The Undead: Art and Intelligence Gathering

Amid the Russian mafia, not only does Cayce discover the beloved, elusive maker of the footage, she is given enough information to finally put the mystery of her father’s disappearance to rest, both personally and legally.  Intelligence gathering (particularly, an intelligence apparatus residual from the Cold War) is the key to her closure.  Win Pollard could not be proven dead, because no one could definitively place him at the scene of the attack.  The legal proceedings necessary for Cayce and her mother to move on, particularly his life insurance, were stalled, leaving Win in the “undead” status of missing person, like so many of the victims of September 11th whose bodies were never found.  Cayce goes on to describe her father as “doubly undead” because not only could they not find his body, they could never determine why he was in New York at all (192).  Cayce’s mother demands to know “exactly when, and how, and most importantly where he crossed over, as we’d then have a shot at some DNA and proof that he is in fact gone.  The legal aspects of his disappearance are not progressing…” (192).  Despite hiring private investigators and interviewing cab drivers, Cayce and her mother cannot legally prove Win dead and thus remain in “an ongoing nightmare” (192).

Lack of evidence, Cayce explains, is actually a central part of the masterful art of the footage.  “They are dressed as they have always been dressed, in clothing Cayce has posted on extensively, fascinated by its timelessness…There is a lack of evidence, an absence of stylistic cues, that Cayce understands to be utterly masterful” (23).  Cayce is fascinated by the footage because (like her father) it cannot be placed.  Does her discovery of the mystery of the footage diminish the power of its art, for Cayce, and for us as readers?  Why does the lack of information surrounding her father’s disappearance create a “nightmare,” while the lack of evidence surrounding the maker of the footage denote its artful mastery?  Cayce’s mother postulates that perhaps Win’s own role as a professional risk consultant contributed to his disappearance: “Her mother had once said that when the second plane hit, Win’s chagrin, his personal and professional mortification at this having happened, at the perimeter having been so easily, so terribly breached, would have been such that he might simply have ceased, in protest, to exist” (362).  Similarly, Bigend draws a connection between risk management and a lack of futurity: “Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day…We have no future because our present is too volatile…We have only risk management” (59).  Is the footage such a powerful art form because it resists the intelligence gathering imperative of the post-911 world?  If so, then why do our protagonists spend so much time (and money!) uncovering the source and identity of the footage, denying the footage the very non-specificity that makes it appealing?

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