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The absolute absurdity of end-series items

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The materials following have been reconstructed to the best of our ability, given the damage extant when the texts came into our possession. When possible we have indicated the extent of our lacunae. All material is reproduced here without knowledge or permission of the original authors or their legal guardians. --The Editors.


(Source: The New York Times Magazine, 5/17/2013)

Her Voice Has Life: A New Generation of Women Talk Back to The Navidson Record


by CLARA ENGLISH

The women have always been there.

Look through the bibliography of any major work on The Navidson Record from the past decade, and you're almost sure to find a half-dozen or more citations from the most unlikely sources: Vogue. Mademoiselle. Redbook. Even Cosmopolitan was in on the game--and that's to say nothing of the Ladies' Home Journal. An unprecedented explosion (or should I say flowering) of newfound interest in film criticism among the waiting-room demographic? In fact and unavoidably these essays, so seminal in their field, were disseminated among women who understood from early on, earlier perhaps than many professional critics and scholars, that The Navidson Record is above all else a love story. Not his but hers. Didn't it say so right in the title?

(And here of course I refer to the accompanying short, entirely of Karen's making, "A Brief History of Who I Love" yet while we are at this angle craning our necks around, look again at the "real" title and see it in a new light, if you can. The Navidson Record. The Record of Navidson. Must an of be possessive in every instance? Might it not, just this once--indulge us--be descriptive?)

(And while we are speaking of such trivialities, and already bogged down in a parenthetical swamp, permit me a moment of bemusement at my lapse into the vocabulary of academia's sexual playgrounds, two paragraphs above. We all have our weaknesses; if you find mine intolerable you have probably already left. The rest of us will now continue.)

Much to my pained regret, the passage of two decades has done little, if anything, to steer the viewer of moderate education away from the inevitable first reaction to The Navidson Record; namely, that the house represents the vagina. Tempting though it may be to blame Camille Paglia's overly-influential (and frankly juvenile) essay "Echoes Erotiques" for this phenomenon, it seems to be simply the first and strongest reflex of anyone with a few books under their belt, and doubtless will remain so regarding any and all future works in which caves (or mysterious cousins thereof) play a prominent role. But let us have out with it here and now, before we proceed further: That is not the Woman I mean. The house eats sound, and life, and hope, and human voices. If we are to be petty and psychoanalytic, we may as well decide that the house is a penis--a terrible nightmare penis that never stops growing, that forces its way into innocent bystanders and scars them for life.

No, the house is not Vagina.

The film itself is another matter.


(Source: Salon.com, January 2005)

[...] so much attention paid to, so many sentimental tears shed over, so many, many words spent analyzing Karen's love for her husband. In any less-than-nihilistic reading of The Navidson Record, her devotion, in extremis, to the man she loves is always the emotional heart of the film. She is Orpheus without fucking it up at the last minute. She is exalted as proof of the power of love against all despairing.

Where, then, is that love for her children? What tenderness, what heart's-joy does she show to them beyond the barest animal instinct? And even in that she largely fails; both Daisy and Chad Navidson are severely and obviously wounded by the time Karen Green makes any move to protect them, and virtually as soon as they are out of immediate, life-threatening danger, she returns to her husband, to--as Karen herself tells us without shame--who she loves. Watching The Navidson Record one feels as though one is watching an animal bleed to death by the side of the road while pedestrians walk blithely by. It is nothing less than poetic that Karen should be stricken with and perhaps may die from cancer of the breast, for hers is a breast from which no maternal tenderness ever sprung.

[Rest missing.]


(Source: Anonymous donor. Date unknown. Excerpting and numbering are in the manuscript as we received it and are preserved here despite their obvious editorial insertion.)

1.
CHAD'S LETTER FROM SUMMER CAMP

written by hand because I'm pretty sure the laptops they give everyone have keyloggers. Not that they won't look at this anyway but they won't have a record. Now whoever is reading my mail is wondering if I'm showing paranoid symptoms or making fun of them. Now they think it's the second one. Now they don't know again. Sorry mom just playing around you can skip all that.

