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Steve's Easy Chain Page

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This page is devoted to Evan Dara's second novel The Easy Chain. The first section is comprised of scene spotters, and the bottom half of the page is the blog [link fail? RCTO] that I wrote as I read the book, June 2008.

Regarding scene spotting accuracy: Many a scene in the book sort of "fades out" as the subsequent scene fades in; lines from the preceding scene are interlaced with lines from the subsequent scene. This makes scene spotting tough when these "fade zones" fall upon page breaks. For instance, I have Lincoln's visit to the hospital occurring on page 198, but you can see that visit begins to fade in on page 197. (In fact, there are one or two lines on page 196 that are probably associated with the visit.)


1        Lincoln, what a guy!

2        Peter's 26th - Disco ball mask - Russell's Florist - Lincoln Selwyn (LS) transformed Chicago - Parents are British

6        Double blind date

8        Bush 2000 - Family moved to Holland - Leaned to skate - Elfstedentocht - Dutch directness - Hissing Ajax with Klaas

14      Embry college Groningen - Mom gets a job - Ruigoord - Coffee shop high (jazz) - Provos

17      Aelia - Love grows - Dutch lessons! - (Lessons cancelled...) - Drug haze - Suicide attempt

22      Electromagnet fishing salvage job - Bookstore IOU - Allan Bloom - Committee on Social Thought

25      UC undergrad after two year delay - Positivism - Helps "frigid wife guy" at party - More positivism

30      Arrives UC Sept 2000 - Dives right into the total UC experience - Works in admissions

35      Books get too long to read - Grades plummet - Aunt Virginia - het Smalle (long sick) - Droste -

42      Full dance card! - OEX (Theta Eta Chi?) again - Robert Coleson - Maxandra - Andrew Carver - Lincoln rocks D and C

47      Shelly - Dinner with Auran - Raad Delling - Group Giclé - Promosexual mission statement

57      Drive to G2 club - Bizarre parlor

61      18 million party - Auran's publicity proposal - Shelly's keys

65      Doctor visit - [Bud and Theodore's Weight We Were - Reality is relative - Kailash/Tibet - Restevia

75      They stole Restevia! - Back to Tibet - It's bustling!]

78      Carter Darden, P.I. - Looking for Virginia

80      Cristina - New job - Birgit - Yale Club meeting: Irene pitches "Anders The Lonely Optician" -

95      Want to buy it back

97      Another doctor: "Allergic to lying" - Zinkofsky's explained

101    Another job: lobbyist - Darden found Virginia at co-op - Car gallery party

107    Vidaky promoted

108    Skonk skonk skonk!

119    Didi Metzger - [Guy Ferzoco's divorce plan, and subsequent surprise - Visits Karaprentu - Recreates - Granulates

132    Wins - Oscillates between houses]

136    Auran: "Call 22 people a day and go easy on the women".

137    Delivery... - Vidaky is editor now

138    Catamarca contramands his truths

144    Famously cancelled checks

147    Darden: Still not much - Other associations

150    Righttrack pitch - Lincoln calls Auran for midnight "ride"

155    American Progressive group - Virginia - Jewelry watch

157    Delivery (2nd attempt)

158    Fight at Domaine...sort of!

164    Decartesean truth

169    Autaganda

171    For Mr. Cowan (easy chain p172+6)

173    Darden has VC (Virginia) signature - Mentions mom

174    Squash practice - Buddhism - Local interests

178    Anderson, Alyria (A/A) delivery (3rd attempt) - Darden fraud - Marla Metzger

180    Selwyn consultants

181    Borah finds Virginia info and mother

183    Marion Deems affair

186    Merle Lux - More Borah info, details, final details...

191    Auran comes home after work

192    Another delivery issue - Injuries...Intensive care!

196    A/A Delivery: Eduardo (Hank transferred)

198    Lincoln visits with friend

199    Auran asleep..

201    Missed delivery, A/A Eduardo - "No one there"

206    N' 'cep, and NAME (LS overwhelmed?) - Another delivery issue...


207    Huge lacuna.


250    LS flies his own plane? to Holland - Van Onna hotel - Small room - Bustling city - English speaking vagrant

254    Tracy Krassner (TK) writes Vidalky - Lincoln visit father - Lincoln asks police about detaining her - Lincoln asks around, searches

