You encounter plenty of characters who tell their own stories and all kinds of third-person narration, but only a few quirky narrators who address you the reader directly. Second person is unconventional and unexpected. Readers can be put off by its strangeness. Sometimes it can be downright aggressive. Point of view defines the relationship between the writer, the character, and the reader.
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By Don DeLillo. It shows a man driving a car. It is the sim- plest sort of family video. You see a man at the wheel of a medium Dodge. It is just a kid aiming her camera through the rear window of the family car at the wind- shield of the car behind her.
You know about families and their video cameras. You know how kids get involved, how the camera shows them that every subject is potentially charged, a million things they never see with the unaided eye.
They investi- gate the meaning of inert objects and dumb pets and they poke at family privacy. They learn to see things twice. It is the kid's own privacy that is being pro- tected here. She is twelve years old and her. It shows a man in a sport shirt at the wheel of his car.
There is nothing else to see. The car approaches briefly, then falls back. You know how children with cameras learn. They break every trust, spy out the undefended space, catching Mom coming out of the bathroom in her cumbrous robe and turbaned towel, looking bloodless and plucked. It is not a joke. They will shoot you sitting on the pot if they can manage a suitable vantage. The tape has the jostled sort of nonevent- ness that marks the family product. Of course the man in this case is not a member of the.
It shows a man in his forties wearing a pale shirt open at the throat, the image washed by reflections and sunglinr, with many jostled moments. It is not just another video homicide. It is a homicide recorded by a child who thought she was doing something simple and maybe halfway clever, shooting some tape of a man in a car. He sees the girl and waves briefly, wagging a hand without taking it off the wheel-an un- derplayed reaction that makes you like him.
It is unrelenting footage that rolls on and on. It has an aimless determination, a persis- tence that lives outside the subject matter. You are looking into the mind of home video. It is innocent, it is aimless, it is determined, it is real. He is bald up the middle of his head, a nice guy in his forties whose whole life seems open to the handheld camera.
But there is also an element of suspense. You keep on looking not because you know something is going to happenof course you do know something is going to happen and you do look for that reason but you might also keep on looking if you came across this footage for the first time without knowing the out- come.
There is a crude power operating here. You keep on looking because things combine to hold you fast-a sense of the random, the amateurish, the accidental, the impending. You don't think of the tape as boring or inter- esting. It is crude, it is blunt, it is relentless. It is the jostled part of your mind, the film that runs through your hotel brain under all the thoughts you know you're thinking.
The world is lurking in the camera, already framed, waiting for the boy or girl who will come along and take up the device, learn the.
It shows a man alone in a medium Dodge. It seems to go on forever. There's something about the nature of the tape, the grain of the image, the sputtering black-and-white tones, the starkness-you think this is more real, truer to life than any- thing around you. The things around you have a rehearsed and layered and cosmetic look. It is what lies at the scraped bottom of all the layers you have added.
And this is another reason why you keep on look- ing. The tape has a searing realness. It shows him giving an abbreviated wave, stiff-palmed, like a signal flag at a siding. You know how families make up games. This is just another game in which the child. She has probably never done it before and she sees no reason to vary the format or terminate early or pan to another car.
This is her game and she is learning it and playing it at the same time. She feels halfway clever and inventive and maybe slightly intrusive as well, a little bit of brazenness that spices any game. And you keep on looking. You look because this is the nature of the footage, to make a channeled path through time, to give things a shape and a destiny.
Of course if she had panned to another car, the right car at the precise time, she would have caught the gunman as he fired. The chance quality of the encounter. The victim, the killer, and the child with a camera.
Random energies that approach a common point. There's something here that speaks to you directly, saying terrible things about forces beyond your control, lines of intersection that cut through history and logic and every rea- sonable layer of human expectation.
She wandered into it. The girl got lost and wandered clear-eyed into horror. This is a chil-. She likes. But it isn't the family car that serves as the in- strument of the child's curiosity, her inclina- tion to explore. It is the camera that puts her in the tale. You know about holidays and family cele- brations and how somebody shows up with a camcorder and the relatives stand around and barely react because they're numbingly accus- tomed to the process of being taped and decked and shown on the VCR with the coffee and cake.
He is hit soon after. If you've seen the tape many times you know from the handwave ex-. It is something, nat- urally, that you wait for. You say to your wife,. You say, Janet, hurry up, this. Now here is where he gets it. You see him jolted, sort of wireshocked-then he seizes up and falls toward the door or maybe leans or. It is awful and unremarkable at the same time. The car stays in the slow lane. It approaches briefly, then falls back. You don't usually call your wife over to the TV set.
She has her programs, you have yours. But there's a certain urgency here. You want her to see how it looks.
The tape has been run- ning forever and now the thing is finally going to happen and you want her to be here when. Here it comes, all right.
He is shot, head- shot, and the camera reacts, the child reacts- there is a jolting movement but she keeps on. At some level the girl has to be present here, watching what you're watching, unprepared-the girl is seeing.
It shows something awful and unaccompa- nied. You want your wife to see it because it is real this time, not fancy movie violence-the realness beneath the layers of cosmetic percep-.
Hurry up, Janet, here it comes. He dies so fast. There is no accompaniment of any kind. You want to tell her it is realer. The way the camera reacts to the gunshot-. You don't see the blood, which is probably trickling behind his ear and down the back of his neck. The way his head is twisted away from the door, the twist of the head gives you only a partial profile and it's the wrong side, it's not the side where he was hit.
And maybe you're being a little aggressive here, practically forcing your wife to watch. What are you telling her? Are you mak- ing a little statement? Like I'm going to ruin your day out of ordinary spite. Or a big state- ment? Like this is the risk of existing. Either way you're rubbing her face in this tape and you don't know why. It shows the car drifting toward the guard- rail and then there's a jostling sense of two other lanes and part of another car, a split-sec-.
DeLillo Videotape Dec1994