House Of Leaves Summary & Study Guide

Mark Z. Danielewski

House Of Leaves

  • 52-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 23 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with an MFA in Creative Writing
Access Full Summary

House Of Leaves Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 52-page guide for “House Of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 23 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Eros and Thanatos and The Instability of Place and Time.

Plot Summary

Mark Danielewski’s 2000 debut novel, House of Leaves, is an experimental text that contains multiple layers of narration. It is a type of frame story: the top frame, or layer, follows the life of Johnny Truant after he finds Zampanò’s manuscript The Navidson Record, with this manuscript acting as House of Leaves’ second layer. Zampanò’s manuscript analyzes the third layer of House of Leaves: a documentary of the same name filmed by Will Navidson. The documentary follows the actions of the Navidson family in their house on Ash Tree Lane.

Johnny Truant is a tattoo shop employee living in Hollywood who frequently drinks, uses drugs, and has sex with women. He and his friend, Lude, discover The Navidson Record in the room of a recently-deceased man named Zampanò. Johnny takes the manuscript home and begins reading it, becoming more and more obsessed with it as time goes on. He starts compiling a series of footnotes to Zampanò’s text, in which the actions of his own life unfold. He experiences a series of episodes in which he breaks with reality; he thinks events occur then immediately finds out they did not occur, so much so that the reader is often unsure of what is happening in the reality of the novel. Johnny sometimes sees or experiences “the beast”—a type of animal or being with a threatening, destructive presence. Johnny’s physical health deteriorates, and he leaves his apartment less and less, finally getting fired from the tattoo shop. Eventually, Johnny decides to put the manuscript in storage and goes on a quest to Virginia, to find the house on Ash Tree Lane recorded in the documentary The Navidson Record. While travelling, he encounters a band who are in possession of the manuscript he has been working on; they report that the manuscript has been distributed. While travelling, Johnny also visits The Whalestoe Institute, the psychiatric hospital where his mother lived, prior to her suicide.

One layer down is Zampanò’s manuscript, The Navidson Record. We learn about Zampanò himself through his writing about the film, which Johnny ultimately determines does not actually exist. Zampanò is a blind man living alone in an apartment. He has a series of women come visit him, read to him, and help him transcribe the manuscript.

Through reading the manuscript, we learn about the events of the film, The Navidson Record. Will Navidson, a character who is a Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist, and his partner, Karen Green, a former model, move into the house on Ash Tree Lane in Virginia with their children, Chad and Daisy. They discover that the house is slightly bigger on the outside than on the inside. The house’s dimensions continue to shift subtly, and a hallway appears. At first, the hallway seems only a few feet in length but it grows and sparks in Will the need for investigation. Will enlists help from explorers Holloway Roberts, Jed Leeder, and Wax Hook to investigate the hallway. It grows and grows, with its dimensions constantly shifting. There is a spiral staircase, along with countless rooms. On their mission, Holloway breaks with reality and shoots Wax and Jed, killing the latter. After everyone leaves the hallway, the house starts a type of attack on the owners, forcing everyone to leave. Tom, Will’s brother, gets swallowed up by the house and is presumed dead.

Karen returns to New York with the children, but Will stays for several months in Virginia. He goes back to investigate the hallway and is trapped in there for weeks. Karen comes down to Virginia and rescues him. Will is injured, and has lost a hand and an eye. The family moves to Vermont.

The novel ends with a series of exhibits, which are referenced in the footnotes of the main text.

This is just a preview. The entire section has 702 words. Click below to download the full study guide for House Of Leaves.