258    Dad feeds her account

260    Krassner (TK) tracks Lincoln - Lincoln tracks VC's (Virginia) account and puts posters up everywhere

265    Another search

266    Tries to withdraw 1000 euro

268    TK starts a draft - LS accosts park vendor - 3 x 80 euro - 4x

272    Arch/Stan/Phil (ASP) get rolling on Lincoln's credit and other activities

275    Berry leads Lincoln toward farm - Berry and Ruud mug Lincoln - LS deposits 50 euro - watches and waits

280    TK pitches LS story to Carter - TK writes to Z • ASP bring Borah in • TK: Selwyn left grief-stricken

284    I am a shirt - I am a shoe • ASP: Hard to track him in Holland • Wind = me • TK pitches New Yorker

293    I am dirt - Dirt observes famous guy take a piss, ends up on a dog's butthole

297    (Dirt POV again?) Someone kicked, Visa rejected at clinic - Dust particle (or air molecule) up to stratosphere

301    At store, scramble for disinfectant • TK to Z: Writing about LS makes me appreciate you

303    ASP have self doubts

306    TK to Wylie: LS book proposal [abridged version appears on Easy Chain's back cover] • ASP: first notify • TK to Z: have ticket


308    Boulder, CO restaurant comings and goings

319    Boulder: Samby glowers in back room, eats free • TK: 2nd email to M • TK to Z (gay?)

323    Boulder: Samby attracts silent throngs to restaurant

325    Surrounding shops discount, then close, then fold; massive real estate collapse

328    ASP lets LS slip somehow (plates?)

330    Restaurant closes - We initiate a concept: Retail tools disappear, then then fixtures disappear, then buildings, bit by bit.

335    Then, biologically broken down by decomposers; plants reclaim Boulder and environs


337    TK to Larkin - TK to Littleton

338    ASP (members ID'd) meet M Borah who tells them: not much

340    TK implores Mr Natale - TK to Z (who has moved...Z = LS??)

344    TK to Ed (Vidaky?): Auran and mob, Curgile Associates

345    ASP to Lawrence, KS

346    TK to Daniel: LS sculpture - TK to Z: Come home - TK to M, Hurler, and Z: LS sounds interesting

349    ASP: LS is all over, and under $50

350    ASP: We all love kites!

351    TK to Z: Bob

352    TK to Editor: Crain, Darden • TK to Z: 17 days

354    ASP: Section 18C, Feds • Deen to TK

355    WR Thornton to TK: not much to say about LS

356    TK to Z: California from Cleveland

356    ASP: LS to England, we're done with Borah ("Phil Ochs/Treaty" = philoctetes?) • LS at UC

358    More kites

359    TK to Z: Contact me • Z calls TK • TK to Z: sorry!

360    8/17: was he here?

361    TK to Editor: LS was hired and placed in Chicago by Philips; Amber View

362    Z's cutting it off with TK

364    TK to Editor: need money urgently


Massive verse section.

364    Swoops the distance  jumping off something

368    Library

370    Must have jumped

372    Lift the stretcher, blood on the ground

375    Library again, Dutch money, wicked wound, drinking glass

378    Damrak way, hide in the entranceway, 420 cafe, she looks familiar, dragging sweater in dirt

383    Archway stone monkeys, smash glass, act of love?

387    muffin on dining car, thing on your face

391    Looking out the window, landscape passing

395    Torture gear?

397    Turn the train around

400    Sell you the poison, justice be done


402    Lacuna #2


406    Hello Lucy


(Verse continued.)

409    Squalid little motel

410    Haggling over a car

413    On the highway, drop me off here.

416    Silencer.

418    Make the mountain howl; weakness into strength

421    Golden hair in water, like an ice pick... water released (?)

424    In the desert

(Verse ends.)


425    LS is custodian at Chicago Mercantile Exchange Building, sabotaging something there...


438    Taylor vs, Scapes re water privatization

439    water scarcity article

444    Scapes swiches sides

447    Scapes guilty, his own camera - accusations fly: scapes switched back to "poison" privatized water

453    1st article in a series....


