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  • The Navidson Record as a memorial

    To a greater or lesser extent, any text is a memorial. What I mean is any text is testament to a creative mind being behind it. Even if you were to copy Don Qioxte word for word, by virtue of rewriting it, you are saying I rewrote this. If you put a new date and authors name at the beginning of the book, you have added new context and questions to the work (Why have you copied this text word for word? Why have you done it now?)

    of Leaves is not a straight copy of anything (the varied attributions on this board, from Borges to Paul Auster are testament to this), but it is a memorial text. Its like the Attic of a , were all the leavings of your past are stored. It has been pointed out before that the book names all the states of America, a good number of other countries, all of the Zodiac, and a good cross-section of important literature in the western canon.

    Is this more than just an effect?

    Is it more than Danielewski setting tasks for his writing, setting an in-joke?

    I think so.

    Imagine a blind man and his memories. He has no family album of photographs to look through, he has no video tapes of birthdays and Nativity plays to watch. He has no family to talk to or reminisce with. He no longer has a family. Except for the times when the readers come to visit him and his mornings and his evenings with the cats, he only has his memories. But memories, like cats, disappear. In the end, he knows that he will as well. What will be left? An empty apartment, a cheap plot in a cemetary. No headstone. Like any of us, he wants to be remembered, he wants to be missed. To this end, he [by which I mean Zampano] contructs a text that, while not a straight autobiography (whod want to read about a blind man who had been in a hidden war?) contains the s-p-a-n of his life, what he had read, where he has been, what he has seen, what he has done. But he drapes it in this esoteric film idea because, as he shows in the first chapter, he knows what makes a cult film, book, whatever. And we all know how much fans of cult books read into and analyse things dont we? How much they make these characters seem real-as-you-or-I.

    Anyway, what do you think? I hope you could punch as many holes in this idea as you can, because Im writing a story based on this theme (which I came up with, I must add, before I was even aware of HoL).

    [ March 17, 2003: Message edited by: Stencil ]

  • #2
    The Navidson Record as a memorial

    Having read a fair few of your posts, I'm guessing you're not suggesting HoL was written for purely egotistical reasons; that MZD wanted so much to be remembered, to be famous, that he sat down to write a book about himself and concluded in the most effective way to achieve this in the current social climate.
    I suspect that it was written for he same reasons most books are: For entertainment, education, discussion, &c. However, be it an aim or a by-product, any written (or these days more accurately recorded) material will serve as a memorial to its author.
    I guess my logic question would be: How could you ensure that your memorial would be seen in the same light by all who experienced it? If you listed a CV-like paper you could ensure accuracy but probably not popularity (in the sense of a wide readership). And would you want an in-accurate memorial?
    My philosophical question would be more along the lines of: Why would I want to be remembered (accurately or not) by people who weren't a part of my life and had no knowledge of it?
    I think this is just answering a question with more questions, but that's just because I like the simplicity of a book being a book. It might happen to be other things, and I agree that it is (I like your idea too, Stencil) but at the heart of the matter sometimes a book is just a book.
    Or is it a cigar? [img]images/smiles/icon_wink.gif[/img]
    So, what's your story about?

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    • #3
      The Navidson Record as a memorial

      What I meant was that Zampano wrote the Navidson Record as a memorial. Looking back on my post, I see where there might have been some ambiguity. I might edit it, if I can be bothered.

      [ March 17, 2003: Message edited by: Stencil ]

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      • #4
        The Navidson Record as a memorial

        It s-p-a-n-s his life as his life s-n-a-p-s.

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        • #5
          The Navidson Record as a memorial

          I guess one of my questions still stands. Why would Zampano wish to leave such a memorial? And to/for whom? What would be his reasons for leaving it? Does he want purely to leave a record of how he remembers his life for all and sundry, or is there a specific target audience? Does he have an aim in leaving such a record? Political or social or otherwise?
          Again, I'm just leaving questions rather than answers, but if I was reading a story based on this idea I guess these would be the questions I'd want answered by the time the tale found its denoument. Hope this gives you some ideas for structure in your writing.

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          • #6
            The Navidson Record as a memorial

            quote:
            Originally posted by DarkAngel:
            I guess one of my questions still stands. Why would Zampano wish to leave such a memorial? And to/for whom? What would be his reasons for leaving it? Does he want purely to leave a record of how he remembers his life for all and sundry, or is there a specific target audience? Does he have an aim in leaving such a record? Political or social or otherwise?
            Again, I'm just leaving questions rather than answers, but if I was reading a story based on this idea I guess these would be the questions I'd want answered by the time the tale found its denoument. Hope this gives you some ideas for structure in your writing.



