Short version: Shit was crazy!
Longer version: Shit was crazy!
That was one crazy book. If you take an academic thesis, a horror story, and a journal of a psychomaniac, throw them in a blender, and choose 'liquefy,' you'd get House of Leaves....after you let it sit for a while, of course.
At it's core, the book is about a house that is bigger on the inside than it appears on the out. This is a complete understatement, as points in the novel, this house holds corridors that rival the diameter of the Earth itself. Still, a fairly simple story, right? Well, the next layer is that this is actually a story about a blind man's experience with the story of the house (presented through film). Not done yet. There's another guy, who finds the writings on the old bling guy after his death, and he adds footnotes detailing not only his own thoughts about the text, but aspects of his adequately troubled life.
It's an interesting read, if not frustrating at times. The Navidson Record--written by the old bling guy--is a combination of straight narrative and analytic essay, complete with footnotes. It can quickly go from feeling like you're reading a regular novel to a paper for a college psychology course. The weirdest part (and maybe I just missed the explanation somewhere in the text) is that this dude is supposedly writing all this shit down about a documentary....but he's blind. It's like a deaf guy doing an analysis on the opera.
After about 100 ages, the report gets even weirder. Format goes out the window. You'll have footnotes at the top of the page, whole blocks of text missing, pages with only one paragraph, one sentence, one WORD....crazy shit, like I said.
Johnny Truant finds the scattered papers of The Navidson Record and adds his own two cents as more footnotes. We get a glimpse into his life--lots of sex, drugs, and mental problems--which gets progressively worse. He is suffering ill effects from reading The Navidson Record, like nightmares he can't remember, paranoia, and the inability to do anything in life but wallow in his own depression.
Johnny also has some of the hardest parts to get through. At times he just rambles on, stream of consciousness. It paints a great picture of his mental state, but it's jarring to try and get through 3 pages that's only about one or two sentences (I shit you not). He gets caught up on a topic or a thought or an experience, and keeps going and going until you can't really understand what he is saying anymore, when the thoughts have become more imagery than narrative facts, leaving the reader lost in a sea of words that change, deform, devour all mental states until the brain can't take anymore, yelling for freedom, yelling for some kind of peace, or maybe not yelling at all but wandering off to some other place while the eyes are left with the job of scanning the words but never really processing them, hundreds and hundreds of ideas, thoughts, emotions, wasted like a drunken whore.
Yeah....something like that.....times 10. I literally groaned everytime I turned a page and saw that it was another episode of Johnny's ramblings. It's a shame, too, because I would usually blank out during these times, and I might have missed some deep insights.
As for scare factor, I've heard people say it's a really creepy book. It is, but it also has too much going on for me to really feel the brunt of that fear. The most disturbing part by far is not even a part of the main narrative. It is a collection of letters Johnny's mother sent him from an insane asylum. Now THOSE will leave an imprint on you, especially an encoded section that describes unmentionable horrors. For this alone, the author gains loads of credibility in the genre of horror in a way that's believable and disturbingly real.
I'm not going to go on too much about this book, but know that I enjoyed the experience and think that it's one of those rare gems where multiple readings will do it the most justice. If you decide to pick up the book, think of it more as a piece of art then the conventional word-laced entertainment. It's not something you can jet through. Even if you could, by doing do you'd be missing half the fun.