I had to go around visiting all the doctors today, they seem worried that I might upset the other patients/inmates--just by existing I guess? Not that anyone said that but I could tell. I can't blame them anyway, the two people I've introduced myself to full name and all reacted let's say, BADLY. Even considering that we're all schizos and psychos here already. There's a crippling social blow, your son's an outcast in a group that includes two girls with imaginary friends who rape them and a guy my age who's convinced he's aging backwards and has panic attacks about turning into an egg.

Doctors say involving the family is very important so more letters will be forthcoming whether either of us wants them or not.


(English, cont.)

Where to begin, after twenty years? Navidson scholarship is a thriving, albeit smallish, vein of study; it has shown itself more than capable of flexing and growing to fit the fashions of academia. I aim at nothing so exhaustive as a review of the literature, though doubtless somebody should. There is an awful lot of it. But you already, holding me in your hands, have realized that my ambitions are confined to the few dozen pages laid before you, and therefore I must have, somewhere, should I ever get around to it, a particular topic in mind. And this I do. But to reach it I must divert our little intellectual tributary for a few paragraphs or perhaps pages--it's unwise to lay bets on such matters--through a corner of the map without meaning to any of you, and here of course I mean my niece Michelle, who is fifteen and unusually bright for her age, though as her aunt my judgement is probably suspect.

Two weeks ago (by this writing) I went with her to see a showing of the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release. When we walked out of the theater she was quieter than usual, and remained so the rest of the evening until I dropped her back at her mother's. I worried: had I overestimated her maturity, her ability to appreciate or even process the traumatic events of the film? Had I doomed her to nightmares? Would her mother write me angrily the next morning and call me a bad influence? But no such message arrived, and it wasn't until nearly two weeks later, when Michelle herself wrote to me, that I received an explanation. In fact I received more than that: Michelle had written me a story about Daisy Navidson. There was no sign that she'd consulted or even realized the existence of the several biographical essays on the same subject. I doubt they would interest her at all. They tell a different story, not the one Michelle wants to read. What she wants to read is what she wrote is Daisy growing to her mid-twenties, marrying a nondescript but inoffensive man, having two children of her own, and moving into a new house only to discover that the shadowy, uncle-eating monster of her dimly-recalled childhood has followed her home and installed itself in a closet. Daisy's response--as per Michelle's interpretation--would put any mother bear to shame.

[Four pages missing.]


(Source: The Believer, March 2013)

[...] but Charlottesville is lovely this time of year. We are sitting outside, Daisy and I, at one of the trendier-looking cafes that dot the neighborhood near the university where she works at her dream job--a librarian for the University of Virginia's world-famous collection of manuscripts. The eatery is the kind of place that prides itself on its mismatched flatware and gives its sandwiches clever names, but the special today is the mac and cheese, freshly baked and impossible to sneer at. There's not much conversation once it arrives; when our plates have been thoroughly cleaned, Daisy starts to talk again, flicking absently at the straw in her iced tea as she speaks.

"I do love it here," she says, meaning Virginia, where she's made her home since the age of seventeen. "I could be happy somewhere else--I was happy in Boston, except the winters--but I felt like, from pretty early on, I knew that this was where I belonged."

It seems a strange sentiment, almost perverse, but looking at her today as she settles into an adult life of her own, it's impossible to deny that Virginia suits her well. She returned to the state ten years ago, attending William & Mary on a full scholarship--the proceeds from The Navidson Record's public release were not much of a match for the triple threat of her family's medical costs, but Daisy's school records show that she has always been capable of providing for herself. She skipped a grade (seventh) and graduated one of two salutatorians at her suburban high school, then cruised through a history major (with full honors no less) at breakneck speed, graduating only a bare few months past her 21st birthday.

On the topic of her remarkable abilities, Daisy is neither boastful nor modest, but simply comfortable as she nods. "School was always easy. I don't know that I earned all those scholarships, exactly--I never worked half as hard as my friends, but I was grateful for the money. I loved college, I thought--you know, you worry that you'll find yourself suddenly out of your depth, but I never did. From the first night, falling asleep in Williamsburg in this new dorm, awful cheap sheets and the ancient rattling A/C--" She pauses and laughs. "I felt like I was home. I've never stopped feeling that way."

