Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House of Leaves

House of Leaves is a postmodern horror book that was designed by it's author—Mark Z. Danielewski. It is often described as being "Ergodic Literature" because the author designed the layout as a part of the experience of reading the book.

How the reader reads the book affects how the book is perceived—but lets have a look, because well it's just better to see:

Both the book jacket and the book cover contain elements described in the book itself—and like a highlights magazine contain hidden messages in the images.

There are whole parallel stories lines given in footnotes and editors notes. The footnote sections can go on for pages... causing the reader to choose which story line to follow for the given time and forcing them to backtrack and retrace steps to pick up on the former story again.

The book contain notes within the notes adding complexity to complexity—as well as containing references to other literary works—many of which don't exist... some of the sections are presented sideways, upside down emanating from the corner of the page or even in mirror image... by designing the layout of the book this way the author has forced the reader to interact with the physicality of the text-turning and rotating the book to read it and even holding it in front of a mirror.

in some sections of the text the feeling of anxiety is increased by making the area so small that holds the text that it only takes a fraction to read the snippet contained on each page—coupled with the small size of the text. Now picture the reader—holding the book close to read, flipping through the book at a fast clip. Compound that by the story line where the protagonist is being pursued through a narrow tunnel by a dark foreboding figure... Makes your blood pressure go up just thinking about it.

The design of a book acts as the intermediary between author and reader—in most cases going unseen—playing a roll only to make the text not only legible but also readable. However, in the case of ergodic design the designers "voice" is seen in the choices they make when laying the text out.

House of Leaves is ofter cited as an example of ergodic literature because of the way that the design and story interact with the reader. But what is the difference between ergodic Literature and ergodic design?

Ergodic Literature is when a book's story is originally intended to have these interactive elements and is planned by the author as a part of the reading experience. It is the planned result from the beginning of the creative process. A book that was from its inception planned to have elemental interaction.

Ergodic Design is the process where a designer (it may or may not be the author) works with the content of the text and interprets or colors the text as an actor might color or interpret a part on stage or screen.

Ergodic Design can also describe the resulting work.

Additions are sometimes made, information presented in a compelling and sometimes challenging way—but what makes it ergodic in its design is that the way in which the material is present, and the processes that presentation forces on the reader, changes and effects the way that the material is perceived as opposed to if the same text had been present in a more expected or straightforward manner...

1 comment:

  1. Yeah this book blows me away. I was wondering how one would go about finding a book designer who would work with an author like this?