinced me to keep reading.
But the text breaks out of both mode an content: Times. Academic film analysis. I notice my reading behaviour change. For years of cultural studies slow down my gaze, make it wander more carefully over the words and cling to terms and definitions.
"Rather nicley readable," my mind judges in pavlovian reflex, "compared to Heidegger, that is."


"I'm a book," says the book.
"Yes," I say, "I know. But thanks for the reminder."
It keeps doing that. Reminding me, that there is more to this.

Quote by Heidegger.
I smirk.

The fictional documentary presented here plays out in clinical analytical distance, which makes the horror that threatens to claw its way through the text seem like a controllable, far-away object¹.
The film, the text, the commentary describes the House: A surreal monster suspending the rules of time and space. A nightmarish real estate in which black, endless corridors and rooms open up, seemingly and blasphemously ignorant of the sacred rules of physics. A team of  scouts set out to master the darkness².
It is the first time that the belly of the House is described in such detail. By listing what is missing in a blue-rimmed box in the middle of the text.

The box is also there on the next page, but its content is mirror-inverted. In there is a list of building and decore elements. I scroll forth, I scroll back.

The textarea suddenly shrinks. A list of buildings on the left, a list of builders on the right. I scroll forth, I scroll back. I'm irritated. This is pointless. Completely pointless.

Whatever, I think, I'll focus on the main text.

But there is less of that on the pages. My turning of the pages grows fater.
Footnote in the upper left corner, turned by 90°³. There are still walls of listings left and right, interior decoration in the blue box. My subconscious whispers that the description of the film has been strangely scenic for some pages now.


"Not now!", I want to scream, but I read on, because I must read on in order to get out of here.

Running text.
Above, below, turned, upside-down, refering on each other, foth and back.

I fall back into my chair. My heart is racing, my breathing goes faster than it normally does. I don't know what to do.
I look at the clock, just to make sure. There is still time. Almost an hour.
But to keep reading? Impossible.
I do the only thing a humanist can do when she's confused by a medial artefact. I analyse my own reading behaviour and the reason I just can't read any longer. That's when a passage from the chapter before comes to my mind:

"Irrgartenläufer, deren Blick voraus und rückwärts strikt begrenzt und fragmentiert ist, werden von Verwirrung heimgesucht [...] Zumal man nicht vergessen darf, dass die Verausgabung [...] ein Problem darstellt, das stets untrennbar mit dazu gehört, wenn man auf einen raffiniert angelegten Irrgarten trifft. Wenn wir also entkommen wollen, sollten wir bedenken, dass wir nicht alle Pfade in Erwägung ziehen können, sondern allein diejenigen entschlüsseln müssen, die nötig sind, um wieder hinauszugelangen. Wir müssen schnell sein und dürfen uns auf keinen Fall verausgaben. Doch brigt, wie Seneca uns im 44. Brief seiner Epistulae morales mahnt, auch ein zu schnelles Vorgehen gewisse Risiken in sich:

Quod evenit in labyrintho properantibus:
ipsa illos velocitas inplicat.

[Das eben geschieht den Menschen, die in einem Irrgarten hastig werden: Eben die Eile führt immer tiefer in die Irre.]ª

I can imagine its gloating smirk. "See what I did there?"
"You mean, self-referential bastard."
"I don't know, what you're talking about. I'm just a three-dimensional object which is bigger inside than on the outside."

It has built me walls of absurdity. It has shrunk my field of vision. It has questioned my ideas of what a text can and cannot do. I ran into the labyrinth and panicked. I only stopped when there where to many branches to choose from.

"What the Fuck!", I scold it. "You're a book!"
An innocent shrug. "I don't know. Am I?"

Hands shaking, I close the book. In front of me, I see a pandemonium of bare floors, stairs and corridors..
"The Ruhr-University", I ponder, "is not the right place to read this book."

I'm on page 175. I'm scared.

¹Something lurks underneath the vulnerable surface of letters. It doesn't have a name yet.
There is more to this.

It never fails to remind me.
²Before this, the author inserts a cultural history of the idea and implications of the labyrinth, mainly in crossed-out footnotes.
³Something secreams inside of me.
ªDANIELEWSKI, Mark Z.: Das Haus. House of Leaves. von Zampanò mit einer Einleitung und Anmerkungen von Johnny Truant. 1. genehmigte Taschenbuchausgabe btb-Verlag. München, 2009. S. 150ff.*
*Something about having to run in a labyrinth but haste being the thing that makes it impossible to escape. I could'n find someone to translate it. Although I knew that British girl once. Not the brightest lad, but great legs and ______________________________


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