Book Review: The Lost Scrapbook by Evan Dara

and at that point I came upon a photograph of a hardhat eating strawberry yogurt, and I suddenly heard myself thinking This is not innocent, this is not unknowing, every angle and facet and posture in this has been mapped out and calculated for maximal effect;

Dara, Evan. The Lost Scrapbook

This book was published in 1995, where our notions about what qualifies as non innocent advertisement were still innocent. The novel could be qualified as a kind of hypertext, but there is refreshingly no mention of the internet, only of Walkmans, Xerox-machines, IBM-compatible PCs and Sun Microsystems. And also this:

I had finished line-editing three long chapters of an odd, repetitious book on massively parallel processing systems, written by a UC Santa Cruz professor who seemed to have read a little too much Raymond Queneau;

Dara, Evan. The Lost Scrapbook

which is oddly specific. Anyone knows if this alludes to a real book?

I realized too late that there is an e-book version of this by now. So I got one of the last available physical copies for Christmas.

Evan Dara is only a pseudonym, the author prefers to stay anonymous, and there is pretty much nothing known about them, but being an American author living in France. Luckily, we can use the book to create a shadow profile anyway, so we can show them relevant ads based on their interests, which may include:

  • Babies and Toddlers
  • Comics and Animation
  • Green Living and Environmental issues
  • Home Improvement
  • Humour
  • Music and Audio
  • News
  • Parenting
  • Radio Control
  • Shopping
  • Technology

Please notice how “Conventional Narrative” and “Conventional Punctuation” are decidedly missing from this list.

—Reading this book is in some ways like scrolling through a social media feed: Fragmented, seemingly disconnected stories are presented. But of course they are written by people sharing the same reality with you. There is no jumping around in time, but only in perspective. And when a catastrophe hits it takes up the mind space of the whole community. Which is a little unfortunate because the last third of the book focuses solely on this catastrophe and so we will never find out if the father from the beginning of the book will be able to reconcile with his son after a very unfortunate conflict about an expensive drum set. At first I was a little disappointed about this, but on the other hand the book’s central message could not be more applicable to the current COVID-19 crisis:

Sometimes you have to take action before the situation get’s out of hand, even if you may not have all the information or it’s inconvenient to do so.

—The text includes a lot of seemingly random italicization. Does somebody know what that’s all about? A hidden message maybe?

—Fun fact: Years of working in software development made it impossible for me to write Evan Dara correctly on the first try. It always comes out as Evan Data at first..

—I liked this book very much 5/5

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