1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    "House of Leaves" and the rules of writing

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Steerpike, Jan 26, 2012.

    I've been reading (and enjoying) House of Leaves, the debut novel by writer Mark Z. Danielewski, recommended to me by our own Lemex. The novel is quite unconventional. It is full of footnotes, and while many of them are academic-style footnotes there is actually a story going on in the footnotes that runs in parallel to the main narrative. In some places, an entry in the footnotes will extend over a few pages, and then the main narrative picks up again at the top of the page. The story in the footnotes employs unusual fonts at times, as well as words spaced in such a manner as to create a visual effect, words turned in their oritentation the pages, pages with a lot of white space and only a few words, and so on. Earlier this evening I reached a point where two pages of text were in red font with a strikethrough running through all of it (supposed to be material redacted from the original work that Danielewski put back in; but there is no "original" work, it is just part of how the novel is written). The word "house" appears in a blue font in many places throughout the text.

    I have found the book to be quite good, and 120 pages in it has never failed to hold my interest. It was a bestseller and the NY Book Review said of it: "Funny, moving, sexy, beautifully told, an elaborate engagement with the shape and meaning of narrative."

    And again, this is a debut novel, not something done by an established author who can play on his name.

    Makes one wonder whether one can ever legitimately use the words "you can't" when advising another person on how to write fiction.
     
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  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting. I guess you can't. Sounds like this novel broke quite a few of the common "rules", but as long as you break them with style... :)
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Which publisher published this? It would be interesting to know which publishing houses are willing to take on new writers with new kinds of novels.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Pantheon Books, a division of Random House. Random House also published it in Canada.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    **ignore**
     
  6. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    This. I *hate* waiting for the sequels to come out. Who has no patience? This girl.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Me too jc :) Sorry for posting that in the wrong thread!
     
  8. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    LOL!! I got really confused when I saw that same exact reply in the other guy's post. Then I realized my error, as well.
     
  9. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    Am a girl. :(
    Haha, thread confusion.
     
  10. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    I've heard a lot about this book. Really wanna read it :(
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It is a good book. If you brought even a short segment to a writing critique group, it would be pronounced unsalable by most. Which makes it a good illustration of what can go wrong in critique groups. The number one issue for a critiquer should be whether the piece in question works. Most of the time, you just see comments about things like passive voice or show don't tell, which are easy to say and almost entirely useless unless the critiquer has also considered whether it works. A pet peeve.
     
  12. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've only ever seen my friend's copy of it... Can't tell if the water-damage was part of the book or not :p It seemed as much a feature as anything else in there.

    Obviously I only looked at random pages of it, I didn't sit down to try and read and understand it properly. I probably should one day. :D I hear people mention it a lot, and it looked interesting... Just need to get hold of a copy of it myself.

    Anyways, it's interesting that something like this can get published, but everything I've heard about it makes it seem really clever and intelligently plotted... I don't know honestly how many people could produce something like it. Without reading it, I can still say I don't think tooo many knock offs like it will appear in the same style. :p

    But it is nice to know unconventional stuff can still get published... if it's good.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Hey Melzaar. I haven't noticed water damage, so that must have come later, but maybe Danielewski should have thought of it!

    It would be interesting to learn of the novel's journey to publication. I'd like to be able to trace the process from beginning to end just to see how that book ended up on the shelf at the bookstore.

    EDIT: Post #3000!
     
  14. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was a good touch. :p If I get a copy maybe I should leave it on the shelf above the kettle for a day before I start reading... :p
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    House of Leaves rules! ;)
     
  16. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Anyone knows what the Z. stands for in this author's name ?
    I can only find Mark Danielewski.
     
  17. dred
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    dred Member

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    I have just ordered this book. I have heard many things about this book, mostly positive, and many claim it to be the best book they have read.

    Looking forward to reading it.
     
  18. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You can totally break rules of writing. Sentence structure, active/passive voice, punctuation usage, all those things can create different moods. For example, choppy sentences create a choppy/panicky feel, so if you're writing such a scene it's totally okay to use lots of fragments, even though they're technically grammatically correct.

    It's just that you have to know your grammar really well before you do this, because there's huge difference between being grammatically incorrect on purpose to break a rule for a specific intent and just not knowing grammar. Breaking rules is about mechanics, so you have to be a mechanics expert first.
     
  19. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Shamefully reviving this thread to see if anyone might be interested in House of Leaves still. It really is a fantastic novel and I recommend it to you all. :)
     
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  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I concur. Nice job with the font.
     
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  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've always been interested but I scare too easy so I don't want to read it for fear of getting too scared lol. It's also one of those books that you really should read as a paperback right? I hear the formatting is quite unique?
     
  22. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'm not easily scared and the novel honestly freaked me out. The formatting is the most unique thing I've ever seen too, I mean, this happens:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I tried reading this but couldn't get it done in the time I took it out at the library. Maybe I'll try it again. I wonder if the author thinks ahead of time how he want's to mess up his text or what. I once thought it would be cool to do an argument with the type overlapping the man and woman's dialogue.
     
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  24. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    What a good and interesting idea!
     
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  25. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If you want to make it realistic, the woman's font should be in bold and 24 size font.
     
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