I ask her about Boston, where she spent three and a half years in the MLIS program at Simmons College. Her smile is warm with memories, and for a moment she feels distant. "Boston was beautiful," she says. "And, you know, I met Gabby [her fiancee, Gabriella S. Blynn] there. So that was wonderful! In the back of my mind though I think I was always waiting to come back home."


2.
CHAD'S WISHLIST FROM SUMMER CAMP

1. One of those electronic jammers for the security cameras
2. Condoms
3. An actual honest answer about whether they're watching me jerk off in the shower fuck it, fag security guards need to get off too I guess. Who cares.

But the condoms for sure because crazy chicks apparently want to do it all the time. Dr. Z says they're acting out because of being abused but Dr. Z is probably too old to get it up at all so fuck him. Dr. Z also says this letter is inappropriate. I bet he thinks I've been abused too now. Watch out if they come knocking at night. I told him everyone knows about my mother and that he could go fuck himself. Sadly he didn't.

3.
We played memory games today. Games meaning I am a deck of cards and Dr. Z shuffles me zot-zot-zot and pulls out a card and tells me what it means. As you can see it was very enlightening. You are probably wondering who I stole that fancy pants metaphor from but I've just been playing cards with Caroline a lot since we can't fuck or even fuck around (says my Dr. Z and her Dr. P). Though we are allowed to fuck up. Obviously Dr. Z was right to say my language skills are improving. Won't you be proud. Do puns run in our family?

Anyway he played with making me remember things and I played with the-hell-I-will. You should come and see me. There Dr. Z I wrote an appropriate letter.



(The Believer, cont.)

We pass a moment in comfortable silence (bar the ice cubes chattering as Daisy twirls her straw in circles) and then she smiles and looks down briefly--a little embarrassed, perhaps? "Honestly I chose Boston to be near Tom," she says, and I am left without any possible reply as she continues, speaking a little more quickly. "It's completely silly. I never told anyone about it, really. I mean I told Gabby I liked to go out driving, take day trips, and I did, it's just that I always went up to Lowell. I liked to walk around for an hour or two, just every now and then."

The question pressing on my mind (and no doubt pressing on yours, in your own present tense as you read this) is not the sort I can ask casually, even in the guise of journalist-cum-scholar, but while I'm still turning over phrasings in my mind, Daisy answers it for me.

"I know he didn't die there," she says, "and we never, I never saw him living there. All my memories of him are from when we were living in the house. And that's where he is now--his grave I mean--if it's anywhere, it's there, but--I don't know how to explain. I mean, I know none of it makes any sense anyway."

She laughs again, and it's a clear, calm sound. Everything about Daisy seems to exude calm, which is a remarkable quality in anyone and very much more so in someone of her age and with her life story. "Well, you know," she adds, a touch of whim creeping into her smile, "everyone writes about me and Tom. All those articles. I liked the ones about me."

In fact there has been remarkably little of substance written regarding either of the Navidson children. Daisy (in her five-year-old guise) makes frequent appearances in the literature, but her role is always as a mirror, or a focusing glass, or a counterweight. She reflects the men around her, sharpens them. She thumbs the scales of adult relationships. There is something, it seems, about a little girl that suggests enormously complex ideas pertaining wholly to people other than herself. Which if I may be blunt is nonsense. Anyone who watches The Navidson Record without a pre-written thesis to justify will find a startlingly self-realized child, who even at five years old shines with the full light of her personhood. She is irreplaceable; no child actor could substitute for her; she is a joy. And in many ways the events

[Two pages missing.]

[...] and the fear but when that fades, as it always does and must, I am left with Daisy's voice, whether calling out like a beacon or giggling so quietly the camera can only record it as a muffled, distant rustling; singing to keep herself alive and whole as her world falls down around her; maybe most of all the laughter and whispers exchanged with her uncle as they play on the lawn, drenched in sunlight, making the most of their garden.

