This Can’t Be Happening.

House of Leaves: Introduction

Lude - Johhny Truant’s friend who brought him to The Navidson Record.

  • Shortened form of Qualuudes (Ludes are a sedative, closely related in effects to barbituates, which are mentioned in Johnny’s second paragraph in the book.)
  • (as lude, luden) Middle English meaning sound, noise or clamour.

Johnny Truant – Nicknamed “Hoss” by Lude.

  • Truant: A student who is AWOL from school without explanation, an absentee, a runaway.

"Thumper" – A stripper that Johnny has a minor obsession with, who has a tattoo of the rabbit character from Bambi just under her pantyline.

  • Thumper may symbolise innocence?
  • Thumper was Disney’s version of Benjamin Bunny, Peter Rabbit’s cousin: Benjamin Bunny is helpful but naïve, getting caught by a cat while attempting to help Peter get his clothes back from Mr McGregor’s garden.

Zampanò – An old, blind man who—Johnny speculates—is American, though others “detected an accent even if they could never say for certain where it came from.” Lived in the same apt building as Lude, and would walk around the courtyard twice daily (morning and evening), attracting the eighty-some stray cats that lived there. Wrote The Navidson Report. Died at eighty years old with no friends, family or other social contacts known.

  • Zampanò is also the name of the primary character of La Strada, an Italian film from 1954 directed by Frederico Fellini. The titualar character is a “brutish strongman” who buys a naïve girl named Gelsomina to act as his assistant on the road. Gelsomina is a foil to Zampanò, young and full of joy (slightly manic, pixie dream-girl, but combined with one who has not yet been broken by the world). They meet a clown named Il Motto (the fool) who eventually plays a joke on Zampanò, causing the strongman to chase him with a knife. Il Motto attempts to convince Gelsomina that she has worth, despite  Zampanò’s cruel treatment. When  Zampanò and Gelsomina come across Il Motto on the road alone, fixing a flat tyre,  Zampanò proceeds to beat him to death. This finally breaks Gelsomina’s spirit and she has a flat affect for the next few days, after which Zampanò abandons her while she is napping. Years later, he learns that she was taken in by a family only to waste away and die shortly thereafter. Upon learning this,  Zampanò gets drunk and wanders a beach before breaking down in tears.
  • Fellini’s Zampanò represents a womaniser who takes advantage of someone who is too inexperienced to know better. Their relationship symbolised two people in a relationship that will prove fatal, yet they remain together, not knowing why. Fellini also wished to represent the hard lives of people who lived on the road.
  • La Strada is considered one of the most influential films of all time and won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1956.

Johnny notes that, early (3AM) on the morning that he and Lude went into Zampanò’s flat to find The Navidson Report, things appeared strange (though this may be a result of 20/20 hindsight): the front gate creaked as if unused for centuries; the hall seemed too dark for the small, hanging lamps to illuminate; Lude only spoke in whispers. (pg xiv)

Lude notes “two things” that “don’t make much difference”: 1) in the months preceding  Zampanò’s death, the courtyard cats had started to vanish. Lude only ever found the remains of “one with its head ripped off and another with its guts strewn all over the sidewalk,” but never any of the others. 2) Right next to  Zampanò’s body, Lude had found four gouges in the floor six or seven inches long apiece. They looked like claw-marks, but the police disregarded them, since  Zampanò’s body bore no physical trauma. (pg xv)

Johnny notes the smell upon entering the flat—stale and somewhat fœtid, with innumerable layers. The smell is wholly organic and so strong because Zampanò had sealed the flat off from the outside world—ostensibly to keep his smell in. (pp xv-xvi)

Deracinated: Uprooted or displaced from one’s geographical or social environment. (pg xvi)

Rood: A rood or rood cross, sometimes known as a triumphal cross, is a cross or crucifix, especially the large Crucifixion set above the entrance to the chancel of a medieval church. (pg xviii)

Joel-Peter Witkin: An American art photographer that focuses on death, corpses (whole and dismembered), disfigurement, phyiscal mutation and carny/outsider culture. (pg xxi)

Graphomaniac: One with an obsessive impulse to write. (pg xxii)

It is stated that Zampanò’s death occurred in late 1996. (pg xii)