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The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated)

hogarth_boy meets girl massacre annotatedI was initially drawn to Ainslie Hogarth’s The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated) because it’s almost Halloween, and I was in the mood for something spooky or unsettling. I was also intrigued by the nonlinear format. This gross-out YA paperback original did turn out to be unsettling…but not quite in the way I had hoped.

Clearly drawing inspiration from Mark Z. Danielewski’s super-meta adult horror novel House of Leaves, Hogarth nests her narrative within several layers. The primary text — which parallels the Navidson Record from Danielewski’s novel — is Noelle Dixon’s diary recounting the events leading up to a brutal mass murder in a motel. The diary is then annotated and fact-checked by a detective who worked on the case and found Noelle’s diary (the Danielewski parallel here would be Zampano’s “dissertation filter” of the Navidson Record). At the bottom of some pages are the detective’s footnotes. The final narrative frame is that the detective then gave the diary to a movie producer; their correspondence is interspersed, with production notes appearing on the left and right margins of some pages. (The analogous layer of Danielewski’s novel would be Johnny Truant’s journal about his experience with the primary and secondary texts.)

danielewski_House_of_leavesIf Hogarth is attempting an homage to Danielewski’s tome (and she is), the ending of her novel successfully captures the ambiguity and uneasiness of House of Leaves, but getting there is a little rough. First of all, she’s not very consistent with the annotations and production notes. Pages and pages go by without a word from the detective or producer, and if the conceit of the book is going to be an intricate framing narrative, there should be more notes and annotations. And I’m not a movie producer, but some of the production notes seem…not very productive. (For example: “HA!”) Why have this part of the framing device if it doesn’t add anything? Secondly, for a book marketed as “black humor,” there is nothing humorous about this book. An overwhelming and disproportionate amount of it contains detailed descriptions of cannibalism and scatological functions. I expected cannibalism, given the “edits” on the cover, but instead of making light of the dark subject, which would make it humorous, I got overly descriptive and stomach-churning details. It was distractingly gross. Not grotesquely humorous, just plain gross.

A House of Leaves homage is an ambitious undertaking. Ultimately, this framing device took away from rather than added to the book. But to Hogarth’s credit, the ending actually does capture the spirit of Danielewski’s novel, and brings her tale to a satisfying conclusion.

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