Daisy, age 27, is neither embarrassed nor saddened by her deep love for her uncle. "Tom ruined me for other men," she says, and at this remove her laugh is one clear note of warmth unblurred by grief. When her parents married, Karen kept her name; Daisy chose to name herself after her uncle--a distinction visible only in her own mind, but one which

[Rest missing.]


(English, cont.)

[...] titles, selected at random and/or according to my own amusement from Michelle's favorite site, the one where her own stories are published:

"Pink Ribbons in her Hair"
"The House From the End of Time"
"Innocence"
"The Cave Mouth"
"Ghosts"
"The Boy Who Never Was"
"Grendel's Mother"
"Finding True North"
"Aftermath"
"Fireflies"
"Revelations"
"Windows of L[obscured]

[Two pages missing.]

[...] far as to say that in those hostile caverns, Celadon and Heather found their own voices not dampened or dulled, but amplified. They wrote, they published, they were heard and what is more they were answered. This is no minor matter of recreation. It has been decades since Carol Gilligan first brought to general attention the mass silencing of female voices, yet adolescence and the years after remain as perilous and smothering as they were for Karen Green so many years ago, that thirteen-year-old so vividly and charmingly painted in Virginia Posah's classic Wishing Well. That fourteen-year-old, one year younger than my niece, who through trauma, or terror, or shame or perhaps simply the constant and growing message from everything and everyone around her that it was time to be quiet, lost her voice and her face and very nearly, some twenty-odd years later, her life.

[End of section in text. Unknown amount missing.]


4.
The problem with writing by hand is that the paper fills up line by line until it is all black down the middle and two margins of white. And the more I look at it the more it looks the other way around. Two margins of darkness waiting to be filled up. But I don't know with what.

5.
Accd'g Z dreams not important that's old-fashioned thinking. What do you think? I think bull shit. I hope you're dreaming about me the way I dream about you. Oh no I'm being inappropriate again.

Caroline (bitch) says no more fucking down/sideways/in/out. Just as well I'm bored of her. Back to amusing the fag security guards in the shower for me. Won't you come and see me mom? I'll call you Karen, everyone calls you Karen. Everyone knows about my mother. If you came they would listen to you.


(English, cont.)

[...] the growing current of more sophisticated feminist analysis beyond the original, rather sophomoric, considerations. What interests scholars like Alison Sheehan is not the "facile meditations" (as she calls them) on Karen's smile and its transformation as shown to the viewer--the topic of such fervent study and celebration in the years following The Navidson Record's initial release (Lester T. Ochs' Smile, widely regarded as the definitive work on the topic despite its early publication date, is doubtless at the forefront of Sheehan's mind here), but the "lacunae of privilege" demonstrated by the editor's hand, swathing Karen's growth and climb to freedom in a privacy harshly denied to the men of the story.

"What happens in Karen's heart, the choices she makes at her most crucial moments--that information is not for us," Sheehan writes. "The suffering and transformation-through-suffering of the men, the agony of Navidson's journey through his own psyche, this we see in pornographic detail. The eye blinks in those characteristically beautiful cuts, the naturalist jump cuts that have bred so many imitators, the eye blinks and beholds the deepest secrets of the men. And in the end, despite the title, the eye is Karen's; when it turns inward, we are gently but firmly ushered out."

The eye blinks: filmmaking lies not only (perhaps not even primarily) in the recording of information, but in editing. As Cafiso reminded us years before Navidson set foot in that house, "the finest act of seeing is necessarily always the act of not seeing something else." Contrary to assertions by so many early critics, The Navidson Record is anything but cinema verite. Surprisingly little effort has been made over the past two decades towards digging up the footage left on the cutting room floor, particularly considering the unending argument over truth and evidence. Not that any investigator who went to such effort would find himself anything but disappointed: Karen and Will, in the only joint interview they ever conceded to give, both claimed to have destroyed every scrap of material that wasn't chosen for the final release; what we had in 1993 is still, so far as video goes or can go, all we have. And yet when has it ever been the nature of the academic, the hobbyist or even the obsessive (who must be credited, en masse, for a great deal and perhaps the majority of the extratextual information we now possess) to take the authors at their word? Regarding documentation, old acquaintances, government records and obscure limited-release chapbooks and flyers, no door has been left unbattered by the frantic search for information, for evidence--yet the unused Hi-8 film and the discarded footage of the Interior, potentially the richest veins of all for the compulsive information miner, have been left by and large unmolested.

