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YMMV / House of Leaves

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Not a single character in the book that isn't subject to this, which seems to be the point of the entire book anyway, considering it's one of Danielewski's fortes. The biggest example has to be Johnny Truant himself. Does he lie to the audience, such as when he admits making up a story about recovering because of two friends, or does he lie to himself, breaking the illusion simply because of how broken he is?
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    • Invoked when the book lists three separate reasons as to why Navidson returned to the house: The Kellog-Antwerk Claim posits that Navidson returned to "reclaim" the house as his property; the Bister-Friden-Josephson Criteria claims that he became The Atoner and wanted some form of redemption for the deaths his brother, Delial, and to a lesser extent Leeder and Roberts; and finally the Haven-Slocum Theory, which outlines that Navidson's return was his attempt to calm the house to end both his bad dreams and the long-term physical and psychological impact it had on the nine or so others who had entered the house and survived.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Johnny's digressions about his and Lude's sexual exploits can seem pointless. They come out of nowhere and don't have any bearing on the story.
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  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: The book can be seen as a straight use and alternatively as a parody, to the point that it features fictitious quotes from real intellectuals like Harold Bloom and Camille Paglia speculating about the meaning of the House.
  • Genius Bonus: A brief section of musical notation is printed late in the book. It is the first line of the refrain of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (a.k.a. "The Ants Go Marching One by One"). The main narrator is called Johnny and he can be considered "lost" during most of the story.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Very early in the story (page 10 or 11), Navy throws away a bit of Karen's hair that's stuck in a brush, and Karen jokingly states that she'll go bald one day and need that hair. In the story's epilogue, she's in remission from breast cancer.
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  • Just Here for Godzilla: Yes, there's a depth of material about the life of Johnny Truant and his mother...but the Navidson Record, the most famous aspect of the book, can be read and enjoyed for the most part without even giving the framing device a second glance.
  • Paranoia Fuel: This book will make you terrified of the dark, or better yet, wondering what's behind you. Probably the most infamous part is Chapter 9, which already is taken over by Johnny's side notes and the inclusion of the red crossed out text. But then it goes into overdrive with the chapter becoming a literal labyrinth with a blue box on each page before eventually ending with..:
    • Book's formatting of the later chapters (such as Chapter 12 or 20) is where the book basically screws with your mind. You begin to feel like the characters trapped within a maze.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: For one thing, just the formatting (that Danielewski put much effort in) alone is chaotic and disorientating—deliberately, because the book is supposed to be a labyrinth just like the House itself is. Combined with the Unreliable Narrators, the copious amounts of untranslated foreign-language text, and the fact that much of the book is open to many different interpretations, it can be a confusing read.
  • The Woobie:
    • Johnny. His Sanity Slippage and increasing obsession with the book/House cause him to lose his job and home and descend into drug addiction. There seems a spot of hope at the end of the book when he tells he's recovered, but then turns out he made that up. By the end he's a Broken Bird. And all of this story happens after he had a broken childhood, with his father having died, his mother being put in an asylum, and abusive stepparents. It's more depressing that compared to the Navidsons, we don't know what becomes of Johnny aside from interpretations...
    • Seraphina. She loses her husband and can't handle that emotionally, so she's put in an asylum, away from her son. The institution is a hellhole where she's repeatedly raped and abused (though this might also be her imagination... remember that to her it still is real). She tries to let her son know of the abuse in her letters, but he doesn't visit her, or mabye doesn't even write back.
    • The Navidsons as a whole are a family of woobies: Will struggles with trying to be with his family but his obsession with capturing everything strains it, Karen suffers from self esteem issues caused by a traumatic rape and a fear of claustrophobia, and Chad and Daisy become Creepy Children due to effects the House have on them.


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