Reader Response

The Lost Scrapbook

“Amazingly crafted and imaginative vignettes just bleed and segue into one another for the entirety of this novel and reach a fevered pitch of flashcutting in the final hundred or so pages when the sum of the parts is most fully unveiled and the dramatic tensions rise to their apex. It bears mentioning that Dara’s a true magician with words as well; deeply satisfying descriptive chops to match his muscular intellectual and moral flexing.” Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

“I haven’t been this shaken by the final pages of a novel since finishing The Tunnel back in 2015.” Daniel

The Lost Scrapbook is Evan Dara’s phenomenal first novel. It’s a book that annoys some readers since it takes over 300 pages to get to the point. It’s a series of scenes and conversations, the beginnings and endings of which bleed into one another: impressions of various individuals and relationships in the fictional Missouri town of Isaura. The book has no chapters, and the narrative only breaks in two places. (With two or three blank pages in both places, strangely.) If you stick with it, there’s a point about 2/3 to 3/4 the way through where the disjointed scenes begin slowly to connect.” Steve Russillo

“The first three-quarters of this book is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read. What makes it special, besides Dara’s intelligence, is its unique rhythm. The work consists of not-clearly-related monologues and dialogues that pass one into the other without any transition, often without it being clear where the break is. That Dara could not only conceive this structure, but also make it work and sustain it — without plot or character, only voices — for over 300 pages is remarkable.” Robert Wechsler

“I’ve never read a novel like this. It’s less a coherent narrative than an encyclopedic, heart-searing exploration of the isolation and fragmentation of industrial modernity….This is one of two novels that has made me cry.” Cameron

“Yes.” Sofia

“Mi consejo final: Leedlo. Hay pocas obras como esta.” Mariano Hortal

“Reading this book is like tuning between stations on a radio, catching one sound after another without any sort of introduction or grounding.” Miles

“Se parece a reproducir una grabadora con conversaciones de personas de las que nada sabemos o a escuchar la radio yendo de un lado a otro del dial. Los personajes entran y salen sin avisos ni acotaciones. Literatura oral en la que perderse, no es para los que se marean sin mapas.”  Daniel

“This is just plain virtuosic writing that is an unending pleasure to read. Effortlessly gliding from one bit of unattributed narration and dialogue to the next the plot, such as it is, doesn’t come up until 300 or so pages in, and it doesn’t much matter. Dara has achieved something quite remarkable: a work that is nontraditional, experimental in ways, and yet completely readable. That’s a rare trick indeed.” Akira Watts

“pg 272 makes me cry & cry & cry & cry” – Russel

“Dara has an amazing grasp of language. Each word in his sentences feels as if he knows the word intimately, knows exactly where to place it to turn the sentence into something both beautiful and suprisingly easy to read.” Connor

“I absolutely loved this book. And I know a lot of people make comparisons to The Recognitions and to V., in the sense that they were both the first novels of two of the most seminal post modern authors. But that comparison makes a lot of sense once you read this. It feels like it belongs in the same category. It was an amazing read for me. I loved all of it.” Sterloid

“I hate to get swept up in hype, but sometimes you’ve just gotta give credit where credit’s due: this is a visionary novel, of a sort one rarely sees.” Geoffrey

“Work of art. Read it twice, will read again. Promise.” Nfpendleton

“beautiful and heartbreaking” – William

“It’s a damn good book, the kind of book I want to spend time with–invest my time in. It’s an antidote to standard literary fare that I increasingly grow tired of.” – Phil

“Whoa! what just happened?” – Emilie

“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.” aile.verte

“There are no words to describe the incredible force and beauty of this book. It is almost impossible to believe that this is Dara’s first novel, for the facility with which he interweaves superficially disparate but fundamentally similar vignettes into a cohesive whole is breathtaking. As you read, you can feel that you are in the hands of a master. The Lost Scrapbook (an apt title both because of the books collage style and because this amazing book has inexplicably been lost amid heaps of lesser works) combines the first-person narratives of artists, blue-collar workers, academics, mothers, possible lunatics, justified malcontents, and average joes, eventually becoming the voice of a community facing a terrible crisis, which brings the books to its gripping, gut-wrenching conclusion. And with this final narrative, of the battle of Isaura, MO and the Ozark Photography Corporation, Dara reveals that he is not only brilliantly talented, he is also brilliantly moral. The Lost Scrapbook is a deeply-felt, deeply moving novel.” – Ryan Lipscomb

“A complete masterpiece. Gives one hope that great books can still be written in the same way that The Recognitions did. One of the most touching and one of the most funny books I’ve read which to me is an ideal combination.” – Orpheus

