by: Matthew Scrivner
is marginalized as genre, and no one (besides genre authors
themselves) has bothered to ask some really interesting
questions about it. Like, what makes something scary?
Is fear internal or external, a part of us, or totally
apart from us so that we reject it for it's very alien
nature? What does what someone fears imply about that
person? What happens to someone who faces his or her fear?
Are the things we fear reflections of personal struggles
or do they symbolize some sort of greater social or cultural
struggle? Is horror something bigger than mere fear? Is
the truly horrifying, as H.P. Lovecraft would have it,
the result of confronting the vast, the alien and unknowable?
This book addresses all of this on multiple levels, and
in a format that is challenging and carefully conceived.
Not an easy read, but for the patient, there is much to
House of Leaves is meta-horror,
a horror story that is oddly self-aware, self-referential,
self-contained, a place where even the printing of the
book, the appearance of the sentences on the pages, directly
reflect the horror content. What the hell does that mean?
Ok well first, the underlying story: A young family moves
to suburbia and discovers that their house
is expanding and shifting of it's own accord, is bigger
on the inside than is physically possible from the outside.
A hallway opens up on the living room wall one evening
and leads into a seemingly endless maze of black corridors
and hallways. The characters decide to explore. The result,
as you can imagine, is horrible.
Juxtaposed to this internal idea of labyrinths is text
that is labyrinthine, that wanders every vertical and
horizontal direction across the page, in some sections
you literally have to hold the book to a mirror to read
the intentionally backwards printing. Every single instance
of the word "house"
throughout the book is printed in blue while the rest
of the text is black. Why? This book is a puzzle. The
reward for completing it is, in this case, directly proportional
to the energy expended seeking answers.
What sort of answers? Here's one of the more abstract
examples: One of the things that makes an incident or
locale horrifying is what it implies about the world itself.
Not only that there can be scary things, or that we know
fear, but that even equipped with scholarship and art
and media (film and photography playing such a huge role
in the book) we still cannot control, understand, or even
approach why some things are inherently terrifying.