454    Lacuna #3


459    Torture/interrogation of LS

463    Oh my son - Psychiatrist sting operation

467    psychologist/bioethicist

468    Emmet wants Gil to help him sue his mirror - Working up his case

473    whorehouse research

474    Retro-Clairvoyance

476    Emmet's funeral

477    Lasik - HSN retinas

479    La Salle Street CFO crawls • New policy: tell them what they want to hear

480    39 lawsuits = chapter 7 after 11 years - my son built us back up with high profile cases

481    Church paid the whores to humiliate - market for unused imbecility


482    My son has his autistic sister Anya help • Son is also curator at Holography museum, where Anya finds train

484    Anya loves Count Chocula - wife makes cookies - Anya teased by neighborhood boys - don't even name the disease - symptoms - once you're in the system, you're IN

487    So we put her in a public elementary school - Anya does OK there, a bit quiet - Classmates: "Why do you always have water in your ear?" - smashed fishbowl, pulled her out of school - New program, working - Friend Stacy - Slapped by mom for dropping chocolate milk on the carpet...

491    Vancouver, BC in summer 1996 - new pool - back to school, Anya doesn't want to do math, very disruptive, had to go get her (mom out of the picture,  not surprisingly) - new analysis (ABA, Natural Environment, prompting from one-on-one)

494    William the prompter - Her personal gyroscope - significant progress - let's try school, two hours a day - William helps me with the deck construction, vacations with us - tooth marks...

498    Have to call and tell the ex - Donations so the cops will be discreet - Anya's at a place in Milwaukee now - Anya: "Where's William?" - Emergency room & stitches - And I get to see her once a month...


501    My clients customers, as miserable as they are, they pay up - Self-hate makes the world go round

502    Your aunt thought you were disgusting, following her all over - You stiffed me for $1800 - You want to kill me? DO IT THEN! - Where are you going?

Blog of my first reading... [link fail? RCTO]

On Wed., June 11, 2008, [link fail? RCTO] sent me an unsolicited email announcing the immediate availablility of Evan Dara's second novel The Easy Chain—I didn't actually read the email until the next morning, when I went to [link fail? RCTO] and placed an online order at once. A paperback First Edition arrived on the 16th...almost eight weeks prior to the official release on August 8.

I loved Dara's first novel The Lost Scrapbook (a novel with a small but rabid fan base, of which I've been a member since July '00) so I began a blog about my first reading of The Easy Chain, which blog follows, remains in "blog-backward-chronology" as originally written, and in fact is still sort of in progress:

•   •   •

10AUG17. In March 2009 Scott Esposito blogged about the notion of Powers and Dara being the same person [link fail? RCTO], which notion he doubts:

"[If] Richard Powers could write like Evan Dara, I don't see why he'd write like Richard Powers. I don't mean to knock Powers, whom I regard as a very solid novelist, but Dara's stylistic abilities are far more advanced than his. If Powers really is Dara, then he has no business writing anything more as Powers."

Which seems convincing, until you compare the number of books each has sold. If I could write like both Evan Dara and Richard Powers I certainly would.

Below this post, and 6 1/2 years later, one "jfrankp" commented: "In 1995, I was sent the Lost Scrapbook for review. Around the same time, I asked Richard Powers in person if he was Evan Dara. Powers said, “No. Are you?” Soon after my review was published, I received a phone call from Dara. He wasn’t Richard Powers"

Which for me (trusting that jfrankp isn't just RP/ED himself) ends the discussion.

07SEP08. Each day that passes since I finished The Easy Chain compounds my desire to reread it. As a teacher I'm swamped with work this time of year (esp., teaching a new subject, new school; friggin' swamped) so all my reading takes a hit unless it's work related, and novels are the first to get set aside; Watching this book sit on my shelf is TOUGH. (And face up, it rests. I refuse to stack other books on top of it...I might just have to say "work shmerk" it and dive back in.)
19AUG08. Almost two months since I finished, and I still have this book in the back of my brain, still thinking about it, still going back to reread sections, revise my notes. (I put together a review for [link fail? RCTO] I think you have to scroll down a bit if you go there.) It hasn't pulled into full focus yet, but it's starting to, and I'm enjoying the process.
26JUN08, #2 Done. I so completely do NOT know what to say about this book...Disappointment is not correct, with all that I enjoyed, but I'm definitely not feeling that soaring satisfaction/resolution that I—and so many others—experienced at the end of The Lost Scrapbook.

