As we prepare to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Lost Scrapbook, we are encouraging readers and admirers of Evan Dara to share their thoughts and reflections on this monumental debut. We’ll be mixing these in with some of the other reviews that have accumulated over the years.
Submissions of any kind—poems, essays, artwork, songs, spoken word, collage, scrapbook scraps, etc—will be gratefully embraced and warmly considered for publication on the site. Please address them to email@example.com.
Deadline for submissions: October 31, 2020.
We’ve got some good news to share with our #Portuguese readers: the new issue of Qorpus—which is published in Brasil—includes Lucas Lazzaretti’s translation of Evan Dara’s play, Provisional Biography of Mose Eakins.
You can check it out here: https://t.co/8BMQZg0avu
— Evan Dara Affinity (@LincolnSelwyn) July 21, 2020
Here’s a direct link to the PDF: https://t.co/ztb3ayKXQK
— Evan Dara Affinity (@LincolnSelwyn) July 21, 2020
Last fall, we learned that the critic Daniel Green had prepared and submitted an article for The Goliad Review, covering the current corpus of Evan Dara’s work, including his recent play, Provisional Biography of Mose Eakins. This was an encouraging development for two reasons:
No less a leading light than Steven Moore has stated (in regard to Beyond the Blurb):
“If, like me, you feel the obsession with theory over the last forty years has caused many critics to lose sight of the primary purpose of criticism, Daniel Green’s splendid primer returns us to square one. In assured, lucid prose, Green reminds us that a literary work should be analyzed for its own sake, ‘apart from any value it might have as the object of some other discourse or inquiry,’ and that the focus should be on language, not on ‘meaning’ or ideology.
Of course, few outfits are as vulnerable to the tradewinds of misfortune as literary journals, so when word came down earlier this year that the article wouldn’t appear in their pages, it was disheartening, if not unexpected.
After a fruitless search for a suitable home, Green made the decision to publish it on his site, The Reading Experience, which he has been building and tending since 2004. Along with his blog, there are numerous eBooks you can download there, including substantive pieces on innovative women writers, American post-modern fiction, and the works of James Purdy. It is worth a bookmark.
In “Giving Voice: On the Work of Evan Dara,” Green has taken a deep dive into Dara’s world, and drawn out the themes and stylistic connections between his four published works. It’s loaded with novel insights, but here’s a snippet:
If nothing else, it is obvious once one begins reading these novels that the author wants to subvert any presumptions we might have that the novel we are reading will bear enough family resemblance to those we have read before that it will be explicable according to the “rules” we believe we have learned about how novels should proceed. Clearly it intends to replace those rules with others applicable only to this work (although any one of Dara’s novels certainly does then provide direction in reading the others), rules that we will have to learn as we read. In this way, Dara’s novels work like all of their predecessors in the lineage of “experimental” fiction, presenting the reader with a heterodox formal arrangement the reader must learn to assimilate by attending closely to the new patterns the work establishes as alternatives to those patterns more conventional fiction has predisposed us to expect. Indeed, in the challenge they pose to the assumption that the conventional patterns define the novel as a form, Dara’s novels are arguably the most radically disruptive books in American fiction since, say, Gilbert Sorrentino in a work like Mulligan Stew (1979).
It’s surprising that, as we approach the 25th anniversary of The Lost Scrapbook, there aren’t more pieces like this. However, we hope that others follow Mr. Green’s lead and continue this conversation.
Chris Via provides an introduction to Evan Dara’s Provisional Biography of Mose Eakins, a play Dara published in 2018. He also touches on his experience reading The Lost Scrapbook.
Here is a rough translation of the opening of Facundo Melillo’s review of El Cuaderno Perdido.
“How to start writing about this book? If the words do not reach me. Dara is a unique writer who refers to others but knows only himself. There are echoes of Pynchon, DeLillo, Manuel Puig, William Gaddis, Beckett and in turn something that is unique in its class. If there is a hidden contender for “The Great American Novel” this book is surely the most prominent. Although, for me, the great American novel is not a work, but a set of works that lasted through time being a portrait of the society of its time, its ideals, as well as books that were stamped in time by its quality. Evan Dara’s The Lost Scrapbook is one of these books.
Here is the original:
“¿Cómo empezar a escribir sobre este libro? Si las palabras no me alcanzan. Dara es un escritor único que remite a otros pero se sabe solo a él mismo. Hay ecos de Pynchon, DeLillo, Manuel Puig, William Gaddis, Beckett y a su vez a algo que es único en su clase. Si hay un contendiente oculto para “The Great American Novel” este libro es seguro el más prominente. Aunque, para mi, la gran novela americana no es una obra, sino un conjunto de obras que perduraron a través del tiempo siendo un retrato de la sociedad de su época, de sus ideales, así como libros que quedaron estampados en el tiempo por su calidad. El cuaderno perdido de Evan Dara es uno de estos libros.”
