I’ve been extremely busy the last couple of months (what with moving to another country and school) so I’m not currently reading House of Leaves (I promise to make up for it by reading the next book we pick and being a particularly productive poster then). However, when I read the novel last year I enjoyed the hints and references to Borges and I thought that if people who are still struggling with the novel knew of them, they’d enjoy it a bit more and hopefully find it less tedious. Throughout his work, Borges uses the same set of motifs or myths - among them are labyrinths, mirrors, the duplicity of self identity, dreams, infinity, books and libraries, blindness, etc. If you’ve been reading HoL, you’re probably starting to realize how heavily Danielewski drew inspiration from Borges. But his influence isn’t limited to the themes, Borges also employed footnotes and tricky paratext as well as a writing style that tricks the reader into thinking they’re reading a nonfictional text not a story. It’s really hard to explain the many ways in which Borges innovated narrative language and technique and there’s no better way to do than by showing you two of his short stories:
Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote is the first short story Borges wrote in his new style (fun fact: most people who read it when it was first published thought it was a review of an actual book, not a story, did it manage to trick you too?), while The Library of Babel is one of this most well known stories and probably the one that resembles HoL most. I hope you’ll be able to pull yourselves away from HoL (and from work/school) for five minutes and read both because they’re just wonderful. I’m sorry if my assumption that a lot of people didn’t know about Borges’ work hurt anybody’s feelings (if you’re a Borges fan, give me a shout out in my ask box and we’ll fangirl over him together). My purpose in life is to make sure everybody enjoys his texts so I think my behavior is not entirely inexcusable.
I am already boring, but the last thing I want to add is that I’m a n00bish art lover so I often illustrate for myself the books I read with paintings (what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?). I’ve rarely read a book that matches a set of paintings as well as HoL matches Mark Rothko’s chapel paintings. The huge black canvases that remind the viewer of the dark uncertainty of inner as well as outer space feel exactly like illustrations of the Navidson saga. Check out a book on Rothko’s paintings next time you’re in a library and/or watch BBC’s wonderful documentary Power of Art: Rothko, you won’t regret it.
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