OF TWISTS AND TURNS

Nov­el­ist Mark Z Danielewski is chang­ing the way the world reads and ap­pre­ci­ates the writ­ten word, one book at a time

Philippine Tatler - - CONCIERGE -

t is quite im­pos­si­ble to cat­e­gorise the work of crit­i­cally-ac­claimed Amer­i­can au­thor Mark Z Danielewski.

Since re­leas­ing his de­but novel House of Leaves in 2000, he has bog­gled the minds of read­ers, prompt­ing de­bates in aca­demic cir­cles, and po­lar­is­ing crit­ics with his unique brand of sto­ry­telling. Util­is­ing a com­bi­na­tion of vis­ual el­e­ments, con­text clues, and nu­ances lifted from a di­verse ar­ray of fields, Danielewski skil­fully crafts ver­bal and op­ti­cal labyrinths loaded with twists and turns that are open to dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions de­pend­ing on the one read­ing the tale.

Aside from House of Leaves which won the New York Pub­lic Li­brary’s Young Lions Fic­tion Award in 2001, Danielewski has com­pleted an­other novel, Only Rev­o­lu­tions, as well as a host of short sto­ries, es­says, and novel­las which in­clude the dark ur­ban fa­ble The Fifty Year Sword. His cur­rent lit­er­ary project is a multi-book novel ti­tled The Fa­mil­iar, the fourth and fifth in­stal­ments of which— Hades and Red­wood— will be re­leased this year.

Born in New York City, Danielewski has a de­gree in English Lit­er­a­ture from Yale Univer­sity and an MFA from the School of Cin­ema-Tele­vi­sion from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Mark Z Danielewski and his work, visit his of­fi­cial web­site at markz­danielewski.com.

caused de­bates be­cause of the un­usual way it was writ­ten and printed. Was this a de­lib­er­ate act on your part?

Sure. Here’s an ex­am­ple: when Johnny [Tru­ant, the main char­ac­ter] spells the word “should’ve”—should have—he writes it as “should of.” It def­i­nitely turned heads; many peo­ple thought the copy edi­tors must have over­looked it. But it was de­lib­er­ate: it was a way of pre­sent­ing the char­ac­ter and what he was like. When I fi rst wrote the novel, there was no text mes­sag­ing and e-mails were lim­ited. Now, the way we write and present lan­guage has changed; you have all these emo­jis, these mis­spellings, and mis­ap­pre­hen­sions of words, of what they mean, and what peo­ple want to say. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how this play of vis­ual and tex­tual lan­guage be­gan to play out in the world of Johnny Tru­ant and how it con­tin­ues to evolve over time.

Your work seems to defy clas­si­fi­ca­tion in any one genre; you seem to like weav­ing in dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to tell your sto­ries. Is that a way of get­ting a re­ac­tion out of the reader?

In the case of House of Leaves, we can talk about the specifi city it has with the hor­ror genre; but, re­ally, what it does is cre­ate a place for the read­ers’ own fears. Peo­ple have come up to me to tell me how the book hor­ri­fied them, but it ac­tu­ally re­veals what they’re afraid of, their dark­ness, what their pro­cliv­i­ties are.

Only Rev­o­lu­tions, on the other hand, is very po­etic. It’s about two kids on a road trip across 200 years of Amer­i­can his­tory. It’s also built on mu­sic and de­sign, so it also plays with a dif­fer­ent set of rules.

You have de­scribed your work many times as “sig­ni­conic.” What does that re­ally mean?

The sig­ni­conic si­mul­ta­ne­ously en­gages both the vis­ual and tex­tual fac­ul­ties of the mind. It’s not like an il­lus­trated novel where you need to see the images in or­der to un­der­stand the story.

Here, there is a mar­riage of the vis­ual and tex­tual; it’s what en­ables writ­ers and read­ers to move through—and be­yond—a va­ri­ety of gen­res, per­spec­tives, and bi­ases. That, for me as an au­thor, is the grand ad­ven­ture.

THE GENRE BREAKER Mark Z Danielewski; The lat­est vol­ume of Danielewski’s (in­set) The award-win­ning Your de­but novel

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