“For a book that has no discernible narrator and a multitude of anecdotal scenes which often times don’t resolve themselves and changes literary mid sentence this is a very readable book. Dara has drawn comparisons with Gaddis, especially Gaddis’ debut The Recognitions, but this book I believe is more comparable to Gaddis’ phenomenal JR. Ceaseless dialogues permeate the book like in JR and the reader is challenged to put the puzzle pieces together. Lot of great social commentary in this book in which a community is affected by a large corporation that is polluting the water. Disparate voices intertwine in debates over the pros of having a large corporate benefactor providing jobs, tax breaks, etc and the cons of the cost of environmental irresponsibility. Great and unconventional read, now who [is] Evan Dara???”
See the review here.
Apologies for the cyber translation, but here is the closer: "The exciting thing about The Easy Chain is that its author…
— Evan Dara Affinity (@LincolnSelwyn) October 11, 2019
We were pleased to learn this week that the crackerjack team at Palido Fuego announced that their long-anticipated translation of Evan Dara’s The Easy Chain will be coming out on September 23rd. You can order your copy here.
We interviewed the translator, José Luis Amores, back in 2017, after he successfully brought The Lost Scrapbook (El Cuaderno Perdido) to Spanish readers back in the spring of 2015. For that particular accomplishment, it was given the Best Translation Award by Estado Critico.
Here’s a short excerpt from that Q&A:
Q: I believe that you are working on translations of The Easy Chain and Flee. Are readers of El cuaderno perdido excited about digging deeper into Dara’s catalog?
JLA: We want to translate The Easy Chain and Flee. In fact, I want to publish The Easy Chain as soon as possible, maybe this fall. I keep a lot of notes and comments about it, made while I was reading it, and I think the process will be very similar to El cuaderno perdido. But, sincerely, I don’t know about excitement from our readers. We do have some very faithful readers, who get everything published by our press, and they are precisely the people who keep this working. I truly hope that The Easy Chain will achieve relative success in this time of skonky politicians.
Does anybody out there know (even through rumors) whether Evan Dara is working on another novel? I’m finishing up an essay on Dara, and any info about this would be helpful to me.
— Daniel Green (@greenlitcrit) August 7, 2019
The critic’s critic, Daniel Green, recently asked about the status of Dara and whether he had another novel trundling down an unpredictable pipeline. As it turns out, the National Book Award finalist, Brandon Hobson, recently corresponded with our man in Europe—prior to Hobson’s trip to France—where he learned that Dara has apparently completed a new novel and is weighing his options.
According to Hobson, he is seeking representation for this new book, with the plan of working with a more mainstream house and a dedicated editor. What this means for Aurora, the outfit he co-founded prior to releasing The Easy Chain, is unclear. But here’s hoping that a savvy and sensible literary agent is able to help steer this new manuscript through the perilous shoals and, in time, find a secure and accessible home for Dara’s dazzling catalog.
One of the cruel curses of the Trumpocene era, which likely afflicts large swathes of the literate within a society daydreaming toward totalitarianism, is the random reminder of your kakistocratic overlords while trying to enjoy a novel. For instance, reading Dara’s The Easy Chain after the 2016 election, it was difficult not to draw lines between the promosexual swindler with small hands at the empty center of the book and the orange glob of dark matter that lives in our headlines and belches blue ruin.
I keep returning to this section in Part I of Jim Gauer’s Novel Explosives, where the poet and Frankfurt School Marxist is being run through the wringer while interviewing for a position at a venture capital firm, seeking to curry favor with a trio of well-heeled imbeciles:
“One of my own new partners, in fact, one of the firm’s two founders a man of such pure and unalloyed greed that wealth and possessions had long ago lost all meaning, leaving him with a vicious streak, common among the greedy for whom success means nothing unless those around them fail, this partner, as I was saying, whose greed was so voracious that it was devouring its own entrails, still found time, one beautiful Aspen winter, to put in nearly 70 full days on the slopes. The other founder, a vacation connoisseur, and a man for whom wealth was the bedrock of his vanity, that sense of himself, common among the wealthy, of being a man of true discernment and inexhaustible sagacity, this other partner, as I was saying, whose vanity was so thorough that it had swallowed him whole, could always be found, in the midst of a crisis, missing in action on a sun-drenched private yacht. And my third and final partner, the junior of the three, a delusional apopheniac whose specialty was conspiracy theories, who was constantly finding proof, in meaningless random data, of vile acts of perfidy that he himself had initiated, this final partner, in short, whom I’m hesitant to speak of, as it might tend to confirm his suspicion that it is he of whom I speak, scarcely worked at all, other than on his conspiracy theories….
It is to Gauer’s credit that he can lace his paragraphs with such compounding insights, even if, in this particular slice of time, they keep summoning the specter that you are actively trying to avoid.
“I don’t mean to pick on these particular individuals; most wealthy VCs share a similar ethos, with an asset-backed ontology, and a money-means-wisdom accrual-based epistemology, and also share the problem, common among the merely moneyed, of never having enough of it to constitute true wealth….One of the reasons that such men often seem to despise the impoverished is the deep fear they have that, despite their poverty, the poor may be leading meaningful lives, which almost seems cruel, given the foregoing, when despite all their money, they barely feel viable.”