Zampanò is a man of mystery. Did he actually write the Navidson Record, or was he some kind of demon, that watched over the whole ordeal with Navidson and his family, then met his own demise.?
We first encounter him in the House of Leaves when Johnny and Lude are talking about his open apartment.
They talk about the old man and the rathole that he lived in. There were always cats around with him, it seems acting like devil's advocates. The old man died with no one and nothing but a bunch of books and scribblings on papers, and claw marks on the floor beside his body. This eludes back to my own theory that he was a demon, possibly killed by a stronger one. But, was he really crazy? Maybe a little schizophrenia played into his endless, cutoff writings, doodling on stamps, napkins, etc.
All Zampanò wanted was to get his credit due for the Navidson Record. But I will pose a question for you think about. They said he was supposedly blind. Did this come with old age or did it happen when he young? How could he have possibly written all of this if he had to be read to or read in Braille, as some of the notes are presented in.
(The Hispanic or Latin Zampanò is probably based on the famed Jorge Luis Borges, another blind man obsessed with an invented world interacting with the "real" world.)
Zampanò's narrative is littered with all manner of references, some quite obscure, others indicating the Navidsons' story achieved national and even international notoriety. Such prominent figures as Stephen King, Ken Burns and Camile Paglia were supposedly quizzed as to their opinions about the house. But when Truant investigates The Navidson Record, he can find no history of any of its events or even the house's existence beyond Zampanò's text.
One of the major devices in the book is the different levels of reality, and how they interact with each other. At the very bottom there is the story of Navidson's exploration of the house and the Minotaur, that story is told through the Navidson Record documentary. The story of the Navidson Record is told through the blind Zampanò's written criticism of it, and Zampanò's written criticism is told through Johnny's rewrite of it with his added footnotes about his own life. Johnny's rewrite is told through the editors/publisher which we barely know of through a few scant footnotes. All of this is actually written by Mark Z. Danielewski, and finally it is read by us, the reader.
What's very interesting is when different levels of reality interact with each other. The most obvious is how Zampanò is believed to have been violently killed, presumably by the Minotaur, which then haunts Johnny. At one point in Zampanò's criticism he refers to himself in first person as being in the Navidson house (p.320). Another well-known part is where Johnny's mother, in the one of the letters she sends him from the asylum, includes a coded message addressed to Zampanò (p.615). There is also the similarities between Johnny's revelations about losing his mother, and the original partial release of the Navidson documentary, the 5 1/2 minute hallway.
A heavy amount of interaction also exists between the house and the book, from the very beginning with the title of the book, House of Leaves, where leaves is a synonym for pages. The book House of Leaves is also the same title that Zampanò used for his manuscript. At the end of the book, when Navidson is falling down through nothing, he ends up reading the book, House of Leaves.
It's possible that that one of the most telling aspects of the story doesn't even exist in the story itself. There are many similarities between Danielewski's work and Borges' work, who was also obsessed with labyrinths. One similar story in particular "The Garden of Forking Paths" contained the line: "The book and the labyrinth were one and the same." ("The Garden of Forking Paths" is even mentioned in footnote 167.)
The book was followed by a companion piece called The Whalestoe Letters, a series of letters written to the character Johnny Truant by his mother while she was confined in a mental institution.
House of Leaves
was accompanied by a companion piece, a full length album called Haunted
recorded by Danielewski
's sister, Ann Danielewski
, known as Poe
. The album
features a track by the same name as the novel, as well as "5&1/2 Minute Hallway"
and other references to the book. The video version for "Hey Pretty"
featured the author reading from the book.
So, all in all, Did Zampanò really exist or is he a figment of your imagination or mine? Maybe he is the crazy person in all of us that is just trying to get out for everybody to see. He just wants to be heard.