Mark Danielski’s novel House of Leaves is a horror story that begins with one of the novel’s protagonists, Will Navidson, discovering that his house is slightly larger on the inside than it is on the outside. This off putting detail, a bending of the laws of the physical universe, signals that which provokes fear, that which we can’t know or fully understand. As the novel’s story expands, of course, so too does the interior of the house, leading to a seemingly endless labyrinth that is undetectable from the outside of Navidson’s home, a space that defies the rules governing architecture and thus what we understand about spatial laws and mathematics.
Of course, the clever thing about the novel is that its title, which alludes only in part to Navidson’s house, is also a description of the thing held in its readers’ hands. The physical space of a book is defined by an architecture of its own. A book is two walls wrapped around a series of leaves (“leaves” being the term that bibliographers use to describe the front and backside of a page within a book), a house of leaves of a different sort. A book, then, metaphorically parallels Navidson’s house. Its interior (since it contains a whole world, its characters, its objects, etc.) is indeed “larger on the inside than it is on the outside.”