My Unpredictable Love-Hate Relationship with Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves was one of the most memorable reads I've experienced over the past fifteen years.

poster by Justin Fetters
I've been surprised hearing how many people in my online circles disliked it; viewed it as a husk of a book, like some coconut drained of its milk, devoid of depth, vacuous, second-rate writing dressed up in the glitz of precious experimentation to disguise the poor quality of its plot and prose.  The critics cited the over-the-top textual formatting that required the book be turned sideways or upside-down or sometimes reflected in a mirror in order to read it, among other "innovations" or what they'd more likely term "gimmicks," as rationale for their disdain.

When these criticisms laid out above are levied at Mark Z. Danielewski's follow up novel, Only Revolutions, I'd question the critic why exactly he or she were being so nice to what I'd describe as a maddeningly frustrating anomaly of a novel, a book so difficult to parse for pleasure it might as well be championed the 21st century's Finnegans Wake.  But some people loved it.  I happened to hate it, yet loved House of Leaves.

Learning this morning of Danielewski's forthcoming twenty-seven part serial-novel, The Familiar, to be published in 2014, and for which he's already been paid one million dollars (at least for its first ten installments), I absolutely cannot predict whether I'll love or hate it.  Had I learned this morning instead of the latest pending release from a William T. Vollmann or Denis Johnson or Joan Didion, predicting would be easy: I'd of course love them absolutely no questions asked!  Not so, the more mysterious and enigmatic Mark Z. Danielewski.

Love or hate his novels, I'm unwaveringly wowed by his unpredictability.

L.A. Times Jacket Copy Article on The Familiar


  1. I felt the way the critics you cite felt about House of Leaves. So much so, that I barely got any way at all into it before abandoning it. Couldn't even look at Only Revolutions when it came out. Now another book? Blech.

    I am so vanilla.

  2. Yeah but vanilla is good!

    I'm just a geek for odd textual formatting. Danielewski took what Raymond Federman and William H. Gass had done and completely blew the roof off the house so to speak. I suspect that w/out the gimmicks, reading most of the prose of House of Leaves straight, except for a section at the end of the novel that was noticeably amped up a notch and was just lush and hypnotic, would reveal a certain hollowness to his house that is hidden by the language labyrinths.


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