Passion in House of Leaves

Danielewski’s book House of Leaves had me sucked into its weird orbit from the first page: the dedication that reads “This is not for you.”

I thought: precisely.  How did he know?

As a passionate lover of nineteenth-century texts — especially the thick, long Victorian novel — I am not often drawn to the postmodern self-referential crap that circulates today as fiction.  On the other hand, I am.

A couple of my students noticed my officemate’s copy of House of Leaves last week.  They both seemed genuinely confused.  Their faces spoke for them.

I thought: any book that can inspire a person to make a face like that deserves a serious read.

So I checked it out of the library and it consumed my life.  Licked it like a flame of unbearable heat.  And then it moved on.

The book is beautiful.  It’s truth.  It’s truth’s antithesis.

It is, in fact, a Victorian novel.

The major difference between House of Leaves and, say, Eliot’s Mill on the Floss is its expression of passion.  The postmodernist keeps his passion hidden — that is a very important aspect of postmodernity as far as I’m concerned.  Passion is the THING that the postmodernist is too afraid to reveal.  Everything else (his desire for his mother, his stained underwear, his alcoholism, his abysmal sorrow etc.) is considered part of his art.

But passion.

That’s elusive.

Take, for example, the most salient quote from the text:

“Passion has little do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance.  Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance.  It means to suffer” (527).

Go ahead, and read that again.

And a third time.

This quote is footnoted as a quote from Daphne Kaplan. Is there really a Kaplan?  I don’t care.  I didn’t look it up.  I’m not supposed to.  Only, this definition of passion lingers with  me.

It tastes bad.  It’s true.

It’s true.

….{                                    }…..(!): nNn


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