Monday, 28 November 2011

...of a void

"I have nothing left," Navidson says slowly into the micro-cassette recorder. "No more food. No more water. [Long pause] I have film but the flash is dead. I'm so cold. My feet hurt."
Then (who knows how much later):
"I'm no longer sitting on anything. The slab, whatever it was, is gone. I'm floating or falling or I don't know what."
Now, except for when Navidson speaks, silence predominates.

Not even the growl dares disturb his place.

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

...of a lesson

The point of recounting these observations is simply to show how understandable it was for Navidson the impenetrable sweep of that place soon acquired greater meaning simply because, to quote the Criteria directly, "it was full of unheimliche vorklanger and thus represented a means to his own propitiation." The sharp-bladed tactics of The BFJ Criteria, however, are not so naive as to suddenly embrace Navidson's stated convictions about what he might find. Instead the Criteria quite adroitly acknowledges that when Tom died every "angry, rueful, self-indicting tangle" within Navidson suddenly "lit up," producing projections powerful and painful enough to "occlude, deny, and cover" the only reason for their success in the first place: the blankness of that place, "the utter and perfect blankness."
It is nevertheless the underlying position of the Bister-Frieden-Josephson Criteria that Navidson in fact relied on such projections in order to deny his increasingly more "powerful and motivating Thanatos." In the end, he sought nothing less than to see the house exact its annihilating effects on his own being. Again quoting directly from The Criteria: "Navidson has one deeply acquired organising perception: there is no hope of survival there. Life is impossible. And therein lies the lesson of the house, spoken in syllables of absolute silence, resounding within him like a faint and uncertain echo... If we desire to live, we can only do so in the margins of that place."

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

Saturday, 12 November 2011

...of a disconnected phone

For a moment, I flashed on her body, imagining those beautiful round breasts with creamy brown aureolas, making saints out of nipples, her soft, full lips barely hiding her teeth, while in the deep of her eyes her Irish and Spanish heritage keep closing like oxygen and hydrogen, and will probably keep on closing until the very day she dies. And yet in spite of her shocking appeal, any longing I should have felt vanished when I saw, and accepted, how little I knew about her. The picture in my head, no matter how erotic, hardly sufficing. An unfinished portrait. A portrait never really begun. Even taking into account her daisy sunglasses, her tattoos, the dollars and fives she culls while draped around some silver pole hidden in some dark room in the shadow of the airport. A place I had still not dared to visit. I had never even asked her the name of her three year old. I had never even asked her for her real name - not Thumper, not Thumper at all, but something entirely else - which I suddenly resolved to find out, to ask both questions right then and there, to start finding out who she really was, see if it was possible she could mean something to me, a whole slew of question marks I was prepared to follow through on, which was exactly when the phone went dead.
She hadn't hung up nor had I. The phone company had just caught up with their oversight and finally disconnected my line.
No more Thumper. No more dial tone. Not even a domed ceiling to carry a word.
Just silence and all its consequences.

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

...of drama

The Reston Interview:

Me, I had been trying to get the hell out of there. The knock had turned into this heavy awful pounding. The hallway door was still bolted shut and barricaded but I just knew all hell was about to break loose.
In fact, my first thought was that it was Holloway, thought that hammering was awful hard. I mean the whole wall shuddered with every hit, and I'm thinking if that is Holloway he's changed and I don't need to reacquaint myself with this new and improved version. Especially not now.
[Reston repositions his wheelchair slightly]
My chair was still pretty messed up so I couldn't move as fast as I normally do. Then all of a sudden, the pounding stops. Just like that. Silence. No banging, no growl, nothing. And boy, I don't know how to describe it but that silence was more powerful than any sound, any call. I had to answer it, that silence, I mean, I had to respond. I had to look.

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

...of cavers

Holloway refuses to follow them. For a while, he rants and raves, screaming profanities at a blue streak, until finally and abruptly, he just storms off by himself, vanishing into the blackness. It is another peculiar event which is over almost before it starts. A sudden enfilade of "fuck you's" and "shit-heads" followed by silence. [159]

[159] This is not the first time individuals exposed to total darkness in an unknown space have suffered adverse psychological effects. Consider what happened to an explorer entering the Sarawak Chamber discovered in the Mulu mountains in Borneo. This chamber measures 2, 300ft long, 1, 300ft wide, averages a height of 230ft, and is large enough to contain over 17 football fields. When first entering the chamber, the party of explorers kept close to a wall assuming incorrectly that they were following a long, winding passageway. It was only when they chose to return by striking straight out into that blackness - expecting to run into the opposite wall - that they discovered the monstrous size of that cavern: "So the trio marched out into that the dark expanse, maintaining a compass course through a maze of blocks and boulders until they reached a level, sandy plain, the signature of an underground chamber. The sudden awareness of the immensity of the black void caused one of the cavers to suffer an acute attack of agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces. None of the three would later reveal who panicked, since silence on such matters is an unwritten law among cavers." Planet Earth: Underground Worlds p. 26-27.

