Category: Dara, Evan

“trauma-kindred towns”

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK pp. 402-[/Done]

It’s proven to be a wonderful and baffling and honestly inspiring novel to the very end. i think i’ll be returning to it soon and often, jumping around in the text, trying to figure out how it works. The conceit of bite-sized narrative blocks continues but the rapid-fire pace that climaxed the last section gears down to a steady pace. We witness a community’s powerlessness and marinate in corporate media while an ecological catastrophe unfolds. The Ozark corporation is sued by an oak tree, and it all culminates in a final six-page wall of text which might qualify as the most forbidding part of the whole read, but it’s still accessible, and loaded with significance.


cartoon physics, curious chemical cartel

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK pp. 282-402


This post ended up two times bigger than planned in terms of coverage — the text’s leisurely pace turned into a sprint towards a set piece with an angry town hall meeting. It begins with another epistolary chunk involving Chomsky in the flesh, and ends with a wash of multiple voices from a probably-doomed town. 85% thru the novel and new themes about environmental degradation are launched, while the notions of corporatism, collectivity, and patterns/individuals develop further.


the thoughts that were my scourge (excerpt)

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK 271-73

…Ray came in, and we quickly embraced…his warmth and big-boned huskiness, solid beneath his Harris Tweed blazer, comforted me…he smelled, as always, very good…lacquery, grainy…I steered him to the divan in the living room, and offered him something to drink…but I did not have the cranberry juice he requested, so he said he would wait…and we caught up on some day-to-day this and that, and then, not really intending to start just yet, it came…and now that it was coming, I let it go…I did not want the pointillist discourse of everyday, I loosed myself in waves…for minutes in a row, I felt what it felt like to eddy…to empty…and I attempted, above all, to get at the truth, not the masquerade that declares itself as genuineness when, habitually, the truth is invoked, but a wholesale leveling of the artifices of personality, a selfless plunge into…into what I had thought must remain forever hidden, to the substance of what I had always kept in shadow…to that point where self becomes sorrow…to my fear that I was so essentially distanced from all other people that I had been consigned to a lifetime of solitude…to my sense that something within me sought to poison all good times with awareness and analysis, while leaving all bad times undiluted and pure, and therefore miraculously potent…to my certainty that awareness had made me incapable of marshaling the ambition and the cruelty necessary to excel, or even to survive, in this world…and I told him of my fear that I could never let my thoughts out, to share them with others, because anyone who heard them would become infected by them, would become infected by me, by my disease…for I was a virulent agent…and I told him of my even greater fear that my listeners would not become infect, that they would not understand, because the rift was so great that nothing could get across…and I told him of my inability to participate in the simple rituals of life, the talking and transacting, the dressing and greeting and circulating, the blisses of the commonplace, because I was always denying and denigrating…and how I felt as if I was being punished for the sin of understanding, that my virtue was my undoing…but also how I took a secret pride in the thoughts that were my scourge…and how I have never felt there was a place for me, a genuine place, anywhere — but rather that I had been torn from my time and left flapping and tumbling in history’s slipstream…and I talked of my certainty that there were other people who felt as I did, very much the same, but that even if we found each other it wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t make a difference…for it was too late…and I told him of my horrible fear that my struggle had rendered me incapable of achieving my struggle’s objectives, that the process was irremediably undermining the goal…that my spine was being progressively mangled by my efforts to stand up straight…and I talked of hating this quicksand consciousness…but of the fear that my self-definition derived, to a terrifying degree, from it…from its pure destructiveness…and I talked…and I talked…

don’t tell my head, my large and heavy head

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK pp. 225-280


[CN: lewd het sex]

This week’s reading takes us to the end of the book’s first “chapter” out of three, this one being almost 60% of the whole text. It’s more or less the same kind of material found in the last section, but with more recursion, more encyclopedic stuff (linguistics, avant-garde music, subatomic physics, Darwinism), more games (returning names and our biggest shaggy dog story yet), and more weirdness such as a sinister telemarketing bot and a creepy neighbor. More layers, more people, more possibilities for how to be in this world: marvel at language or cower in fear of it, connect with other bodies or abandon your own. The novel keeps on accruing, perhaps, as one narrator says, building slowly towards a critical mass.


a conduit and not a content (excerpt)

