“This is not for you.”
That’s the first line you read in the novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. If you’re a Christian, that line may very well be true.
First let me say that the book is an incredibly innovative idea that was pulled off well. I can summarize the layout of the book like this:
Imagine you’re reading a scholarly work, maybe it’s a philosophy doctoral thesis, and it’s about a movie that took the world by storm: The Navidson Record. The movie is a documentary (i.e., a “true” story) about a family that moves into a house, and wakes up one morning to find a cold, unlit hallway behind a door that was never there before; the hallway is much longer than the length of the house. Upon exploration, this hallway leads to several other dark, mammoth rooms (much larger than the house itself) and a spiral staircase that leads miles and miles down. The scholar, Zampanó, has hundreds of footnotes from other various interpretations about key scenes from the film that he either agrees with or disagrees with. Interesting, huh? There’s one problem: the movie doesn’t exist, no one’s ever heard of it or the people in it, so half of these footnotes are made up. Now add another person, Johnny Truant, who has found this scholarly manuscript in the home of the now dead author. He is compiling it and he adds his own footnotes along the way. In fact, half of the book is his story, intertwined with the first. (They change the font so you know when he speaks.) He goes crazy from reading the manuscript. (You’re supposed to go crazy, too.) Of course, this guy is not real. (It is a novel, after all.) Also, there are “the editors” who are compiling both works together in one book, and they add the occasional footnote. They’re not real either. Finally, there are 3 appendices that are supposed to be bits and pieces that couldn’t be worked into the rest or that add background information. Confusing? To say the least! There’s more!