A Few Blue Reflections
The first time I read House of Leaves, I felt like I had been handed a textbook with no spine, none of its pages numbered, graphs and charts without tidy explanations at the bottom, and you get the idea.
The second time around, however, I find I can enjoy the book a lot more because I don’t feel guilty about skipping whole chunks of it. I approach any fiction book with the mentality that I have to read every single word on the page, but House of Leaves blew that mentality right out of the water. Take for instance all those lists of house parts, styles of houses and lists of photographers. Do I have to read those? Of course not! Just as I didn’t have to read all the footnotes, or keep flipping back and forth between pages when they requested it. I could simply ignore such requests and skip over many of the footnotes entirely.
In turn, the ash-colored hallways even proved to be the inspirational basis for a short story I’m working on. Never when I read it the first time did I think to branch off of Danielewski’s idea, sift it through the sieve of my own imagination, and work with what appears in my hands. That is exactly what I am doing with my story, though, and it is also what I did with the five nodes I created pretaining to House of Leaves.
When first presented with this assignment, I was thinking little beyond surface value, which is how I initally read/interpreted the book the first time around. The first node I submitted to our class Tumblr site and also A Million Blue Pages, I was simply pulling what I deemed a noteworthy quote from the book and pairing it with an appropriate image. The quote was from page 123: “Goethe once remarked…’I call architecture frozen music.’ The unfreezing of form in the Navidson house releases that music.”
Looking back on it, this is a beautiful quote that I wish I had interpreted better, and deeper. Yes, I paired it with a picture of a dilapidated Victorian with intricate fish-scale roof shingles and beautiful vergeboard on its gables, but what is beyond that? Still looking back, I’m not entirely sure why I edited the picture the way I did. Perhaps to give it a sinister look? To highlight it’s intricate details? Was it simply to make it something more than a plain, old picture stuck on the web with a mandatory quote and hashtags beneath it?
To continue with this quote for a bit longer, though. When I think of those ashen hallways, I don’t think of music, because I associate music with something beautiful, and they are anything but. However, when I looked at the last bit of that quote, “the unfreezing of form in the Navidson house releases that music,” I begin to realize it is saying all music isn’t beautiful, nor is it pleasant to listen to.
Such is the beauty of novels, once you dig deeper into them. Not only can they prove inspiration for your own work – whether it’s a short story, poem, painting, etc. – but they can also linger in your mind much like a good song. The words on the page are one dimensional – “I call architecture frozen music” – but once in your mind, they expand to infinite lengths, plunging deep into your imagination, sometimes finding a dark corner until they sense an opportune time to emerge, surprising you.
Since I’m on the topic of notable quotes from the book, I’ll talk about another which prompted the creation of a node. One quote, on page 167, talks about knowledge and how it is “hot water on wool…[shrinking] time and space.” Additionally, when it says earlier that “when revisiting places we once frequented as children, it is not unusual to observe how much smaller everything seems,” I couldn’t help but think about Stephen King’s book IT I read for a class last semester similar to the one I am currently enrolled in and completed this project for.
When the seven children returned to Derry, Maine to fight IT some twenty-something years later, they found they had a harder go of it. Their imaginations had been snapped rigid like dry-rotted rubber bands stretched tight around the bulging carton of adult responsibility. No longer did they simply believe in the creepy child-snatcher living beneath the city, nor did they fully trust Mike’s intentions when he called them back, should the killings start again.
The same can be said for Navidson himself. When he went into that ashen labyrinth with Tom and Reston to rescue Holloway, Jed and Wax, he had a much easier time descending the Spiral Staircase because he had prior knowledge of it, whereas Holloway, Jed and Wax had encountered it for the first time when they set out on their exploration mission.
Such is how I approached the creation of a node relating to this above quote on page 167. Books are synonomous with knowledge so I decided to place a small house between two pages roughly in the mdidle of the book, thus conveying that the more Navidson learned about the house on Ash Tree Lane, the smaller it became for him.
As for the A Million Blue Pages site and how it affected my reading of House of Leaves, looking at the projects posted not only by my fellow classmates, but also by people of other schools and states has helped bring some myriad ideas of the novel to the forefront of my mind. They also keep the novel itself fresh because being a visually stimulated person, when I remember an image – in other words a project – posted on the A Million Blue Pages site, I will most likely remember the idea, quote or interpretation posted along with it.
In turn, since A Million Blue Pages seperates each project by its related page number, there’s a strong possibility other contributors have posted an image/video/gif about your exact idea, or at the very least, they’ve picked a quote from the same page. On the site I’ve encountered many other projects interpreting the same quote from House of Leaves as me, and I’ve found it fascinating how each person has a different take on them and different things to say.
In the creation of my objects I chose to use pages from House of Leaves. And no, it wasn’t only because there are so many of them! To digress for a few sentences here, when I first read House of Leaves I would have never thought of tearing out its pages with an Xacto knife and using them to convey my interpretation of it. In turn, when I first started attending college here, I treated all of my required readings with reverence. No underlining, highlighting or God forbid! Writing in the margins. Yet I do all of that now, and even carve a maze over seven pages thick into the novel!
I found uses both for the pages with many words and those with hardly any. Through the creation of my five objects I’ve come to see House of Leaves as an object, which is perhaps why Danielewski laid out some of the pages the way he did.
For additional media, I also learned how to make a gif through the ds106.us website. For my first time ever making a gif, it wasn’t that complicated at all. Concerning the others, I simply used a camera, a photo editing site called ribbet.com and Tumblr to post them on the Internet. I especially liked the gif objects created by others, as the added effect of motion really brought some ideas to life.