Zampanò, as either the author of The Navidson Record or the mind behind the entire concept of the house and documentary, is the sole source of the obsession Johnny experiences, as everything Johnny reads has been transmitted to him through Zampanò’s interpretation or imagination. At various points, Johnny compares his mental state to that of Zampanò’s while he wrote this work: their apartments become similarly disheveled and accommodating to their paranoia, both intermittently lose contact with the outside world. It could be said, by attempting to interpret Zampanò’s work, Johnny enters into the same world of ambiguity and anxiety and is similarly devolved by it – that Johnny, in the end, becomes Zampanò.
However, such a statement is precluded by the fact that Johnny and Zampanò have differing levels of awareness of their obsession. Johnny, with Zampanò as an example of what such obsession can do, at times can sense the influence that the book has on him. He certainly knows that it impacts him negatively, and is able to take stock of how his living conditions and mental state have changed because of it. Johnny can separate the book from the narrative of his life, and in the footnotes, there are two sides to Johnny: that which is overcome by fear, and that which attempts to deal with it. Zampanò is never shown to have any sense of his obsession – The Navidson Record is his life (from what little the reader knows of it through anecdotes from those who helped him write it). He rather wallows in his obsession, because it is what drives him complete the record, which he views as a contribution to academia and society.
It is only Johnny, who constantly looks for escape from the fear that The Navidson Record conjures in him, who does escape, who finishes his task. Zampanò, who surrenders to the work succumbs to it.