I've journeyed a couple hundred pages deeper into House of Leaves, and if I couldn't before, I can definitely see now why some readers give up on it. Chapter IX in particular is so disjointed, and the formatting so distracting, it takes a patient and motivated reader to get through it.
That's not to say I can't appreciate what Danielewski is doing. He's writing about a house that is really a labyrinth, and making the text into a labyrinth itself is a clever way of stressing the point. The random boxes of text, the upside-down and backwards sections, the footnotes that begin to loop back on each other, all of it has the same disorienting effect on the reader that the characters experience as they explore the seemingly endless passages of the house. Frustrating though they are, the stylistic choices are effective.
Still, I didn't feel compelled to read Chapter IX with a figurative magnifying glass, analyzing every tidbit for hidden meaning. Maybe that kind of close reading would be rewarding for some readers, but for me, the goal was just to muddle through, glean what information I could, and move on with the story. House of Leaves is the kind of book that you could spend hours upon hours dissecting and analyzing if you were so inclined. Since I have plenty of other books on my plate this month, I'm going with a more middle-of-the-road approach, reading fairly quickly to maintain rhythm but stopping short of skimming.
After the chaos of Chapter IX, I found I quite enjoyed Chapter X. Again the formatting was a little strange—with only a few lines per page, I felt like I was flipping through amazingly fast after the slog of the previous chapter. It's as if Danielewski purposely accelerates the pace here, matching the breathless action of Reston and Navidson's rescue attempt with a fast and furious reading experience for his audience. I'm growing ever more aware that Danielewski isn't just telling a story, he's creating a physical experience for anyone who picks up this book. He wants us to feel what his characters feel and accomplishes that by manipulating the text on the page.
Danielewski has me hooked with the story of the Navidsons and their crazy house. I've fully bought into the mystery of a house that is constantly shapeshifting and the adventure of exploring the unknown (and possibly unknowable). I'm less enthralled by Johnny Truant's part in the drama. Most of his asides feel long and draggy to me, and other than documenting his descent into madness, I don't get the point of it all. OK, so reading Zampano's writing about the house is freaking him out. He is slowly but surely losing his mind, and on the way is making lots of bad decisions and objectifying lots of women. I get it. I'm just not convinced yet why I should care.
I'll be back in a week or so with another update on my House of Leaves progress. And by the by, if you're looking for more Halloween-themed reading, check out my recommendation for the terrifically scary horror novel Bird Box.