House of Leaves

By Chienne

Illustration by Charlotte S
Illustration by Charlotte S

In the last year or so I’ve read more teenage dystopian love stories and John Green novels than I’d like to admit. Seeking a more fulfilling and interesting prose I decided to go out on a limb and read a book mentioned by my (somewhat sexy) English teacher, House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. Without boring you with the details, the story is based around a house whose inside grows endlessly meanwhile the outside remains the same size. At first glance that sounds like a sweet ass way to score a mansion without property taxes, right? But what happens when you get lost in the endless hallways or feel overwhelmed by the plethora of rooms and closets to explore? I feel like this often when it comes to modern culture. In our parents day, they watched whatever shows were on the 3 channel TV, or whatever song came on the radio. But now with our endless internet connections and media fascination, the metaphorical house of leaves is growing exponentially.

Internet culture nowadays promotes being “hipster” or “indie”, encouraging individuality, which isn’t a bad thing. But I often feel like I have to find the most secluded corner of culture to keep up with the ever expanding need to be seen as an individual with unique and notable interests. To be honest with you when someone talks about my favorite bands or an indie movie on Netflix I feel a sort of stabbing jealousy, and I hope I’m not the only one. It’s not that I want the musicians I love to fail, or that I don’t want other people to enjoy the movies I love, it’s just I want to have niche dammit. I want a place that’s mine and only mine, otherwise how will I set myself apart from the 8 billion other people? Did people feel like this 50 years ago or is it a product of our fast paced internet culture? This isn’t meant to be a lecture on returning to our “traditional ways”, because believe me, I love variety, but with music on Spotify and endless shows on Netflix it’s easier than ever to find even the most obscure media.

Not only do I feel overwhelmed by the need to be a media guru, I also feel like we’re pushing each other apart. Individuality has become a selfish and destructive part of our culture. We stake our claims and then defend them viciously. I can personally say that I like someone less if they don’t like the same things as me, which is completely illogical and intolerant. On the other end of the spectrum I get angry and upset when someone likes the same things as me, because I want to be unique. It’s so impossibly hard to relate to other people because the house of leaves is too damn big.

Upon first glance the variety of modern media looks like a tasty buffet, but it feels like it’s being shoved down our throats so fast we can hardly swallow. While it’s great to have a personal style, we need to learn to share our interests and feel free to love whatever we want, and not just what’s popular or unpopular (depending on what you’re going for). The house of leaves need not be an endless maze, but just a few rooms, space to move around but not complete isolation.

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  1. Feel like this shows up a lot when people try to say that they liked something “first” or that somebody else doesn’t reaaally like it.
    I remember hearing for the first time about the idea that “you’re not what you consume” — you’re not the books you like, the tv you watch, the music you listen to, etc. etc. Even when those things are important to you, they’re products of somebody else’s imagination, which makes creating (and living) for yourself that much more important, so that those things (and therefore somebody else) don’t define you.

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