“In a just universe, The Lost Scrapbook would dominate the wealth of hype currently afforded to lesser novels, or at least share the excitement over recent, comparable novels(and I’ve read them too) such as Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, Delillo’s Underworld, and Gaddis’ A Frolic of His Own. But it seems that the world wants to ignore The Lost Scrapbook, the work of a vastly talented writer, whose interwoven, first person narratives not only evoke lucid characters, but often reveal meaning through what is omitted — as in whole sets of dialogue — rather than what is written. Film students discuss Piaget’s theory of object constancy. One listens to the voices of factory workers, artists, cable repairmen, television interns, microbiologists, even an entire town, all quilted together into an elegant comment on humanity’s permutative expansion, information-wise and, subsequently, disaster-wise. I held back on rating this a 10, if only to dare Dara to discover room for improvement. So avoid The Lost Scrapbook at your own peril. If there is such a thing as a millennial masterpiece, Dara has written that book with which to usher in the 21st century, not to signal the end of the 20th. Because of that, The Lost Scrapbook will not be forgotten, whatever the status of its availability or obscurity.”

The Lost Scrapbook is a little-known treasure, a verbose, descriptive, artistic narrative containing the beauty and wisdom of the great poets and novelists. It’s a little bit like Gaddis, a little bit like David Foster Wallace, a little bit like a lot of things–but truly a great novel in its own right.” – Amanda T.

“Don’t worry yourself that this masterpiece’ll be overlooked– even in today’s mess of praise for books that are as billboards for soullessness the good stuff eventually surfaces word-of-mouthwise. So let me be the 2nd to here sound the call to all literature thirsties ready for something more hurricane than novel: Build yourselves from this perfect thumping upon the ceiling of our world; read it in the prisons and on the beaches; read it wherever there is love and/or chemical dumping; read it bravely, whatever the cost may be.” – Daniel Labeau

The Easy Chain

“I really enjoyed reading Dara’s novel The Lost Scrapbook and have found this novel The Easy Chain to be another gem.” – Jonny Keen

“I can’t really analyze this puppy, but I can say that Dara is a master at this craft. I found myself constantly wanting to read whole paragraphs out-oud. I still don’t know what he did to make me care about the events in this story so much, but he did. By the end of the novel I was engrossed in the story. I just don’t know why. yet. doesn’t matter.” – Jeff Falzone

“This marvelous and bewitching book contains some of the best prose of this millennium, along with savage stretches that test the mettle of even the most gifted readers. Like its predecessor, The Lost Scrapbook (which is one of the five best American novels of the past 25 years), The Easy Chain reveals new facets with each reading, while blurring or obfuscating some of the elements that you picked up in the past, forcing you to reexamine the evidence and reorient yourself as you go. Some sentences sew two voices together without a stitch, or with a splash of typographical shrapnel, while descriptions of characters and events are often narrated by multiple members of a breathless chorus, unnamed and largely unreliable. The story follows Lincoln Selwyn, a wayward young man from Amsterdam, with East Anglian roots, who decides to attend the University of Chicago because of its rigorous curriculum. However, in the wake of a mysterious illness, he meteorically rises to the Second City’s highest social strata, wheeling and dealing with effortless charm and blinding charisma, while seducing nearly everyone who is trapped by the gaze of his blue eyes. He becomes a source of tabloid fascination amongst the city’s “promosexuals,” yet, as the novel progresses, the black hole at its center widens, which feeds even more speculation from the chattering classes. Who is this guy? And what happened to him? It’s a spellbinding, challenging, and entertaining book by an author who, despite his pseudonymity, fits right alongside other modern masters such as William Gass, David Foster Wallace, Richard Powers, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis. Evan Dara has a gift for summoning voices which allows him to skewer and satirize the sociocultural components which drive the hype economy, while presaging the Trumpocene era we’re currently living in.” Jeff D.

“evan dara is not for everyone, but he is one of my all-time favorites. which of course means all of his books are difficult to get ahold of, because that’s how the world treats things that appeal to me. he writes huge muddled messy nonlinear whooshes of books that become like a duststorm consuming the reader and leaving us all (even the people not actively reading the book – all of us) breathless and dizzy but crying “when will you write again??”….in short, and for now. it is untidy, in a really compelling way, and is perfect for people who hate a predictable book.” – Karen Brissette

“THE LOST SCRAPBOOK debuted dara’s original technique of narrative splicing–a kind of collage work done in series, rather than in space. THE EASY CHAIN operates in similar fashion and, like THE LOST SCRAPBOOK, is a political novel, one made of principally two things: ideas–witty analysis of our inept and corrupt culture–and yarns. dara’s specialty is in fact the yarn, the almost wholesome tale, ending with a zinger or even a moral. on their own they would be nice bits of entertainment, strung together in series they make something else, at best it makes a convincing group portraiture of our rattled time… it’s a strange accomplishment, and the only one i could think to relate it to was the reaction had after watching linklater’s WAKING LIFE, where a series of undergraduate-y philosophical discussions, in aggregate, has the larger wallop of showing that we are a species of similar concerns, with similar self-designed thought experiments, and indeed similar fantasies.”

