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The Lost Scrapbook – tekijä: Evan Dara

The Lost Scrapbook (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 1995; vuoden 1998 painos)

– tekijä: Evan Dara (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1155188,185 (3.98)6
It may be the defining irony of our time: just as we are coming to recognise our shared destiny and interdependence, our culture seems to be dangerously fracturing along every fault line possible. This novel aims to capture the spirit of our time.
Teoksen nimi:The Lost Scrapbook
Kirjailijat:Evan Dara (Tekijä)
Info:Fiction Collective 2 (1998), Edition: First, 476 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
Arvio (tähdet):

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The Lost Scrapbook (tekijä: Evan Dara) (1995)


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näyttää 5/5
Now here's a friendly little book that is notorious for being unknown and overlooked. If you've read it, you're likely the passenger of one of three channels: (1) You trust William T. Vollmann's judgement*; (2) you heard that the novel has been lumped in with the names Gaddis and Pynchon; or (3) your tastes coincide with those of Steven Moore. My own arrival is the result of a confluence of these channels, catalyzed by the Goodreads recommendation engine. While its affinities with the likes of Gaddis, Pynchon, et al. are not as prominent as I expected, Evan Dara's debut novel achieves that almost impossible echelon of sui generis for which I pine. That is, I've read The Recognitions and Gravity's Rainbow, but I can still say that The Lost Scrapbook is a unique experience that stands on its own.

First off, Evan Dara does not exist. This is a nom de plume that has been linked to several candidates, including Richard Powers. The book, which is published by Evan Dara's own publishing house, Aurora, offers this illuminating biographical note: "Evan Dara is an American writer living in France." A footnote in Steven Moore's biography of William Gaddis, William Gaddis: Expanded Edition (1989), reveals that Evan Dara has deliberately eschewed Gaddis's books (or, at least, J R) because Dara does not want to be influenced by Gaddis. So, like Pynchon, we know little to nothing about the real author. Which, I assert, works wonders for freeing us of dispositions that mar the text proper.

It can rightly be classified as a difficult novel. The difficulty here lies in the way it is structured and the fact that the framing story is delayed for a bulk of the text. Like scanning through radio channels, The Lost Scrapbook reads like a stream of different voices and concerns. This panoply of voices and perspectives is devoid of transitions, also as in radio scanning. I found myself getting a rush every time I pinpointed a lapse into a separate voice and situation, so cleverly rendered are these "breaks." And forget about the final episode of Joyce's Ulysses being the longest sentence in the English language--the first full stop (i.e. period) of this text comes on page 476! Once we pick up on the wraparound story--an ecological disaster that exposes the fault lines between a huge chemical company and a small American town--our footing is a little more sure. But, inevitably, to understand the purpose of the novel better we must question why Dara chose this form.

The text makes explicit the theme of its form. Before the story even begins, we have two quotes about honoring every man (Kierkegaard) and knitting together fragments to form a whole body (Shakespeare). Later on, we get a rumination on the concept of montage and scene-cuts in film and how this form is "much more dramatic than just a gradual... [ellipsis in the original]" and how it creates "its own language by crashing perceptions together through montage, fabricating a bridge... [again, ellipsis in the original]" (204). And this beautifully eloquent statement of intent comes on the heels of some of the best remarks on originality, uniqueness, and individuation I've ever read (190). This crashing of perceptions is interrupted only by an extended break that carries on for roughly 100 pages by an entity that we could anachronistically call a Danielewskian narcon.

And it's more than just formally inventive; the book has all the trappings of Tom LeClair's systext. It seeks to present a new view of the cosmos to the reader. We must set aside our prejudices and accept the world we are given. The writing is often poetic and striking ("wind-gusts corduroying the park's grass"; "guitars hanging like ducks in a Chinese grocery"; "a black drum set that was stacked like a ziggurat on the floor"; "there was a rustling throughout the auditorium, as if a finger had been drawn over taut saran"). There is much meta-commentary of the writing. The text is peppered with jokes (mostly Jewish) to alleviate the reader's consternation. My favorite moment of levity: "...and put us up in the Ambassador Hotel--separate rooms, of course--no embedding of these dependent clauses..." (287). There are several delicious 90s symbols, the Walkman and Waldenbooks being my favorites.

