"MZD: Well, there are many ways to enter House of Leaves. Do you want to go by way of Johnny Truant or do you want to go by way of Johnny Truant's mother? Johnny is young and "hip" (at least to a certain degree), which means that most younger readers will find his pathway the easiest, certainly easier than Pelafina's way. But her voice is equally important, and for some readers her letters will prove the better path.
LM: They may be equally valid, but choosing one will necessarily affect the rest of your journey. In my own case, when I came across a footnote on page 72 indicating that readers feeling they can profit from a better understanding of Johnny's past should consult the letters written to him from his institutionalized mother in appendix II-E, I immediately did so. And once I finished her letters and returned to page 72, several things had occurred. First, it was now clearer to me that the author of this book had a much wider range of styles and voices than I had suspected up to that point. And second, throughout the rest of the novel, I was very aware that I now had a completely different perspective on Johnny Truant than if I had not turned from page 72 to appendix E. I was quite literally reading a different book from the one most other readers would be reading.
MZD: It's nice to find out that some readers have tried that particular route. But of course, most people won't read it that way. Many wait until the very end to read his mother's letters. Some people never read them. An advantage to publishing her letters separately is that they offer readers a way to recognize alternate approaches to moving through House of Leaves. So some readers are going to The Whalestoe Letters by thinking, okay, I thought that House of Leaves had to unfold through the route I originally took but now I see I can travel through it in an entirely different direction. In other words, with The Whalestoe Letters not only are you not reading this material at the end or the middle or even a third of the way through a much larger work, you're reading it at the very beginning. My hope is that at least a few readers will read The Whalestoe Letters and then decide to move on to House of Leaves."
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I would recommend to read it as you go along Johnny Truant's sections. Because in these, there are instructions on how to read these letters for some of them are codes for his mother's paranoia raving which are terrifying and dispirited. It really shows how haunted he is from his mother's insanity and possibily his own. It makes the reader unsure if the story he tells is true, as if there are actually any Navado records or not in his possession.
The footnotes really haunt me, especially the (SPOILER ALERT!) [spoiler]the part where a photographer took a picture of a vulture closely following a starving Ethiopian child, waiting for her to die so it could eat her carcass. The moral is very very gray in that area. You really have to think: Why did the photographer not save the child? Then maybe you would assume that if the photographer saves the child, then people looking at the picture would think, oh that's okay. The child is still alive, and not think about the severity of the situation that children like the starving child is in. But if the photographer sacrificed the child, perhaps he would save many other future generations of children with that single harrowing picture calling for positive actions from the people who look at that photograph. It's no wonder that the photographer committed suicide over his depairing choices. [/spoiler]
Like the book itself, the reader would have to dig a lot deeper than before, and do a entire inquiry or stock of how he or she thinks.
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I just ordered a used copy of House of Leaves for $8.11 + $3.99 shipping from an independent book seller through Amazon.com. This saved me several dollars. Ordering used books via Amazon.com always makes me feel satisfied that I'm helping out the smaller book stores that struggle to compete with Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Thanks for posting that little interview, Aussie Lifter. I find it amazing that a first-time author can be so creative with both the storyline and the format of the book. Having the appendices and letters at the back, along with the parallel story in the footnotes had to be tricky to manage. It should be an interesting read and I'm looking forward to it.
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