(A word which, having typed it, I regret--to pun on such topics is entirely regrettable. But (as you will of course know by now) I don't delete it; the slip seems more revealing and less crude the more I consider it, fingers hovering over the keys. Unmolested: Kittinger might well say that I've finally understood the point of the movie. Which itself is bothered only by Karen's careful deliberate hands, unmindful of that unsettling bit of doggerel that is the Bister-Frieden-Josephson Criteria's only lasting contribution of note: Don't touch me. Don't read me. Don't bother [sic] me. Don't me.

Karen's hands act upon the film, upon her men, ultimately upon herself. They me. But not where we can see them.)

The film has been destroyed. Satisfactory. But question then, proponents of 'realism' and 'grit,' of outdated French phrases, what was signified by its destruction?

Or to put it less absurdly: just who made this movie, anyhow?


6.
Dr. Z says too many secrets in our family but if I knew a code I would use it thank you thank you thank you. Three times for the punchline.

After you left I asked for a book of poetry to read, from the hospital library. The orderly brought me back a book of WAR POETRY I guess because I'm a boy and in trouble for hitting people and won't read poems about flowers and girls and windowpanes. I was surprised they would let me read about all that blood and guts and people being ripped apart. Either they think it'll be Therapeutic or the orderly screwed up. And now everybody knows from reading this letter, oh no. There was one poem (not a very good one) that was either about parenting or religion or being gay for a bunch of your own soldiers but I liked one section. I'm going to write it out for you and try to use better handwriting but no promises.

And even we must know, what nobody has understood,
That some great love is over all we do,
And that is what has driven us to this fury, for so few
Can suffer all the terror of that love:
The terror of that love has set us spinning in this groove
Greased with our blood.


See what I mean about all the blood? Anyway like I said it wasn't much of a poem but that part sounded good when I read it out loud. Then when I went to see Dr. Z he asked if I was interested in poetry and I told him no, my sister does some though but I don't and he said why don't I try one. So I wrote some poems and they were bad of course. But it wasn't my fault because Dr. Z made me do it. So here you can have one. No title though.

There was never an answer
or a way out.

There was a telephone,
there was a box of matches.

There was a diagram.

There was an equation
with birds on both sides.

There were feathers, everywhere.


There you go Dr. Z, try and figure that one out.

[End of manuscript.]


(Source: The Boston Globe, 8/14/2021)

[...] In fact I have encountered a handful of efforts at transforming The Navidson Record into music, though only as experimental studies or sketched-out whims. In all cases the composer focused mainly, even solely, on trying to evoke the physical vision of the house--atonal wandering sequences to represent an endless maze, dissonant staccato pitched frantically high in order to create a feeling of coldness, other irritating and ultimately futile schemes that tried to contain within the frame of song a thing whose defining characteristic is its continual and infinite expansion. That violation of outward space is for most viewers the overriding memory and most upsetting aspect of the house, and my acquaintances with their cringingly naive compositions were no exception.

Davies avoids this temptation entirely. Possibly it never tempted her at all; possibly her vision arrowed directly to the heart of The Navidson Record and that unwavering certainty is what gives Fuit Ilium its power. Not a single note of it "represents" another thing. It does not evoke--it invokes. Unburdened by metaphor, it is pure experience. Even the vocal sections, so often the pitfall of composers who are after all schooled in pitch, not in lyric, are integrated seamlessly into the structure of the sound. Sopranos Gina Calzatti and Amber Rightacre and baritone Hans Staker are played cleanly and without sentimentality. Davies, more than any other composer in recent memory, has refined the human voice to its purest sonic essence. There are no arias or recitative portions; in fact there are no words at all

[Rest missing.]


(English, cont.)

[Rest missing.]