January 2, 2011

Analogies II: House of Leaves

“And here by the ocean the sky’s full of leaves,
And what they can tell you depends on what you believe.”[i]

On a rare (sarcasm) side-quest here, I’d like to bring up the popular connection of the Slender Man mythos to the rather remarkable book, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I say popular connection because there is essentially no reason to link them aside from the unique cores they have. They’re really very different things, yet House of Leaves commonly crops up in Slender Man discussion and provides a solid comparison point for us; a sounding board with which to observe Slender Man once more without having to stare directly at Him. This helpful thread between them is based in their uniquely objective and simultaneously subjective natures. On one end, you have a published work(s), a chaotic, ergodic[ii] fiction that is incredibly interwoven in reality, non-reality, and the search of truth and in some cases, the ability to detect untruth. On the other end, you have a chaotic, endlessly changing thing that is both physical (like a book), but also resides almost entirely in perception, and certainly entirely within the confines of the mind’s ability to “see[iii]” It (like House of Leaves). Much like House of Leaves, with Slender Man we gain our understanding of something seemingly impossible to understand by our personal perceptions, almost to the level that the book, like the Slender Man, IS what you think it is. This is of course a highly debatable subject, but for the purpose of my argument, I’m going to assume you at least agree the logic is sound.
Carrying on, while pondering this pairing and how to explain it sufficiently, I stumbled upon a middle ground. Danielewski’s sister, Anne Danielewski (also known as singer/songwriter “Poe[iv]”), created a companion album to the book under the same title. On it are songs like “5 ½ Minute Hallway” and “Exploration B”, and even further, the book itself not only mentions an interview with someone mysteriously known only as “Poe t”, but later Johnny mentions a female led band singing a song that includes the real lyrics “I live at the end of a five and a half minute hallway”. So, clearly this album is to be taken as canon, and so I have a sort of connection point with which I can now illustrate some of the core similarities between the book, and our Slender Man.
The songs on House of Leaves all deal with the house, the characters, and the story itself. Nearly every song has some descriptive lyric on the house and its incomprehensible meaning. The house, in these lyrics, becomes a perfect analog for Slender Man. For example:

I can’t forget I’m a sole architect
I built the shadows here
I built the growl in the voice I fear

True, Slender Man doesn’t make much noise, but as you can see, the artistic freedom and creative nature of the lyrics creates a space in which we can easier observe these strange entities. In this example, Poe asserts a popular theory that the house is subjective to the mind of the viewer. This continues:

What minds have you shredded
I bet they regretted
Having ever thought you up

This is almost unusual in regards to the house, but suggests the level at which this house escapes the physical and exists instead in the mind. A perfect analogy that I don’t think I need to explain.

Again, this was just a side entry to hold over until unleashing the larger entries coming ahead. At any rate, if you’ve never read House of Leaves or just haven’t listened to the album by Poe, I highly recommend doing so. It’s a fun, spooky way to get your mental exercise, and reduce the amount of sleep you get, and make you fear hallways. Because it wasn’t enough to fear trees, business suits, and second story windows.

[i] all lyrics in this entry written by Anne and Mark Danielewski, and performed by Poe (Anne): “Amazed”, “Hey pretty”, “Terrible Thought”
[ii] the very text itself, or rather the way it is presented and/or visually laid out, prompts the audience to understand or search through far larger meaning and reality than can be contained in the literature- often a book
[iii] we’ll go with the Avatar explanation on this one, and for the lucky folk who haven’t watched that, it means to see the essence of a person as opposed to the visual, physical self
[iv] funny enough, I’ve been listening to Poe since around 2000, and only recently became aware of and read House of Leaves- the songs suddenly made so much more sense

1 comment:

  1. Spread the word
    See the world
    Free your mind
    Know the truth
    He Who Waits Behind The Wall

    Spread the word
    For the love of God
    Spread the word