The book ends with Joycean truncation that will compel you to go back to the beginning. It practically begs to be re-read, and I cannot wait to do so with more context in mind than before. Some may ask why the need for the difficulty, or whether Dara is a good writer or just a maddening inventor obsessed with tinkering and subverting tradition. The fact is that he (or she) is a very strong writer: narration, dialogue, and storytelling are all present and of high quality. The authenticity of the voices are so perfectly captured that you will find your self believing these characters really exist. And the conflict between the Ozark corporation and the residents of Isaura will leave you as tense as the best thriller available. Still--you may ask--why this need to close off your book to the average reader? Well, in the words of one of the many characters: "...that's why all the fancy footwork of variation is necessary: we never actually get to what we're after, to where all the gropings, all the variation-searching, would no longer be necessary, to the point where there would no longer be music..." (41).

* As the front cover boasts, it was chosen by William T. Vollmann as the winner of FC2's National Fiction Competition. ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
This one's a puzzler. I'll need another read at another time to really grok it. The last 120 pages or so are really dazzling, and there was plenty to admire in the rest of the book, but I haven't figured out yet how it all hangs together. Parts of it were annoying. I'm withholding a rating for now since I feel very mixed about it, in sort of an "I liked it" place with the sense that with another, more careful, read, I'll decide I really liked it.
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
In Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire, there is a scene in which the angel Damiel (portrayed by Bruno Ganz) flies over the city listening to people's thoughts; the reader of Evan Dara's book might feel a bit like that, inhabiting multiple consciousnesses one after another, although perhaps without all the intimate knowledge afforded to an angel. No, there is nothing supernatural about this novel. The reader is invited to lend an ear to the most quotidian -- and to the marvelous that resides within the quotidian.

Another metaphor that one could use to describe the narrative technique at work here, and one perhaps more to the point since it is deployed within the novel, is that of the radio. Imagine that, with every turn of the dial, you are tuning in to someone's voice: a conversation, a letter being read, an internal monologue, an interview on the air, a town hall meeting, a courtroom debate... All these voices are always on; you are tuning in at an arbitrary point, always in medias res. You are not a patient listener: sometimes you stick with the story for several pages, other times you can put up with just one idiosyncratic paragraph. Sometimes you recognize a voice you have heard before. Sometimes the same person is mentioned by different acquaintances or friends, even though they may never speak directly.

Think of The Lost Scrapbook as a transcript of that radio channel swapping session. Like on the radio, you are also reaching out to different locations. Sometimes they're given (starting with Edwardsville -- that is Edwardsville, IL, first hinted at by a reference to Hoppe Park), other times identified by some local markers (a unique set of intersecting streets in Springfield, MO; or state routes in western Tennessee...), and other times, omitted entirely.

The transition from one "radio station" (speaker, narrator) to the next is as fluid as on your radio, there is no syntactic break. Full stop is the one punctuation mark absent from the book: there are only dashes, commas, ellipses, spaces -- bigger or smaller, contracting and expanding -- semicolons, colons... Punctuation is not always used in the way you'd expect. Sometimes it is like the static noise you get on the radio when the signal is getting weak.

How can you tell that the radio dial has been given another turn (let's stick with this metaphor), since you are actually not in control of the knob? Besides geographical markers, there are others: gender markers, more or less easily perceptible changes in the subject, contrary character traits... Sometimes you are reading, not so much between the lines, but between "stations" where voices of two narrators overlap, & you can't tell exactly where one breaks off the other begins because the lines you read could belong to either: a father talks about a falling out with his son, about the drum kit he had bought for him and which the son left behind, and which now sits in the living room like a "commemorative sculpture". "God damn God damn God damn God damn, he said;
-- Sorry?, I said;
-- You know, I've really got to establish something right off, he said: and it's this: that there is one thing [...] that I want from life [...]--and it's for this damn sprinkler just to turn around!..."
Whom does the God-damn belong to? The father regretting his estranged son or the guy frustrated with his sprinkler? You can't know. This is the narrative gray zone. Voices blend on air, words hold double meanings.

Many of the characters' ruminations could be described as metanarrative: Nick, an inbetweener, who fills in cartoon drawings between so-called extreme shots, muses on his job: "so you see what happens: once your brain registers sufficient similarities between the figures, it understands--it just knows--that they're the same character; then, with the help of good old persistence of vision, you blend together the movement and the sequence comes to life; what may seem like impossible difference in the individual images are submerged in the onrushing flow;" It doesn't matter how poorly executed the in-between drawings are: the eye registers continuity of movement and the optimal shape of the cartoon character.