“Now, I dig Harry Potter as much as the next guy 🙂 but my tastes can also run to the unconventional. (Not Age Of Wire & String unconventional, mind you, but House Of LeavesInfinite JestGold Bug Variations are all lifetime favorites.) Unresolved plotlines do not bother me too much, so long as I feel the writing is worth reading. The Easy Chain is not especially easy at all, and it might not satisfy readers who liked The Lost Scrapbook’s satisfying resolution. (Although honestly, if a reader stuck with The Lost Scrapbook long enough to actually experience that resolution, he/she just might have the patience for The Easy Chain after all.) In this, his second novel, Dara goes nuts in eight different directions, and if you’re up for it, I say DIVE IN. There’s all sorts of cool fun to be had here. Stream of consciousness, whack-a-mole POV (Lost Scrapbook style), verse! (VERSE I SAY!)…heck, one section is written from the POV of friggin’ dirt.” – Steve R.

“While I think The Easy Chain is a little hairy with all its experiments in narrative and form, I can’t help but admire it for taking the leap and diving head first into new territories. Don’t miss this one.” – Ian Scuffling

“Please.

Read.

Evan.

Dara.”  – Nathan N.R. Gaddis

 

“The style in which it is written is striking. Much of it is written in free dialogue–no quotes, no removed narrative voice or exposition. Faceless, nameless people talk about the protagonist, Lincoln Selwyn; that’s the bulk of the novel. As it progresses, we follow Lincoln around as he meets with various entrepreneurs, con men, investors, and straight-up nutbags. Those are my favorite scenes, because they give Dara a chance to do what he does best–float oddball theories and mess around with the worlds he creates.” – Jeff T.

“Do I understand this book? Not very well! But goddamn is it ever stylistically heady stuff.” – Geoffrey

Flee

“Every now and then one encounters a piece of fiction so acutely tuned to the reality of life in the USA, you glance over your shoulder to make sure the author hasn’t been (and isn’t still), recording your life, your conversations, your thoughts, or the daily life of your home town. With an observational precision that borders on OCD, Evan Dara’s third novel – Flee – describes the struggle of fictional Anderburg, VT and her people to survive and surmount the economic collapse and political blundering of 2008. Dara’s narrative moves effortlessly between conversations among dozens of frightened citizens marked by an em dash, and traditional storytelling through the characters of Carol, Rick and Marcus with nothing more than a change in font. Dara’s inventive descriptors: tooth-gooping; creak-step porch; head was all buzzard-slunked down between his shoulders; persimmoned leaves; butterfly-folded coffee cups – make you wonder how these words and phrases aren’t already part of our vernacular. Flee is well worth the reading challenge of its rhythms and structure when such skill is on display. It is a rare combination of form and content in the world of post-modern fiction, and a great place to start in the works of Evan Dara before tackling The Lost Scrapbook and The Easy Chain.

As a pastor, I am always on the lookout for novels to use as sermon illustrations or recommend to my congregation. It is wonderful to find a story that comments not only on the loss of community in our culture and our idolatry of individualism – but one that offers the hope of redemption and reconnection through generosity of spirit and simple gratitude. As Dara says, “Gratitude liberates life’s fullness, it is the antidote to taking anything for granted. To taking everything for granted.” I am grateful for the talent of Evan Dara and hope his work will reach a broader audience.” – Denise Pass

“As I became involved in this unusual and amazing novel it took me a little while to see what its real subject is, but when I did it delivered a knockout punch. This is not only a look at the destructive forces of the current economy on a small town in Vermont but it’s almost impossible to say anymore without really getting into spoilers. Yes its a portrait but a portrait of? I’ve never read anything like this, the structure is extraordinary, and it does support my interpretation of the book. Meanwhile, the lines come like lines of music. a song of humanity. This was a really different read, very interesting, and I’m surely going to read more of this author soon. This book has so much to say about our time on both the collective and individual level.” – Charlie Rosen

“The best dramatization I’ve read yet of the soul-crushing effects of the crash of 2008; it really captures the disbelief, the disorientation and despair, and the larger political implications of the financial collapse. As in his earlier novels, Dara’s ear for dialogue is pitch-perfect, and there’s a good rhythmic alternation between the chorus of panicked citizens and the more focused stories of Carol and Rick and Marcus.” – Steven Moore