            With my own story, I've got the answers to all those questions worked out. They may change, but they've been pretty solid for at least a week. Though thanks for your help. [img]images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

            You ask why someone would write a memorial text. Well, as I said, all text is memorial in a general sense. But more specifically, a memorial text (in my own opinion) is an attempt to describe a world, an event at a certain point, the reasons for it, the experience of it, the lessons that need to be learnt from it. Before all else, this is what Herodotus and Thucydides were doing, and so, but extension all History is a collection of memorial texts. A diary is a memorial text, a record. But Zampano is doing something much more grand than a simple diary. As he states in his last 'journal' entry, he is proud that the Navidson Record is fiction.

            As to who he's writing it for, I'm not sure, he doesn't name anyone. I'll tell you one thing though, Truant believes it was written for him, and tries to make the reader beileve that too.

            Collections of letters are memorial texts too. 'Interesting' fact: the volcanic eruption Pliny the Younger decribes in the 'Various Quotes' section is the same eruption that kills his adopted father, Pliny the Elder.

            Zampano's aim? I'm not sure, he seems pretty happy if the Navidson Record was published, though he doesn't fancy its chances.

            [ March 18, 2003: Message edited by: Stencil ]

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            • #7
              The Navidson Record as a memorial

              Check out this thread.
              If Zampano wrote the whole thing, then he also wrote Johnny's part, so he also wrote this is not for you.

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              • #8
                The Navidson Record as a memorial

                While I don't like to decide one way or the other about the fictional authorship issue (I don't think we'll ever be able to resolve that, hell I doubt even Danielewski knows)I believe (where 'belief' is vastly different to 'knowing for a fact') that all three 'authors' are separate. For example, the last Zampano bit (the one reproduced in the introduction) says that whoever finds the manuscript can publish it, which would go against the sentiment of 'This is not for you'.

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                • #9
                  The Navidson Record as a memorial

                  quote:
                  Originally posted by Stencil:
                  With my own story, I've got the answers to all those questions worked out. They may change, but they've been pretty solid for at least a week. Though thanks for your help. [img]images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

                  Glad to hear it's going well, my friend, and happy to assist no matter how minor.

                  quote:
                  Originally posted by Stencil:
                  ...Truant believes it was written for him, and tries to make the reader believe that too.

                  Do you reckon Truant wants us to believe it was written for him and him alone, or each of us as we experience it? Do you believe him? Was it written for him, do you reckon?

                  [ March 19, 2003: Message edited by: DarkAngel ]

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                  • #10
                    The Navidson Record as a memorial

                    quote:
                    Originally posted by DarkAngel:
                    Do you reckon Truant wants us to believe it was written for him and him alone, or each of us as we experience it? Do you believe him? Was it written for him, do you reckon?


                    As the text stands, it is almost impossible to tell if it was written for Truant. The text, like a myth passed through three generations, has become so mixed that it's impossible to separate the different strata.

                    It's a shame John B. and/or Reader are no longer on the board. They'd be able to explain it better than I could. Actually, see the 'Exactly' thread, especially the first few posts.

                    My own belief is that Truant tried to insert himself into the story, not only to ride the coat tails of Zampano's genius text, but also to kind of 'create' a family, to make subtle connections between Zampano, so the child at the end would be identified as him.

                    The thing I'm really interested in is our role as readers. I haven't finished The Poetics of Space yet, but it is a very interesting book. I'm not sure I've got this right, but that book suggests that when we read, we not only experience the sensation of reading, we actually (in some way) become the writer at the point of creating what we're reading.

                    Any other readers of the Poetics of Space want to say if I've got this right or wrong?

                    [ March 19, 2003: Message edited by: Stencil ]

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                    • #11
                      The Navidson Record as a memorial

                      quote:
                      Originally posted by DarkAngel:
                      Or is it a cigar? [img]images/smiles/icon_wink.gif[/img]


                      "This is not a pipe.: Rene Magritte (sp)

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                      • #12
                        The Navidson Record as a memorial

