Transmedia House of Leaves

Mark Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves forces the reader to think about the different media that we normally take for granted. Most obviously House of Leaves is obssessed with film, but also explores the boundaries of what a printed book can achieve, and through the companion musical album Haunted, makes itself a multi-media experience. ~

As Jessica Pressman illuminates in her essay “House of Leaves: Reading the Networked novel”, (Available on her website) this novel is just one node in the wide network of criticism it both references and generates. To best understand the convoluted web it weaves, a community of dedicated readers is necessary. For House of Leaves, the official forum serves as the breeding ground for these discussions.

Particularly because of the accompanying album by MZD’s sister Poe and the short accompanying book, The Whalestoe Letters, House of Leaves fits Henry Jenkins definition of a “transmedia” story. I would argue that, while not canonical or authored by MZD, the offical forums (and our class forum) are now part of the transmedia environment of the story. In House of Leave’s network, these are new nodes to be explored, and their connections are just as integral to our understanding of the story as the Appendices in the original book. Of course, the transmedia environment of HoL could be expanded by a film, but MZD has stated that he rejects hundreds of offers a year to adapt the book for the silver screen, so it seems unlikely to be made, at least in his lifetime. (Tangentially, that article contains a pretty obviously encoded message. Even in interviews MZD is messing with us.)

I tend to think that a lot of transmedia type stories are more money grabs than art. I think of all the dollars my middle-school self spent on Star Wars extended universe books. However, given that interview, MZD seems to have a fair amount of “artistic integrity”. Of course, counter to that the fact that Poe was more famous at the time HoL was published, and the cross-promotion seems a little less artistic and a little more marketing.