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK, pp. 190-92

…In fact, this happens often — when I feel as if words, others’ words, have crowded mine out, and have left me no place; I do not know why, through what mechanism, this occurs, but when it does, and it is often, I find that I develop a need, an earnest yearning, for words that have not become sour and strange — that is, for words that are my own, words that are uniquely mine amid this foreign wash; and yet I find, when I look for such words — my words — none seem to be there: all of my words, upon the slightest inspection, seem so foreign to me, so much the work of others; and so I wonder how I can claim that anything that occurs in my consciousness is mine, and not the product of some otherness; often I feel that I am not thinking so much as eavesdropping on my own thoughts, listening in on a narrative being told between otherness — that it is the otherness thinking me; because none of it, in truth, seems to issue from me; even my unplanned cries, my most heartfelt exclamations, have been determined by others: I have noticed that it is precisely at times of highest emotion — when I am going to the deepest regions of my responses, to the deepest particularity of me — that my words, which would then seem to be at their most personal and spontaneous, are in fact their most derivative, just pure banal cliché: O my god!, Will you look at that?, I don’t believe it!; but where are my words, I wonder, my own thoughts?; it seems, sometimes, that I am a conduit and not a content — a transit point, a capacitor, a pattern in waves; or, at most, I am a bricklayer, combining chucks of accepted solidity to wall out fresh perception; is this adolescent thinking? — I don’t know, but I wonder where the suggestion came from that it is adolescent thinking; at best, I see myself, that coal-stone, as some kind of irritant, as something that makes flows of culture coagulate, pearl-like, in my consciousness: I am not expressed, but accrued; lopped off from my sources, submerged in received history, I feel myself only as an offputting unknown: I do not know why I never wear the same shoes two days in a row; I do not know why I tell people that I don’t like to travel; I do not know why I keep so little food in the apartment; I do not know why I fret so when I have to wait in line; I do not know why I surge when I see Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden, while Michelangelo’s version of the exact same tale leaves me utterly cold; I do not know how I ended up in the work that I do; I do not know why I work on presenting an appearance of unrufflable affability; I do not even know why I pay attention to myself; but I do know that these concerns, and the words that compose these concerns, sound, as well, as if they had been taken from others — lifted wholesale; even my words for articulating my sadness are only an embodiment of the otherness expressing sadness, are part of this system; this Möbius culture, and so further confirmation of its dominion; others’ words have even determined the content of my suffering, and what I want, above all, is to find my own means to suffer, to be able to express myself in sadness; this, then, will be my project, my creative enterprise: to find an absolutely personal mode of sadness; it is, perhaps, the most significant work left me; yet I shouldn’t even say me, my, myself, when speaking about this, for doing so represents too bold an assertion; it would be better, more accurate, certainly more discerning, to use the third person, she, to best capture the situation — or even he, the masculine, the form that is even more generic: I should really say He wakes up; He sloshes to the bathroom; He winces and big-blinks for the mirror — yes, that is better; that certainly is right: He twists the handle that flushes the blue-bowled Standard toilet; He skims His eyes, He brushes His teeth; He takes lather from a nozzled canister and shaves with a razor of orange plastic; He taps on aftershave, and feels its cerdar-y acerbity frost His nose; He paints Ban under His left arm, His right arm; He holds his arms outward-elevated until the pit-chill abates, until He has received the all-dry; from His armoire He withdraws a pastel blue Lauren shirt, then unclosets a deep blue Paul Smith suit, with silvery pinstripes; He breaks the cleaner’s paper band from His shirt, then feel’s His shirt’s textured stiffness wrap around His shoulders, His triceps, His belly, Him; He buttons and smoothes, He collars, He feels the heft of His suit; it rectangles at His shoulder, it slopes at His waist; He sits and bends to soft socks and smooth, scuffless shoes; He combs His hair-layers to their destined fallings, which they seek out, regardless, on their own; He checks and inverts His black plastic comb, then uses its milkteeth to align his eyebrows; He takes up the tiny, trim envelope from the surface of His bureau, and is reminded of what it promises: Rostropovitch, Dvořák, Beethoven; He gathers unto Him jewelry, analog watch, coins, keys, wallet, then seals them upon His person with the tightening knot of His tie; He waggles His neckskin to final snug comfortableness, then breaks open His wood door, transiting to the crisper flatness of His hallway carpet…

brain-chaos in the muffin factory

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK pp. 175-225


The patchwork of oral history continues with two long, strange stories, and some smaller pieces that introduce highly specialized knowledge and a peppering of technical language. We meet a character who changes from a “she” to a “he,” and the book begins to embody more characteristics of encyclopedic narrative and postmodern play. While there are a lot of mysteries going on, only one of which is “solved,” there’s still nothing yet about a scrapbook, lost or otherwise (apart from the work itself as a lost scrapbook, of course), but there are more corporate shenanigans.


a pomo parable

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK pp. 72-175


This next part of the book is quite long but fast by virtue of its odd formatting. It’s a single narrative block which delivers the speech of a pirate broadcast that segues into an odd story set in a dense forest. By the end i think we’ve developed some of the ideas raised in the last section in a more abstract way, especially regarding the ways our social/economic climate keeps us isolated from each other, and the possibilities for communication or establishing some kind of connectedness.


everybody’s grandpa

Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK, pp. 6-72


Many of us im sure think a little about how to write differently. To make something that could push out beyond Brechtian alienation or the long postmodern and all the rest of that which is now tradition. Is there a text out there that really captures this moment, the psychological situation brought on by late capitalism, and promises a radical response? Is there a book that turns its gaze onto this current political-historical dilemma that frames our discourse — the blood on our hands which postcolonialism highlights, the tension between the margin and the center; a book that prescribes some kind of antidote to contemporary alienation while still conscious about how power works?

It was Evan Dara’s THE LOST SCRAPBOOK which i was told was a white male writer’s text that offered a model to navigate this moment; one that delivers on its radical promises. i dont read the blurbs on books often but there was one on my copy from a monograph, and how often does that happen? Professor Jeremy Green calls it “the most formidable political novel of the 1990s”. The source, Green’s LATE POSTMODERNISM: AMERICAN FICTION AT THE MILLENNIUM, which i read a few months ago, brings up

Robespierre’s distinction between the “citra-revolutionary,” those moderates of the French Revolution who wished “to draw the Republic back from the resolute measures necessary to save it,” and the “ultra-revolutionary,” fanatics who were determined to push forward into further extreme and excessive acts.

And THE LOST SCRAPBOOK is to Green’s eye an “ultra-postmodern” text, fun! i want to devote more than one post to this book and chew on it slowly. It’s pretty wild and exciting yet oddly wistful, and there’s only two teases of a plot line but the pages just tumbled by; it’s compulsively readable.