Author: Mark Danielewski
Pages: 709 (including index) paperback
Overall Grade: B
Short summary: This is basically a book about a guy who finds a manuscript that greatly affects his perspective of the world, aided by a twisted past. The manuscript is written about a movie, a documentary, about a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. As the characters in the movie combat their inner demons, so does the main character (the guy who finds the manuscript).
My thoughts: I tried to read this book when it first came out several years ago. I have always been a big fan of Danielewski's sister's music (Poe) and I greatly enjoyed her album (Haunted) that was intended to accompany the book. Not only that, many of my friends had read it and were raving about how amazing it was, so I figured I should probably read it and have my life changed as their's seemed to be. I couldn't get through the first chapter, I was so bored and uninterested.
That being said, I picked it up again this January when I had nothing else to read and I noticed it sitting on top of a pile of books in the corner of our dining room, and I sped through it. I couldn't understand why I hadn't eaten it up the first time through. I love the idea of having a book written within the footnotes of another book.
I ate up the story about the Navidsons, but I found that I wasn't really interested in Truant's story. I did take note of the fact that while I liked the story overall, and the format seemed innovative, I couldn't help but think that the format was just helping to disguise a poor writing style. When the manuscript portion of the book began to drag on with pointless information presented in a more-than-boring tone, you could blame it on Zampono's (the manuscript's author) craziness. When Johnny's footnotes had no flow and morphed into giant blocks of almost-unreadable text, it was because he was slowly losing his mind. While the writing is good I didn't see a whole lot of great.
All in all, I enjoyed the book, but I don't really understand its cult following. The book gave me plenty of food for thought -- the manuscript portion of it, anyway. And, it did give me a greater appreciation for and insight into Poe's album, Haunted and I believe that the album gives insight into the novel. So, if you are planning to read the book or have already, I really recommend that you pick up Poe's album as well.