cover image The Lost Scrapbook

The Lost Scrapbook

Evan Ara, Evan Dara. F2c, $24.5 (400pp) ISBN 978-1-57366-006-8

This artfully disarrayed first novel reads like literary channel-surfing over a multitude of characters' first-person monologues and casual conversations. Dara flings a cacophony of voices at his reader in a passionately nonlinear novel whose elements-be they characters, themes or dotted plot lines-come together only in the culminating narrative of a chemical company's accident and cover-up in a small town. When creating voices and characters, Dara displays extended range with a cast that includes a pirate radio deejay tracing his own signal, a schizoid eco-hermit on a rant and a tobacco-industry spokesman retorting to unspoken questions. For great sea-like expanses of the book, the only connecting links are thin leitmotifs-e.g., references to music theory or a running variation on a casual joke. Then the detached voices finally merge with the chemical-disaster plot; and this most conventional portion of this unconventional novel disappoints since the final environmental catastrophe, though intended to unite the voices in endangered and complicit community, does not so much integrate Dara's voices as overwhelm them. Dara is a talent with a clear gift for voice-throwing-some of his extended passages of dialogue approach the virtuosity of William Gaddis in their ability to implicitly advance action and character without benefit of narrative exposition. But he still needs a sturdier novelistic structure-even if unconventional-in order to redeem his obsessive themes and anxious variations from all that exhilarating white noise. (Nov.)