Student Picks: Danielewski and Price

K.A. Hamilton-- If point of view is the frame of a story, House of Leaves is a kaleidoscopic masterpiece. There is no central hero, but a chorus of multiple candidates vying for the role in a dark and shifting world. The effect is a book that will haunt you well after you've put it down. 

At its core, House of Leaves blends the unlikely bedfellows of horror and romance, as a couple attempts to repair their marriage under increasingly terrifying circumstances. This is wrapped in layers of metafiction, footnotes, and secret codes.

Of course, no review of this book would be complete without mention of its layout. Central to the story is a terrible, endless labyrinth and an intangible monster that are reflected in the chaotic spread of words across the page. Danielewski engages not just the five senses, but a sense of time and space as well. House of Leaves is ergodic literature at its finest: genuine, heartbreaking, and infectious. In an age of ebooks, there are few novels I own a physical copy of, much less two. But I keep an extra around for lending, should anyone else want to lose themselves inside the House.

Jemiscoe Chambers-Black-- I have been looking for books that contained similar themes to my writing in hopes that it might improve my craft, and stumbled upon Richard Price’s Samaritan by accident.

In the vein of episodic police procedurals, Samaritan encompasses characters from all walks of life crammed together on the page, surrounding an amplified criminal case. The novel follows Ray Mitchel, an ex-English high school teacher, ex-cab driver, and ex-screenwriter, who has returned to the Dempsey, New Jersey projects where he grew up. But Ray returns as a wealthy man, and his altruism leads him to the hospital’s intensive care unit with a massive brain injury after being “tuned-up.” As his childhood friend, Detective Nerese “Tweetie” Ammons, tries to solve Ray’s case on the "who did it" and "why," past secrets are revealed.

What’s most intriguing about this novel is that the most painful moments, and the most insightful pieces of these characters’ pasts, are all done through dialogue. Samaritan has a magical quality, mixing poetic figurative language with an urban tongue that I got sucked into immediately.