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

...of paranoia

Something's behind me.
Of course, I deny it.
It's impossible to deny.
I wanna puke.

To get a better idea try this: focus on these words, and whatever you do don't let your eyes wander past the perimeter of this page. Now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of you, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can't see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence. Find those pockets without sound. That's where it is. Right at this moment. But don't look. Keep your eyes here. Now take a deep breath. Go ahead take an even deeper one. Only this time as you start to exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it's gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?, don't worry, that particular detail doesn't matter, because before you have time to even process that you should be moving, you should be running, you should be at the very least be flinging up your arms - you sure as hell should be getting rid of this book - you won't have time to scream.

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

...of something waiting

Chad who is three years older than Daisy is a little more self-conscious, even serious. Too often his response has been misread by those aware of the film's ending. It is important to realise, however, that at this point in time Chad has no sense what the future holds. He is merely expressing anxieties natural for a boy his age who has just been uprooted from his home in the city and deposited in a vastly different environment.
As he tells his father, what he misses most is the sound of traffic. It seems the noise made by trucks and taxi cabs created for him a kind of evening lullaby. Now he finds it difficult to fall asleep in the quiet.
"What about the sound of crickets?" Navidson asks.
Chad shakes his head.
"It's not the same. I dunno. Sometimes it's just silent...No sound at all."
"Does that scare you?"
Chad nods.
"Why?" asks his father.
"It's like something's waiting."
Chad shrugs. "I dunno Daddy. I just like the sound of traffic."

[House of Leaves, Danielewski, M. Z.]

...of withdrawal

But there is no exit, no miracle, no truth. Shells, protective armour. Ever since that stifling day when it all started, when everything stopped. You hug the filthy walls of back streets, your right hand knocking against the porch-steps, the bricks of the facades. Sitting for hours above the Seine, your legs dangling, you contemplate the scarcely perceptible eddy caused by the arch of a bridge. You withdraw the four aces from your fifty-two cards. How many times have your repeated the same amputated gestures, the same journeys which lead nowhere? All you have left to fall back on are your tuppeny-halfpenny bolt-holes, your idiotic patience, the thousand and one detours that always lead you back unfailingly to your starting point. From park to museum, from cafe to cinema, from embankment to garden, the station waiting-rooms, the lobbies of grand hotels, the supermarkets, the bookshops, the art galleries, the corridors of the metro. Trees, stones, water, clouds, sand, brick, light, wind, rain: all that counts is your solitude: whatever you do, wherever you go, nothing that you see has any importance, nothing that you seek is real, everything that you do, you do in vain. Inviting or calamitous, solitude alone exists, this solitude with which, sooner or later, every time, you are confronted; every time, you face it alone and defenceless, raging or distraught, in despair or impatient.
You stopped speaking and only silence replied. But those words, those thousands, those millions of words that dried up in your throat, the inconsequential chit-chat, the cries of joy, the words of love, the silly laughter, just when will you find them again?

Now you live in dread of silence. But are you not the most silent of all?

[A Man Asleep, Perec, G.]

...of patience

You hardly get the patience out. You cheat sometimes, a little, rarely, increasingly rarely. Winning doesn't matter to you, for what would winning mean to you anyway, and if it's just a question of having the gods on your side, there are easier ways of inducing them to look kindly on you. But you play more and more often, for longer and longer, sometimes all afternoon, or as soon as you get up, or right through the night, and not even, not even any longer, just to kill time.
There is something about this game that fascinates you, perhaps even more than the game with the water under the bridges, or the labyrinths in the ceilings, or the imperfectly opaque twigs which drift slowly across the surface of your cornea. Depending on where it is, or when it crops up, each card acquires an almost poignant density. You protect, you destroy, you construct, you plot, you concoct one plan after another: a futile exercise, a danger that entails no risk of punishment, a derisory restoration of order: forty-eight cards keep you chained to your room, and you feel almost happy when a ten happens to fall you into place or when a king is unable to thwart you, and you feel almost unhappy when all your patient calculations lead to the same impossible outcome. It is as if this solitary silent strategy were your only way forward, as if it had become your reason for being.

[A Man Asleep, Perec, G.]