In a way, The Easy Chain is structurally opposite of The Lost Scrapbook ...TLS starts all over the map, then slowly, like that loud THX sound thing at the beginning of many movies, the noise merges into harmony. The Easy Chain starts with some solid story lines that not only do not connect, but grow apart as the novel progresses. By the end we have new set-pieces with all new characters, and what's this? A faux research article inserted at the very moment a heavy climax was imminent? (Holy crap. In what has to be the weirdest moment in any book I've read—and I've read Gravity's Rainbow [link fail? RCTO], Infinite Jest [link fail? RCTO] of course, AND Ulysses—the faux research article is followed by a friggin pitch by the publisher! "This article is 1st in a series. To request more, leave your name and address at") WTF!?!?

More to come after this thing settles in my head a while.
26JUN08. Page 429. The 60 pages of verse (pp 364–424) comprise one of the weirdest, most fascinating pieces of literature I've ever read. I TRIED TO NOT TAP MY FEET, but you cannot read page after page, minute after minute of rhythm like that (especially if you're a musician like me) and not! Several times I had to pull up short and say to myself, slowly and aloud: "Just. Read. It." And that would last about a half page, and I'd be right back into the foot tapping. Which led me to conclude that this is precisely what Dara intended.

And stuff happens, too, is the other thing. Which should not be a surprise, since it turns out stuff went on during the 40 page gap back on p207, but still. If you've visited this site before you know I'm quite OCD about taking notes when I read (see Books! [link fail? RCTO] over in the left margin of my home page) and I thought I'd get a bit of breather from notetaking during this "Whaddaya-talk, Whaddaya talk!" rhythmania. No such luck.

25JUN08. Page 368. (FIRST: Is that a typo in the novel's second sentence? "is comparison" = "in comparison"? I thought so when I first read it, but let it go since I had just started reading and was eager to dive in. I only remembered it when I found another near the bottom of p335: divers = diverse?) [NOTE: The p335 thing is not a typo. Divers and diverse have similar meanings, as any Neal Stephenson fan can attest. -smr- 30OCT10]

Today. A few pages shy of the 3/4 mark, and a very cool little breeze has blown through this read. Huge chunks of repeating lines of text. (Back on 6/16, when flipping through for the first time, I offhandedly described them as punishment sentences.) Turns out that not all the lines are repeating, but all the lines are in meter. Which changes. Sometimes after a couple lines, often after a page or two or more.

Trochaic tetrameter [link fail? RCTO]: (these are random, single line examples, to illustrate the meter)
Find the stairway find the stairway
Skinny rag on thinny paper
In a chair & in a corner
All commotion all commotion

Dactylic dimeter [link fail? RCTO] (the famed "higgledy piggledy" meter):
Sunlight & sunlight &
Fall away fall away
Crumbled & crumpled & crushed & disheveled &

...and I'm only on page 368. There are 56 more pages of this verse.

24JUN08. Page 335.

Exactly 2/3 the way through... lot's of loose ends that don't appear to be being tied up, but that's what the final third is for, right Lost Scrapbook fans? No kidding, some very cool set-pieces, and some that, man, I just don't know how the hell they could tie in with anything. Again, the final third. Stay tuned.

Why so long since the last post? I was on vacation in Colorado. (Boulder, folks; can you believe it? As if the narrative wasn't surreal enough, how weird was it to read pp 308-327...SITTING ON A PEARL STREET BENCH, FOR &$^% SAKE. "Bronze her bronze swing [link fail? RCTO]" at the top of p312? I'd just walked past the sculpture moments before. Now I'm sure that kind of thing happens to New Yorkers all the time, but to North Carolinians? In Colorado?)

20JUN08. Page 111. Still enjoying it quite a bit, I'm happy to report. As with TLS, the story hasn't dovetailed yet, but several story lines are promising. At this point, shifts in perspective occur only with new paragraphs; We haven't gotten to the mid-paragraph—or even mid-sentence—POV shifts, but I doubt it will be long. :-)

Another excerpted favorite, from page 84:

"They stepped up the carpeted stairway to the second-floor salon. Its walls of carved darkwoods tonied the room's clusters of bolster-backed chairs, its tea-service tables. Stained-glass windows, hued with insignias, an Elizabethan bestiary and a coat of arms, cast wines and ambers from the streetward wall. Bookchests glowed with gilt spines. A newspaper rack dripped information from long, parallel poles. The poles, split and cinched by chokers at one end, pinched the midriffs of the papers. Anything near a seam or a staple fell into dark, unferretable unreadability."

