Mark Z. Danielewski’s debut House of Leaves – with its unsettling text patterns (scrunched letters, upside-down words, sentences that ran diagonal, blank pages, black pages), its unsettling narrator interaction, and, most of all its unsettling – no, terrifying -- image of an ever-expanding blackness -- ranks as one of the most psychically haunting books I’ve read. Sort of a Twin Peaksy horror show, existentionally creepy and unconventional.
Unconventional also describes Only Revolutions, his second novel, just out, which he’ll be rotating – err – reading from tonight. The book starts at both ends. It’s told by two 16 year-old lovers, Hailey and Sam, over the course of a hundred years. Lists of historic events, all suggested by readers of Danielewski’s web site, line the margins of the pages. It’s suggested that you read eight pages one way, flip the book over and around, and read eight pages the other way. I’ve done six rotations, so I’m close to fifty pages into it. And so far, it’s more Leaves of Grass than House of Leaves – exuberant, exultant, with all sorts of language acrobatics. Does the writing warrant the effort? I’m withholding judgment at the moment. But I haven’t stopped rotating yet. And I’m curious to see how Danielewski will handle it tonight, when he reads at 7 pm at the Brookline Booksmith.
Danielewski's little sister is Poe, and she made an album to accompany House of Leaves. It's called Haunted.