MZD and Poe inside a big picture frame

November/December 2000
Pages 22-23


Bold prose and edgy pop bond this brother-sister duo.

It took Mark Danielewski a decade to write his mammoth, groundbreaking new novel, House of Leaves. During that time, his father died, and his sister, Poe, became famous. For 10 years, she was the only one allowed to read his manuscript. "No one ever saw it except the Poester," Mark says of the singing sibling who inspires him. "That's largely how the influence works between us."

The feeling is mutual. Poe was so inspired by her brother's masterwork that she conceived her new album, Haunted, as the book's unofficial sountrack. Coming five years after her debut, Hello, which featured the modern pop hits "Trigger Happy Jack" and "Angry Johnny," this follow-up album took almost as long to create.

Making a musical companion to the dense and challenging House of Leaves was not a task for the timid. The 700-page novel tells the story of a house with strange, behavior-shifting hallways that extend for miles, and stairways that drop into nothingness. In Blair Witch-style, the house is filmed by its inhabitants and later analyzed by a blind man named Zampano in a manuscript found by an L.A. tattoo artist, who serves as an unofficial narrator. Confused yet?

As many as four stories are told at once, sometimes all on the same page. There are footnotes, an index, and a collage. Some of it has to be read upside-down. The book is so aggressively post-post-modern that you might feel like you're reading a Stephen King story translated by David Foster Wallace and reinterpreted by Henry Rollins.

Heady as the novel is, it has a rock 'n' roll sensibility that lends itself well to a musical companion. Smart, funny, and a little creepy, Haunted's mixture of ballads, Garbage-like rock, and techno-lite makes for a cool counterpart, if not exactly a scene-by-scene soundtrack. It's unclear whether the critics who are raving about House of Leaves will pick up on the link, but, Poe says, "If you listened to the record, I don't see how you could miss the connection." --Allison Stewart
+ photograph by Hope North