We can't help but make wholes out of fragments, wholes despite holes. "O let me teach you how to knit again / This scattered corn into out mutual sheaf, / These broken limbs again into one body;", says the epigraph from Titus Andronicus. The eye leaps over lacunae, fills in narrative gaps, knits loose strands into a continuous tapestry.

Read the full review at my Beard & Bicycle blog. ( )
  aileverte | Jul 23, 2016 |
What does it mean to be lost? Towards the beginning of this book, there was a scene where one of our many narrators tells of how he drove off of a highway and further and further into the wilderness. There, he gets out of the car and meets a mysterious man who takes him even further into the forest looking for John Cage-shaped fungus. At a certain point, the narrator realizes that the man was not moving in any methodical fashion, and that they were both completely lost. He musters up the courage to ask the man if he knows where they are....Certainly...

...We’re right here...Which, strictly speaking, is the right answer, always the right answer. Wherever you are, there you are! What is it to be lost, except to be without referrent? Without an anchor to an earlier place? But if you didn’t care about that, and only cared about the here and now, then you could not be lost. It reminded me of the movie ‘Inception’ that I watched recently. In it, a character realizes that she is in a dream when she thinks about ‘how did I get here?’. Because in real life, you can always ask that question and there is always an answer. ‘I went to the supermarket after I got off work and after I bought the six pack of beer I hauled ass to Jason’s house because the traffic was already getting worse and I didn’t want to be late for band practice’ could be one such narrative answer to ‘how did I get here?’ But in a dream, often you are just in the middle of band practice without any of the messy leading-up-to-it parts.

Likewise, this novel seems to be composed of many ‘middles’. It’s a book without beginning or end, just an infinity of in-betweens. Are we lost? If the character who got lost in the forest realized that he was lost, it was only because he didn’t know where he was in relation to his Toyota. Just knowing where that one car is stuck makes all the difference between having an entire past life, or being helplessly lost in the world. Just one car is the difference between being lost and knowing exactly where you stand. And phrased in this way, knowing where you are doesn’t sound like a thing that one should be too confident about, as it is only an illusion of narrative, an illusion of ‘how I got here’ that we continue to build in our heads day in day out. Like a little counter we increment every second of our egotistical existence. A thread that is easily lost.


That would have been my 5-star review of this book if it had ended around page 300. The book was a dizzying pastiche of scenes, a collage of visceral experiences that you can’t quite put your finger on. The scenes seemed to revolve around ideas and philosophy rather than plot (Piaget, Chomsky, object permanence, being lost, how the mind works, etc.) And these ideas were presented in a way that didn’t make them seem heavy at all, it was very grounded in real world experiences and believable voices in the heads of different narrators. It was something I had not seen done before in this way, a truly abstract kind of novel of ideas made up of very concrete relatable pieces without being didactic or easily summarizable.

Unfortunately, the book becomes quite simplistic. The pastiche method fragments even further until all you hear are snippets of single paragraphs or single lines forming a kind of Robert Altman-esque collective voice, all somehow relating to the contamination of water in a town called Isaura by a corporation called Ozark. Because it was telling everybody’s story, I didn’t feel like I could relate to any one person’s story, and I suddenly found myself standing outside of the book looking in... a completely different experience than the first half of the book when I really felt in it.

Also, the whole plotline had the bad taste of PC-ness that was way too clean, way too easy. Recently I decided to give the TV show Mad Men a try, since everybody was talking about it. But every scene seemed to be about how a.) women were treated badly back then b.) men were sexist pigs and c.) everybody smoked everywhere *wink* *wink* get it? OK I get it! Now can we say something of substance, something that isn’t blatantly obvious? This constant winking is tiring and manipulative, and I felt the same way with the last half of this book. It seemed so one-tracked in its portrayal of Ozark (and in its expectation of how I should feel about Ozark) that it was boring and predictable.

It’s frustrating to read a book that I’d give 5 stars to the first half and 1 star to the last half. But Evan Dara shows he can write, he is clearly talented. So I’ll be reading more of his stuff, hoping he gets it right next time. ( )
1 ääni JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
  kasanita | Feb 25, 2009 |
näyttää 5/5
ei arvosteluja | lisää arvostelu
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It may be the defining irony of our time: just as we are coming to recognise our shared destiny and interdependence, our culture seems to be dangerously fracturing along every fault line possible. This novel aims to capture the spirit of our time.

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