Giving Voice: On the Work of Evan Dara

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:

  1. As far as we knew, no writer had taken on the task of providing a wide-angle look at all of Dara’s published output. Indeed, as Green notes, very few outlets have even reviewed any of his books.
  2. Green is one of the best at his craft.

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.

 

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