Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Last Formal Blog Post - Option #1

In this week's reading there was one passage and an accompanying passage that stood out to me the most, because of their applicability to the work as a whole.

"Each of Navidson's photographs consistently reveals how vehemently he despised life's destruction and how desperately he sought to preserve its fleeting beauties, no matter the circumstances (367)...While Navidson's work has many remarkable images of individuals challenging fate, over a third captures the meaning of defeat... (368)."

Navidson's obsession with capturing images that centered around death, whether it was losing, or winning, leads into a discussion of how death, darkness and defeat loom over this entire book. It would certainly help us better understand why he keeps going back to the house and the hallway, but it also leads into some conclusion about what his possible intentions are once inside the darkness. Just focusing on the phrase "vehemently despised" shows that there was great force and passion behind his rejection of destruction. This passion was the driving force that kept him going back and wanting to know, longing for an answer as to why the hallway's structure would "destroy" or "disobey" the structure of the house, and more importantly the laws of nature and physics. The utter darkness, unpleasantness, and existence of that hallway went against the beauty of the house itself, surrounded by the scenery and the wonderful image he had pictured for his family in Charlottesville. It was Navidson's nature to know how such a place of darkness could diminish the beauty of the very place in which it exists. He didn't care what he had to go through to capture this place and try to get some answers as the passage states, "no matter the circumstances." He was willing to give up his family, Chad, Daisy and Karen, all whom he loved with all his heart. They represented the beauty in his life, and his strong distaste for destruction led him to go back to that house to get answers about what caused his relationships with his family and lives of certain individuals to disintegrate right before his eyes. The deaths of Holloway, Jed, and Tom fueled Navidson's return to the house as well because in each of their cases death won and simply took life from them. This was a part of his life-long obsession with defeat and he wanted to capture the defeat that loomed within those walls. Ironically, Karen's rescue of Navidson in the end captures him as the subject of something that he captured in his photographs; that is "individuals challenging fate."

Looking at the next layer of the book will show that Zampano was also interested in preserving beauty and he himself is an example of the struggles against darkness and challenging fate. The very fact that he was a blind man, that somehow managed to write an entire manuscript, by however means necessary, is an example of how he overcame darkness to create. Here lies the beauty, in the fact that a man in his condition was able to create The Navidson Record in such a manner that it appears real and it took substantial research to prove it otherwise. The way Zampano sealed up his apartment and didn't let any smells in or out shows how he was interested in preserving what he considered natural and didn't want that to be destroyed by other forces. Thus, in some way he was keeping the beauty of his natural human processes alive in his apartment, so he in a sense could bask in his own beauty. Most obviously he was the one who created the story of Navidson, so of course he himself was probably just as passionate about his distaste of life's destruction.

Finally, Johnny's life also seems to center on this idea of destruction, darkness, beauty, challenging fate, and suffering defeat. First, he cared enough about preserving Zampano's work that he must have seen the beauty of it; even though he may not have completely understood it, he at least recognized that it was there. He saw that he couldn't let Zampano's death stop this work from being finished, thus he didn't let the death of Zampano's physical body kill his spirit and message that still lived in the work he had done. Johnny has his own personal darkness to deal with on a daily basis. He has the darkness of his childhood, he has nightmares, he has the looming thing that is waiting to get him, and he has the drugs, sex and alcohol which he uses to numb his pain. All of these things combined seem to be destroying his body, soul and mind. He looses touch with himself and reality in the process. It seems that he can no longer tell the difference between what is real and fabrications. However, Zampano's story seems to become an obsession for him and this is eventually what keeps him going. He feels he has a responsibility to Zampano and he is determined to finish Zampano's work of art (beauty). As Navidson is obsessed with capturing fleeting beauty in his photographs, Zampano is obsessed with capturing the obsession of capturing fleeting beauty in The Navidson Record and Johnny is obsessed with capturing the intentions and obsessions of Zampano. The deeper meaning behind all this is what we have been studying all along concerning re-representation as a technique used to form a story, art, or simply beauty.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

I was following this argument with great interest the whole way through, wondering where you were going with it. I had some comments I had intended to make about various moments in your piece - for instance, I wanted to say something to highlight the paradoxical nature of Navidson's desire especially - he wants to capture, as beauty, the very thing which is devouring his family and his life - but it devours because he has chosen to enter into it, to capture its beauty. It's almost like a sacrificial altar (which is another way the novel relates to the Bible and God).

I had other thoughts along those lines, but mostly my head's just spinning after reading the last couple sentences. You're right, of course - we've been concerned all along with re-representation as itself a source of beauty. It took you to say it so perfectly, though.