Mark Z. Danielewski is best known for his 2000 novel House of Leaves, the story of an editor putting together the papers of a man describing a film made by a family learning that their house is larger inside than outside. Next came Only Revolutions, in which two lovers start at opposite ends of the book and eclipse one another at the center. Now he’s come out with a multi-narrator, thread-illustrated ghost story (as you do) called The Fifty Year Sword, which he read from last week in an NYU hall painted deep red. Who turned up? Well...
1. The overeager eighteen-year-old who just figured out the different narrative layers in House of Leaves and wanted to lay eyes upon the man who turned his mental expectations topsy-turvy. “Did you see he even made the word ‘house’ blue in other languages?” he asked me breathlessly. I asked if he had read The Fifty Year Sword yet. He shook his head: “I want the reading tonight to be a surprise!”
2. The Danielewskiheads. Forty years ago, they would have been Deadheads, but this is 2012, and Mark Z. Danielewski is easier to see live. They’re the ones who drove hours to hear his Halloween reading of The Fifty Year Sword back in 2010. They bought the book when it was a limited edition. They’re dressed in black, sitting together in the back, and not talking to anyone else — [scoff] These clowns probably don't even know whoMark's sister is.
3. The literary type who considers Mark Z. Danielewski overrated. She reads Tristram Shandy and Thomas Pynchon in her free time, and rolls her eyes at a book that claims to be about a book. You almost could have counted me in — only when I was halfway through The Fifty Year Sword and, book held sidewise, lifting the pages as each narrator lifted the latch of the box containing the eponymous sword, did I realize there was magic in the way Danielewski incorporated the reader into his books.
4. The English major who had never heard of Mark Z. Danielewski but wanted some entertainment. At the Danielewski event I went to back when I was in college, I heard the author, an alum, read about an orgy in Only Revolutions before springing a quiz on the audience. I doubt any of us will forget that night.
5. Mark Z. Danielewski himself. Wearing his usual straw hat and a short-sleeved shirt under his hoodie, he gave the audience a wave before sitting down to talk about swords, ghost stories, and the sheer gorgeousness of the printed book. Despite his reputation for not answering questions, his hands and eyes moved with the brisk energy of a born raconteur.
After a hushed reading, Danielweski sat down at another table to sign books. For a moment, all the old facades had fallen away: he smiled at each one of us in turn, and his eyes flashed from under his straw brim.
image credit: comicsgrinder.com