                        I've been "here"--just no time to post until now.
                        As Stencil describes it, Johnny's response to TNR is like what Virgil hoped would be Romans' (and later audiences') response upon reading The Aeneid . . . and, for that matter, what the response of Aeneas himself is when the gods see him getting "off-thread" and visit him to remind him that he has to sail to a place called Italy to become the founder of a race that would EVENTUALLY become the Roman people.
                        I don't know how many of you are familiar with Virgil, much less the history of the Aeneid, so bear with what follows--I hope you'll see its relevance to HoL.
                        Myths endure because their audiences identify with them in some deep, even sub-conscious way. This way lies the Jungian/Joseph Campbell school of myth: Oedipus gets rewritten as Hamlet, as Absalom, Absalom!, etc., etc. They get revisited, retold, reworked because the original story, as Stencil notes in a post on the "Exactly" thread, cannot fully explain some mystery even as it seeks to do just that (that is also J. Hillis' Miller's argument regarding ALL narrative in a little essay by the same name in a book called Critical Terms for Literary Study--for those interested in the mechanics of narrative, that little essay is extraordinary in its ability to generate thought). The more a story gets retold, the more questions arise--and the more versions need to be offered by way of (further) explanation. What makes The Aeneid different, though, is that, while there had been something of a tradition among more prominent Romans to trace their origins back to the Trojans (using a few lines from the Iliad, in which the gods predict that Aeneas' descendants will survive to found a new empire), Virgil's text never existed in anything but a written form. Rather than arising over millenia out of the wellspring of images that is the collective unconscious, Virgil runs with that brief passage from Homer, constructing a text meant to do at least two things: a) in the "now" of that text, run concurrently with and even remind people of the Odyssey, even to the extent of having Aeneas land on the island of the Cyclops and pick up a sailor that Odysseus, in his haste to leave, had forgotten and left behind; b) cause Romans to "see" themselves in a text when and where Aeneas cannot possibly see an event's eventual historical significance. The Aeneas and Dido story is meant to offer an explanation for the animosity between Rome and Carthage; the images on Aeneas' shield are clearly "not for" Aeneas--he himself understands little of what he sees--but his audience would instantly understand those same images. You get the idea.
                        But here's the interesting thing: Virgil clearly intends a Roman audience for his poem, but it survives to this day because other people besides Romans ALSO saw themselves in that same text. Dante uses Virgil as his guide through two-thirds of the Divine Comedy, clearly borrowing ideas and images from Virgil's version of the underworld for his own imagining of the Inferno and Purgatory; in the story of an alien people arriving in an already-inhabited land but claiming a (divine) right to live in that land, Spaniards saw themselves as they sought to colonize/conquer the New World, even to the point of writing their OWN epic poems about that experience.
                        And what about HoL? In the "Exactly" thread, I try to make the argument that MZD has presented us with an "unbound" text--multiple editions; The Whalestoe Letters; Poe's Haunted. Just about every other book that immediately comes to mind, with the Bible being one notable exception, is "bound" in the sense that whatever mysteries it presents can be more or less resolved by using material contained in the book itself. MZD, knowing that, deliberately plays against that assuption in/with HoL. Johnny, weird and weirded-out as he is, is in his essence a reader of Zampano's text, trying his best to make sense of it (that includes, by the way, trying to discover a motive for writing it); the editing and footnoting and commentary are likewise acts of reading. But he is also us as we ourselves read not only TNR but also read HIM reading and try to make sense of his reading and of our own reading. The stories we tell about this novel, the facts we assign value to, the mysteries we discuss, are extension of this novel's text. HoL thus provides a platform for something that some would claim has disappeared in Western culture but which we human beings still have need of: the act of making myth. It's not at all difficult (for me) to imagine "revised and expanded" future editions of HoL that incorporate discussions of cheese and Magnum P.I. and voting and voting not to vote and, even, tits, yet which do not explain its deepest mysteries. Or, another possibility is that, even as some mysteries get explained, others get created--that is the truer dynamic in myth-making.
                        Joyce wrote one-third of Ulysses on the galley proofs, if you can imagine that. Editing, editing of editing, adding commentaries--oh, yeah, and reading, too . . . all consist of the continual assertion of self into a text, making it one's own.

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                        • #13
                          The Navidson Record as a memorial

                          Yes, for myth or indeed any story, text memorial and so on to hold the reader and bring them back there has to be a space for them to fit into.

                          A Guest Room in a say.

                          There is a rule amongst writers that it is generally better to 'show' rather than to 'tell'; that (especially nowadays) the reader wants to read about the action 'as it happens', not have it summerised by the author.

                          (In fact, it is best the author keep themseleves out of the text as much as possible. Danielewski does this so well, and I still chuckle at the author biography.)

                          When it comes to showing, even then the reader does not want abstractions, does not want to be told what to think. The reader of fiction wants to infer, to realise, not to absorb.

                          We want a labyrinth, not a hallway.

                          of Leaves is, therefore, a very 'showy' text: a lot of the discussion on this board has been about the stories hinted at, the corridors we can't go down, but that still entice us. In fact the role of the reader is a type of modified Truant: we have to piece together the text from his peicing-together: we are reading his reading, imcomplete as it is. Take for example the chapter with the missing sections. We can read through it, filling in the gaps subconciously, inferring the meaning of sentences and so on.

                          I said earlier the reader doesn't like to be guided. This is incorrect: the reader does want to be guided, but not to know that he is: The role of Truant is vital in this respect. Would we have worried so much about Zampano or Pelafina and the various connections between them if Truant had not made us?

                          [ March 22, 2003: Message edited by: Stencil ]

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