The Lost Scrapbook is a story of the shattering of community in modern America—and a vision of reconstitution. The novel brings together stories of people who, unbeknownst to one another, are all somehow involved in a search for precisely the same thing. And as the characters tell their tales—like musical variations on such themes as apartness and belonging, unity and diversity—we learn about the object of their quest: a mysterious scrapbook.
The novel's culmination is a true tour-de-force, recounting a confrontation between a trusting city and the local manufacturing company that both sustains and betrays it. Exploring the interface between ecology and social justice, The Lost Scrapbook is broadly inclusive and fabulously inventive—biodiversity made into fiction. It is a triumph of ecological storytelling.
"This first novel resembles the ambitious debuts of Joseph McElroy (A Smuggler's Bible) and Thomas Pynchon (V.), but author Evan Dara pushes the bar back upward toward the height of William Gaddis' The Recognitions…It takes some work to look back at The Lost Scrapbook and say, 'Aha, so that's how all those parts fit together,' and then 'Aaah,' which signifies satisfaction or, with a different spelling, awe." —The Washington Post Book World
"Powerful…wonderfully entertaining…[The Lost Scrapbook] is that rarity among the first novels, a text that is both rich and accomplished, one where innovation, complexity, significant issues, and artistic control are all in abundant evidence." —American Book Review
"Monumental, cunning, heartfelt and unforgiving…Dara shows how a novel can be experimental, yet moral, rule breaking but emotional, and post-humanist while remaining deeply human. A vast accomplishment." —Richard Powers, author of The Gold Bug Variations and Galatea 2.2
"Evan Dara's magnificent novel…[is crafted] as if James Joyce had widened the narrative ear of Ulysses…If this really is Mr. Dara's first novel, he is either a young phenom or a well-practiced, reclusive treasure." —Chelsea Review
I often wonder these days—when looking in the window of a record store, or when passing a jumbly newsstand—if I would respond if someone were to call out my name: if I would involuntarily whop toward the sound of self, or even feel the old esophageal shimmy of potential recognition; I doubt it: I feel as if that mode of particularity is lapsing away (and accordingly, I can hardly care); but it doesn't stop there: I can barely align myself with generics any longer: it's difficult to feel like a runaway when no one has noticed that you're gone; being other-directed becomes problematic in the realm of no faces…
It's like that time a few summers ago—I think I was 15-when I brought my bicycle into Andy's Getty station for air: I had a red, fenderless, 10-speed Raleigh then, with chrome-shiny Derailleur-system gears, and I took good care of it (it had been given to me for an earlier birthday); all that summer, I spent afternoons riding up and down the hill to Ritter Springs Park, with its green slopes and abandoned gazebo; but by mid-season the bike had become harder to pedal, so one day after I had gotten to the park, I checked the wheels and found they had gone soft; accordingly, I stopped off at Andy's gasworks while on my way home; the station has a blood-red air pump across the tarmac from the garage, and though the sign above it says ‘10 cents,’ this was more intimidation for the untutored than a real request; so, without disturbing anyone, I rode up to the pump, got off my sticky-seated bike, pushed the kickstand down, and began the pleasant ritual: I rotated each of the bike's wheels to bring its air nozzle to bottom, then went for the airhose; it hung in a looping circle from the bassety jowl of the pump's dropping metal cradle; with silent aplomb, I found the hose's bulbed tip, knelt on one knee, and pressed the chrome knob to the bicycle's front wheel; immediately, then, the wheel began plumping with the arriving 45 pounds of pressure, and the bicycle-frame edged perceptibly up; again, it was a pleasant process: I had effected a working linkage, the pump-head was huffing and clanging in a passion of airy output, when, from nowhere, someone grabbed my arm, pulled me up and jolted me around—so abruptly that I lost control of the airhose and it snaked away, hissing, on the ground; for a second I thought that Andy had decided to get mad because I hadn't paid the 10 cents, but then a man's rough hand clamped over my face and crawled down over my mouth and chin; then the man pulled my throat up hard, making my throat-skin burn and sealing in my yelping; and then he wheeled me around toward the station, at which point I saw Andy, old and skinny Andy, come barreling out of his office beside the garage; Andy stopped dead, stared wildly in my direction, and faltered nervously; then, with his face grimaced and panicky, he slowly put his hands up…
The man holding me had a pistol in his other hand; I saw it in the corner of my eye just before I felt its cold hardness crunch into my temple; pressed against my face, the pistol was hard in a way that seemed absolute, bone-smashing, beyond argument, and cold in a way that seemed perfect and permanent; the man then wrenched me directly between him and Andy, whose eyes were as wide open as his hands, and then there was silence and then I heard the air hose puffing and then there were words: Hey and Come on and Leave him go; the gunman then began towing me backwards by my throat and chin, and I saw that Andy was fretting and rubbing his reddened cheek; but then a red station wagon drove in off Route 44 and went up to the gas island, and then gunman began exhaling shit…shit…, and my throat skin was burning, and my temple was erratically separating from and painfully banging back into the metal barrel of the pistol, and I was thinking this is really rather interesting: this feels like being in a movie and if it really rather interesting; there is something to be said for this; but then the driver of the red station wagon leaned from his window and called out Hey Andy—, whereupon Andy fretted some more and began backing towards his office without saying anything; and then, all of a sudden, the station wagon gunned its engine and tore backwards around the gas pumps, then shot forward and snorted away down Route 44; and as the car disappeared, I thought of the bullet in the man's pistol: before my eyes I saw the bullet in stunningly accurate cross-section, highly magnified but meticulously correct: the pointed projectile, gleamy within its snug chute, streak and striped with reflected light; and then I thought of how the bullet would be shoved through space-how a slug, a bit, would explode out of Zeno forth and reach pure continueness before streaming directly into frayable gun flesh; and I was thinking of what it would be like to have such a wound, to lift up the bottom of my shirt at school and have bandages to show, white brushstrokes on belly, when a horrendous force Huhhh captured me forward and my neck whipped back and I crumbled down to the pavement and my entire face began to cry; and then, after an evanescent interval, Andy was above me, just hovering there, splintering the sunlight and sputtering You OK?, you ok…?; but he didn't touch me; he didn't even bend down and from my kinked position on the tarmac, I looked over my shoulder and saw the gunman running towards a gray sedan waiting down the road; then he scrambled into the passenger door and took off; then, with miraculous rapidity, that was it; that was that; the whole thing was over, and things went back to the business as usual; Andy didn't even want to bother calling the police—he said they aren't concerned about things like this; he just helped me up, fluttered his hand over the front of my pants to help brush away some gravel, and went back into his office; I, of course, was all right: the gunman had only shoved me, that was all; he had strong hands but there was no harm done, and of course there hadn't been any bullets—of course I hadn't been shot…; there was nothing like that at all; so I just finished stuffing my bike with invisible air and went home; and thus ended my career as a hostage—briefly, inconclusively, with consummate inconsequentiality: a nonevent realizing its full potential, brave new currents in contemporary invisibility—