House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)

At 709 pages, this is the longest book I've read for the 95 Books Challenge. House of Leaves is a fascinating, flawed, and ambitious novel. Most of the novel concerns a mise en abyme story-within-a-story about a house that is larger on the inside than on the outside. It's a simple, gothic concept that Danielewski exploits to tremendous effect, and the result is a book about a fictitious film exploring this house, one that read like a Borgesian nightmare. The framing story, about an odd protagonist who goes by Johnny Truant, is rather melodramatic and was a bit of a slog, but the main storyline about the house is stunning, and simply gripping. Danielewski also plays around with the typography to incorporate filmic and other visual elements into the novel, which works incredibly well in parts. Ultimately, I wish more books like this were published these days, books that takes risks and layer their narratives — although there are real flaws in House of Leaves, it possesses a vigour and ambition that I find lacking too often in novels these days.

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Jonathan Ball is a writer, filmmaker, and scholar living at www.jonathanball.com.

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