House of Leaves, Media, and Telephone

Disclaimer: You are reading one of my early blog posts for a class and will have no context for what I’m about to say. For that, I apologize

House of Leaves and our discussion of it on Thursday reminds me of the game of telephone.  Every time a story switches hands/media, there is a chance for things to be added or taken out.

So, the original story is the one that Navidson and his family experience from actually living in this house.  When that reality is chopped up and shown through the limited scope of film, the story changes.

As Zampano watches the film, he transfers the story into a new medium–printed narration of the events shows.  That changes the story again. Of course, we miss out on the wealth of things that might have added to our experience of the story if we were actually there in Navidson’s house–clues from peripheral vision, the clarity of external noise, a general sense of place.  We also lose a kind of depth of experience which we might have gotten from the film–the color scheme of the room, the texture of the furniture, the striking effect of visually seeing the bookshelf warped, etc.  Yet we might gain something from Zampano’s dedication to the narration–maybe he catches something mumbled that we wouldn’t have noticed if we were listening.  We get the possible benefit of his acting like a filter, straining out the many stimuli that would have been fired at us if we were watching the entire film, making it easier to concentrate on pieces of the art (which reminds me of “Ways of Seeing” and how this can be good or bad.)  The fact that Zampano is even writing such an extensive piece on Navidson’s story makes it seem very important.  People might put greater weight on the value of the Navidson story because Zampano wrote so much about it.  The story changes because we believe that, since Zampano viewed it analytically, it is worth viewing analytically.  And, when our goal is to analyze, we see a story differently than we do if our goal is entertainment.

Then, as his written form is published, we have more levels of “telephone”–we trust that the editors Truant and the characters called “the editors” have kept all of Zampano’s original text, but we don’t know that they have.  We also don’t know what is missing from Zampano’s original manuscript as found by Truant.  The added effect of footnotes also changes the story.  It  adds Truant’s story, for one thing.  It also adds weight to Zampano’s story (which, as discussed, adds weight to Navidson’s story)–because there are so many footnotes and editors, it makes Zampano’s text seem so important it is worth analyzing or even obsessing over.

The same thing happens with Truant’s additions to the text.  Because the actual editors at Pantheon left his text in and chose to publish the book, we see Truant’s part in the story as necessary to the plot.  We assume he is worth getting to know as a character, and he becomes a vital part of Navidson’s/Zampano’s story as we experience it.

All of this takes us pretty far away from the original story at Navidson’s house.  But that’s not necessary a bad thing. It’s just an interesting thing.

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