The novel House of Leaves stands out as a medium of literature that breaks the standards and confines of a “printed novel” prominent in our lifetime. To analyze the way that this book breaks out against the grain, the analysis of its supposed medium as a “novel” and representation of “narrative” are crucial. In the most common of definitions, a “novel” is regarded as “A story or lie, an invention” (Oxford English Dictionary Database) or even a “long narrative, normally in prose, which describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story” (Wikipedia). While it is indeed true that House of Leaves contains various falsehoods and illusions in which both the main characters and the readers experience – stemming from the footnotes, unreliable narrator, and questionable source material; it is also important to remember that none of these non-truths serve to cohesively build a sequential story – a far cry from the style of the average printed novel.
To better frame House of Leaves to a category, if any, a connection to the genre of “Interactive Fiction” would be an apt fit. An Interactive Fiction piece can be described as “any story that allows reader participation to alter the presentation or outcome of the narrative…” (JHGDM, 289). While this genre is more often relegated to video games, House of Leaves offers up a substantial amount of “participation” for the reader to engage in that substantiates the requirements for this genre. The intrigue and mystery behind which information is credible and which isn’t alone in the story allows the reader to be involved. While one could argue that House of Leaves suits the name of “Interactive Narrative” better, due to the representation of the plot and characters stemming from various narrators and perspectives – it fails to deliver in terms of giving more control to the readers participating, where as Interactive Fiction already dictates a confined space and story for the readers to be their “playground”. In this way House of Leaves does not suffer from the “interactive paradox” of balancing between the desire for control between author and reader (JHGDM, 291).
In short, this book succeeds in being different than that of the usual print novel of today’s standards by offering a different genre: Interactive Fiction – offering up a playground of interactivity and participatory engagement that breaks free of the confines of a sequential story novel or narrative.