One of the weirdest books you’ll ever read and it looks like he put a tremendous effort into pulling it off. Does he succeed? Not for me, he doesn’t.
This book screams gimmick from the very get go. You can’t help but pull it off the shelf and leaf through it, so bizarre is its layout. While it starts off in a reasonably orthodox style and layout, things start to get increasingly weird as Danielewski starts mucking around with fonts, colours (in my edition), page layout and blurring the lines between fictitious non-fiction.
It starts out really well with a guy discovering a whole bunch of writings some old recluse left when he died. The story then splits into the guy writing about his own life and the story he’s attempting to piece together from these writings. At this point, you’re entirely hooked. Danielewski has got you turning pages like there’s no tomorrow… then it all kind of pans into nothingness.
While “House of leaves” is an obvious metaphor for a book, there is an actual house which forms the central character of the book. But if you know anything at all about The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist, you’ll know that there’s little original here.
Danielewski has simply taken the plot of many a horror story with a suburban family settling into a new home with their kids and dog and then decided to let a monkey manage the typesetting.
Meanwhile the house demonstrates no respect for the normal dimensions of space. The sequences where owner Will Navidson and his intrepid friends attempt to map these dimensions are the best bits and, early on, I actually thought this book might scare me. Unfortunately, it did not, mostly because nothing really happens which after building so much suspense was, well, unforgivable really.
I think Danielewski had a real chance to write a fantastic horror story here. Instead, I think creativity with the scissors got in the way of creativity with the plot.