18JUN08. Page 70. Very enjoyable so far! No sections or chapters, a la Lost Scrapbook, and loaded with proper nouns (Dara's characters never eat at "a restaurant" but at a specific restaurant, always mentioned by name. This goes for almost every location visited by almost every character.) I'm counting about 5 or 6 narrators, engaged in a conversation about our hero, Lincoln Selwyn, British immigrant to Chicago by way of the Netherlands. Their conversation pauses for occasional exposition, most of which is holding my attention, although an eight page excursus on the concept of "promosexualism" had me wondering just how much longer it would last.
        The thing I like about Dara's style, both in Lost Scrapbook and here, is he's so good that, yes, it's clear he's showing off—"trying too hard" as is often said about even the very good pomo writers—but he's not trying hard and failing, he's trying hard and succeeding brilliantly; Every page has a line or sentence I wish I'd written. One of many favorite lines thus far (jarring repetiton of the word 'sure' notwithstanding) from page 39, after Lincoln has gotten sick:
"What did he have? Lincoln wasn't sure, but it sure felt like what the Dutch call het Smalle, a big, overblown flu that just deposits you at death's door and leaves you too weak to do the only thing you want to do – knock hard."
        And speaking of speaking Dutch [link fail? RCTO], let me be the first to posit that if Evan Dara isn't a distinct individual but a pseudonym, that the pseudonym belongs to Richard Powers. So much detailed discussion of the Netherlands (and specifically the Dutch language) abundant scientific details, few chapter breaks, AND if you've read Power's book Gain and the Lost Scrapbook, I challenge you to miss the astonishing similarities in story and feel. (Lost Scrapbook's release predates Gain's by just over 2 1/2 years, so it might just be that Powers is--or was at the time--massively influenced by Dara. But it wouldn't surprise me, is all.) [28SEP08 Addendum: Near the top of page 172: the first and only appearance in the narrative of the novel's title occurs shortly after the italicized line "What could be easier?" Which is either an homage to Powers's Gold Bug Variations ("What could be simpler?" is not only the first sentence of GBV but is, essentially, the last line as well.) or just another small but interesting coincidence.]

Here, for the record, perhaps mitigating—perhaps reinforcing—my Powers-Is-Dara hypothesis, is Powers's full blurb as it appears on the back of the yellow hardcover version of The Lost Scrapbook:

"Several kilos of transatlantic, boat-rate typescript arrived on my stoop without prior warning of contents, and I've been grateful ever since. Dara shows how a novel can be experimental, yet moral, rule breaking but emotional, and post-humanist while still remaining deeply human. This scrapbook builds in stretches until the whole police blotter cum family album lies open in aerial view. Monumental, unforgiving, cunning and heartfelt, it lets no one off the hook, least of all the reader."

17JUN08. 13 pages in and the arcane references abound. (Mostly Dutch towns and cities, it seems). Everything from Ray Kroc, to Dutch speed skater Evert van Benthem, to tossed-off Captain Beefheart lyrics.
16JUN08. I ordered it here [link fail? RCTO] on the morning of June 12, had it in my hands this afternoon, June 16. That's two working days people and you may color me impressed.

Pre-reading observations:
Nice cover. [link fail? RCTO] Chicago skyline in near-silhouette at dusk (John Hancock Tower dominating). An outline of a man's head and shoulders--outline drawn with small text--looms high over the city.
• 502 pages. Very little superfluous paper here. A couple title pages and Lost Scrapbook blurbs then right to page one. One blank end page after page 502. Half-inch margins all around.
• First flip-though: an enormous 50 page lacuna is hard to miss, about half way through. Not a perfect void, but a House Of Leaves [link fail? RCTO]-ish void, with a bit of punctuation every few pages.
• More flipping reveals LOTS of unattributed dialog hither & yon, each quote beginning with an em-dash. Very Gaddis [link fail? RCTO].
• Some other large chunks that look like Dara was writing punishment sentences in grade school.

Will comment further as the read progresses.

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