“evan freaking dara. light of my life, fire of my loins. why does no one else write like he writes? he will just pitch the reader into a situation with no omniscient narrator or pesky physical descriptions, and no characters really, not in any traditional sense. just… dialogue. monologues. a tornado of humanity stripped to its barest essence. and you are just caught up in his words in the most delightful updraft as you slowly find your footing and follow the story in a picture-puzzle way where he is deliberately holding onto several middle-pieces. but it’s not frustrating. it’s not “look at me, i am the author and i control you!” it is just… fun. it is an experience. it is an offering. it is a gut-punch of discovery that makes you remember why you love to read in the first place. so many books will just lead you. dara reminds you that you are an integral part of the experience….it’s just gorgeous, all of it. a big fat bowl of word-soup with all the flow and finesse that i have come to crave, since reading him for the first time. “ – Karen Brissette

“Dara’s writing is electrically visceral: Like when I read David Foster Wallace, I devour each sentence and can’t wait for the next. And no matter how smart they are being with their vocabulary, their need to be smart never (for me) exceeds the tone they set for the telling. I get annoyed easily when reading “smart” books by writers who can use science metaphors to talk about anything and everything. But with DFW and Evan Dara, even when I know they are desperate to impress me, I also can feel/see how they are unyielding in carrying the characters forward. Every inch of each syllable gives a shit about who these people are and what they are experiencing.” – Jeff Falzone

“But I want to duck back into it just for a moment to declaim the greatness of Evan Dara. There’s really just one other contemporary author I compare him with, Jeff Bursey. Both authors do that kind of political fiction which, to my best understanding, is mostly pressed to the side by family stuff (Franzen et al) and/or individualist first=person=pov stuff. But here, in Dara and Bursey, we get a political fiction of a community (television does it with SoA and Deadwood and The Wire). And in both, quite coincidentally, but with form following content, we get a thoroughly orally-oriented language, a technic grounded in Gaddis. But maybe too, this community oriented politics, even as it’s perhaps so uncommon in today’s north american fiction, traces back to pre-WWII american fictions, those perhaps of Lewis’s Main Street and the like. Incidentally, I go to India for something similar, Rao’s Kanthapura. But whatever the aboutness here, do not miss Dara ; he’s doing a fiction kind of thing that we need more of. Criminally under=read.” – Nathan N.R. Gaddis

“Finally, the great Vermont novel…kinda. While not as comforting as Grade A amber maple syrup or as rousingly contentious as the Green Mountain State’s senior Senator, Evan Dara’s Flee places small town America under his panoptic eye, detailing the last gasps of a community suffocating under the pressures of late capitalism in all its whimsical rapaciousness. Like a post-modern Sinclair Lewis, Dara dives deep into his characters voluble lives; their folksy follies, their nervous natterings, their often misguided resolve that suggests hope but is, in actuality, the death rattle of a culture, a way of life, the star-spangled dream slipping into darkness.” – Ken

“While Evan Dara’s name isn’t widely known outside of the confines of post-modern fiction, he is the finest living practitioner within the genre, deserving to be spoken of in the same breath as David Foster Wallace, William Gaddis, and Thomas Pynchon. Flee is his third and most recent novel, featuring a signature voice-driven style which tells the story of the dissolution of a fictionalized version of Burlington, Vermont. Indeed, this is the great Vermont novel of the 21st century, even if the tale it tells involves the mass migration of a population _out_ of its largest city. Why do they flee?” – Jeff D.

“I love that there is such a person in the world as Evan Dara – or at least someone pretending to be Evan Dara – for the sake of challenging what we believe to be literature. I love the ideas in Flee, at least the ones I could pick up, better than the execution, which is somewhat different from The Lost Scrapbook, in which the execution was absolutely mesmerizing. But then again, why bother having an actual opinion of an Evan Dara novel after reading it only once? Until or perhaps upon the event of such a re-read, I would be embarrassed to have given this less than perfect adoration.”  Jeffrey Paris

“Five stars for being legitimately inventive and challenging but also funny and humane….I am really glad I read this and will be checking out Dara’s other novels, although I am going to take a lengthy break to read slightly less heady stuff before tackling those.” – Pete

“evan dara goes apocalyptic via william gaddis. i mean, not really. flee is a mostly unattributed dialogue account of the residents of a town in vermont leaving it. this dialogue is the gaddis: the speech is interruptive and full of its own idiosyncratic rythmns, like walking down a sidewalk and picking up the pieces of a hundred conversations all feeding the town’s narrative. you get a sense of place. each chapter notes, as its title, the dwindling population. interrupting the unattributed dialogue is the story of two people trying to start a business that brings jobs and people back to the town. it’s a novel about the moral decay of capitalism and the failures of collectivism, bizarrely compelling considering how tied up it is in the minutiae of red tape and bureaucracy. it’s almost all form, with no emotion until it diverges in the penultimate chapter to tell the story of yet another person trying to start a business in the failing town, and then a sort of narrative’s worth of emotional reckoning emerges in a very short period. dara is immensely talented and is ever evolving; he represents one of only a few people that seem to be pushing the form forward aesthetically.” – Downward

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: