last updated: 13FEB14
This page is devoted to Evan Dara's third novel Flee.
I just finished reading it and below have added a list of interesting words, phrases, proper nouns, as well as several questions. (A scene spotter section is in progress and pending.)
The book is well under half the length of either The Lost Scrapbook
or The Easy Chain
, and like those two is dialogue-heavy, so it shouldn't take you too long to read...unless you're like me and you can't resist googling everything in sight. (And playing with seemingly inconsequential stuff like the numbers that pose as chapter titles. Or trying to discern any difference at all
's town of Anderburg, and Burlington, VT
. Or Flee
's Pitkinson University and the University of Vermont
. And I have to say, I do like it when writers use identifiable locations, so if you spend any time at all on this page you will find links to many locations and establishments mentioned in Flee
. I am an inveterate map junkie, and if I can plot a story's locations—or track a chracter's travels—on a map I'm a happy guy.)
Discussion questions (i. e. things I couldn't figure out) are at the very bottom, but they're lousy with spoilers so scroll down at your own risk.
Here's a Table of Contents-ish graphic you might find helpful:
And here's a list of some words and phrases you might want to look up. As time goes on I'll think of other things to add. Email me with suggestions.
- Homeport - p3. Burlington furniture retailer.
- Honeybell oranges - p3. aka tangelo.
- Lake Chamoon - p4. Lake Champlain, which is to Burlington what Lake Michigan is to Chicago (as Lincoln Selwyn would tell you.) This substitution applies to North and South Chamoon streets as well. (There's actually an elaborate and beautiful web site devoted to the word chamoon.)
- Shanty's - p4. Seafood restaurant.
- City Market - p4.
- Waterfront Park - p5. Louisville, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), and Charleston (SC) all have parks named Waterfront, but unlike Burlington none of them also has a Leddy Park.
- Fletcher Library - p5.
- Seven Days - p5. Regional newspaper based in Burlington: "Vermont's Independent Voice."
- Three Needs - p8. Pearl St. bar/brewery.
- seitan - p12. Wheat gluten.
- put paid to, (v. t.) - p13. Had never seen this before! Means ended, as in, "Yesterday's 211 game suspension surely put paid to A-Rod's season with the Yankees..."
- Henderson's Cafe - p15.
- exhaled jowlily - p16. A Dara invention, I'm guessing. I love Evan Dara's work and always have, but this adverb...lord. (Shades of The Easy Chain's "crashed collidingly," p20, but with a difference: exhaled jowlily—once one confirms the author's not denoting an unusual flower—does evoke a clear image. "Crashed collidingly" is both redundant and careless.) [09AUG13. Deleting this entry would be dishonest, but I must cut Dara some slack; There's way too much to love about this book to get bent out of shape over a couple of head-clutchingly, tooth-grindingly wacky adverbs, and anyone who's spent more than a minute on this website—or this page (or this sentence)—knows I have my own foible- and peccadillo-laden ways of converting the ever-nebulous and -fleeting contents of my mind into something that other humans will be able to perceive accurately.]
- Phil Lesh - p16. Grateful Dead bassist.
- All came about because some kid asked to take a course in Sociology. - p16. On August 12, to hear Prof. Wally Gray tell it. The course doesn't exist, nor, in fact, does the sociology department. The kid—cheeky monkey—declares a sociology major, which calls attention to the money the U has been funneling to the non-existent department. Dismissals and resignations ensue and snowball, and Ghost Sociology precipitates Ghost Town.
- Not a de Brogliesque absence of presence but a Tertullian presence of absence. - p17. Philosophical wordplay from a college professor hitting the pinot and showing off to students. (Presumably a riff on Nobel Laureate Louis de Broglie's "wave-particle duality" theory and 2nd century Christian author Tertullian's notions of the corporeality of both God and the human soul. Note that Gray also could be referring here to Albert, Duc de Broglie, French historian, or Paul de Broglie, Christian apologeticist.)
- A vacuum unabhorred. - p17. Very nice!
- the globe holds more gumballs - p17. :-)
- gallmeister - p18. Nice.
- Hum suzerainty - p18. I'd seen suzerain (a group retaining a measure of local power despite being subordinate to a broader—and presumably more powerful—entity) before—can't recall where, probably something in DFW. Here it's a cheeky reference to the school's Humanities department.
- Trundle Hall - p23. Auditorium (completely fictional) where Rick hosts a meeting about his energy project, which meeting devolves quickly when attendees grasp that what's actually being offered is a product Rick made himself.
- Muddy Waters - p36. Coffee shop on Main Street.
- North Country Books - p39. Church Street bookstore that closed in 2008 but still operates online.
- sphinctered fingertips - p39.
- I Am Weak But Thou Art Strong - p40. First line of the hymn "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."
- Barnett Newman - p43. American abstract expressionaist painter.
- Diogenes - p43. Person probably has a painting or sculpture of the Greek philosopher who, amusingly in this context, has a hoarding/self-neglect disorder named after him.
- Akes' - p44. Akes' Place, a bar on Church St.
- Bessery's - p50. Co-op on North Ave.
- Rooibos - p51. An African legume used to make an herbal tea.
- upstaking, (v. i.) - p52, and (I stopped counting at) eight times thereafter. Possibly a Dara invention; don't bother looking it up. You won't really need to, a), and b) you won't find it in any dictionary...yet. But get familiar with it, is all.
- felt warm around your shoulders when you went by - p54. Describing Fletcher Library. (One of my favorite lines in all of Dara's books, as I feel about libraries and bookstores the way many people feel about churches.)
- Brancusi - p57. Constantin Brancusi, sculptor.
- New Moon Cafe - p58. Cherry St. restaurant.
- Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited. - p59. 2007 movie by the writer/director of several of my own favorites: Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
- Contois Auditorium - p61. Burlington City Hall auditorium.
- appetitive - p66. Is it pronounced like "repetitive" without the "r"? Or simply "appetite" with "ive" appended? Google says it's the latter.
- unample - p67. meaning is obvious, but I think it might be some sort of legal term (though it wasn't used in that context here)
- December 31st Bakery - p68. Fictional.
- hamantashen - p68. Purim cookies.
- throomed - p69. Must be a Dara onomatopoeic invention. Funny! (Urban Dictionary has a sort-of definition, but it's barely over 50%, and definitely doesn't apply here.)
- New Ethic Cafe - p69. North Street all-vegan restaurant that, unlike most establishments mentioned in Flee, actually did close in real life, not six months after it opened.
- Edsel Insurance - p75. Insurance company in Anderburg, but not Burlington (i. e. completely fictional.) They offer "home-value" insurance...which makes one wonder how they stay in business when everyone is beating feet. (Well...p90...)
- Crow Books - p75. Indie bookstore on Church St.
- Denis Johnson - p75. American writer (National Book Award winner) famous for his short story collection Jesus' Son, though my own favorite of his is Angels.
- Virgin Suicides - p75. Jeffrey Eugenides terrific debut novel.
- hereness, herity - p76.
- Fort Drum - p77. Army base in upstate New York about 10-20 miles east of Lake Ontario.
- Blossfeldt - p79, 162. Karl Blossfeldt, (1865-1932). German photographer/sculptor.
- Chengdu - p80. City in central China.
- Tamarack, aspidistra - p82.
- The desk sits one - p87. (The desk's chair can accommodate one of the three people in the room?)
- Rick turns to the others, chair following face - p88. Good writers evoke much with little effort. I've seen people do what Dara describes here many times. (What's more, I've seen people do the opposite -- face follows chair -- when they've swivelled their hips toward you to let you know they're acknowledging you, but they just can't tear away from what's on the screen just yet...)
- C. Ruggles - p89. Where the End-of-Dayers have their Permanent Farewll Blast (The EoDers being of course Marcus, Breece, Wyndham, Gale, Gustav, Storm Saxon, Windy, and Hurricane Smith. Oh and Lynyrd Skynyrd). Burlington, VT has a Ruggles House which appears to be a nursing home, not a bar. One of the few bona fide fictional locales in Flee. (Ya get it? "Bona fide fictional?" Rimshot, jazz hands, Usain Bolt pose.)
- Nash Equilibrium - p89. [I may attempt an elucidation of this concept, but not tonight.] Remember A Beautiful Mind? Book or movie? That's John Nash, and they discuss his theories at some length. (The same John Nash who Lincoln S. meets on p78 of The Easy Chain? Whether it is or not, a big tip of the hat to Jeff D. for spotting it.)
- Pareto optimal - p89. In this context of limited resources, this would mean being able to provide for the maximum number of people without depriving or otherwise hindering anyone.
- Landmark Forum - p90. Yikes.
- Go!! A-Rod, go—! - p99 Naturally I have to cite this, since I used him in my "put paid to" example back on p13.
- Isaura - p105. Warmed my heart to see that not only is Isaura back on its feet, but is doing well enough to accept Anderburg refugees!
- clip-shin glass table - p113. Not a clue. Maybe, because it's low enough to drill you in the shins? [If that's right Jeff F., hat's off. -smr-]
- fondant - p116. A more rigid type of cake icing. (In the box? Just the fondant? No cake?)
- Melissa Krassner - p117. Any relation to TK? :-)
- Navigator bock - p118. Lots of Navigator dopplebocks, but no straight-up bocks that I'm aware of. (Ballast Point? Cape Ann? Fish Brewing? Maritime Pacific's weizenbock? Dutch Export's Navigator is neither a bock nor a doppelbock but a Euro lager.) This got my attention because dopplebocks especially—but also stouts and porters and other darks—are my favorite kind(s) of beer(s).
- Beth Orton haunts - p118. Exquisitely.
- noumena - p124. Plural of noumenon, the nounal form of numinous.
- pre-Giottesque - p124. Architecture pre-dating that of Giotto di Bondone.
- architecting evanescence - p124.
- shew - p126, 147. Probably means "sheesh" or something similar, but for me this word (and other interjective non-words) serve to ID particular characters.
- Pathways Center on Battery Street - p132. Pathways to Well Being, a holistic healing center.
- breviary - p132. Sacred book of Catholic hymns, prayers, Psalms, etc.
- Glasses helping head-hair or breastbones see. - p136. Love this! The only two places I put glasses on my body if I'm not actually reading (sternum) or out in bright sun (head-hair.)
- [people] scattered among the pews like missing teeth - p142. Brilliantly evocative. (AND I just had a tooth yanked, so, you know, leaps much farther off my page than it does yours, I'm wagering.)
- Samhain ritual - p164. Celtic/Pagan/Wiccan end of summer ritual.
- spleenwort, blue moon phlox, clematis - p171-172. Pretty!
- It's like my Red Sox cap. - p168. You only feel the hat when you remove it and are left with hat-head. A tasty little analogy: There's a town here. That there are almost no people in it is glaring.
- Breughel, Lorrain, Le Notre, Kent, Brown - p172. Pieter Breughel, Claude Lorrain, Andre Le Notre, William Kent, and Lancelot "Capability" Brown all made significant contributions to landscape architecture.
- nitrile gloves - p172. Latex-free gloves. (Hands of blue, two by two...)
- bounder-y - p173.
- Julie London, Mary Stallings - p173. American singers. (If, like me, you grew up in the 70's, you may remember London as Rampart General Hospital's head nurse, Dixie McCall on the TV show Emergency! "Station 51, KMG-365.")
- shims - p178. Never seen this word used this way, but I like it. (Basically hired citizenry, paid to walk around and look normal.)
- Loomis and Weston, right near his place- p179. Intersection that, being near Marcus's home, is mentioned several times (most notably when the abandoned houses' security systems' light-fixture randomizers work in concert to make the neighborhood appear—to Marcus at least—like a strobing disco or a Trans-Siberian Orchestra video, or something.)
- all at once am I, several stories high, Etta James - p188-189. Etta James singing "On The Street Where You Live," from the My Fair Lady musical, and her own album Don't Go To Strangers.
- Omnilectics - p189. Johann Ge Moll. (Exactly three Google hits, but it's Dara's usage that makes sense to me. Reading Ge Moll's page is like reading Baudrillard. Or Derrida.)
- revivifier app - p192. I want it. Will it run on an old iPhone4?
- He can use a napkin without the introjected social zetzing. - p197. For me, one of only two or three "WTF? Really?" sentences in the book. "Zetz" is supposedly yiddish for a sort of bitch-slap.
- he verticals his main plate into the drying rack - p197. He'd better. And anything not vertical better be at an angle: horizontal and/or concave surfaces threaten to hold puddles that don't dry and do water-stain. (Especially true for plastics that don't hold heat long enough to dry themselves completely. And this goes for sinkside drying rack or dishwasher. Shit's important.)
- Betty Carter - "Some Other Time" - p198. ...with "handkerchief wistful Harold Mebern arpeggios..."
- LSA 2 speakers - p198. How on earth does Marcus afford this kind of equipment?
- Dinah Washington, "What a Difference a Day Makes" - p198. "...with Belford Hendrick's [sic] "high sheen strings and wordless chorus..."
- "No More In Life," Irene Reid - p198.
- Maxine Sullivan, "S'posin' " - p198
- Gloria Lynne, "Then I'll Be Tired of You" - p198.
- laic - p203. That's a lowercase "L", not a capital "i." "LAY-ick." Means secular. (Same root as layman or layperson or laity.)
- time of a Tatum - p203. Easily devined from context, but I've never seen this usage before.
- amphora - p206. Grecian urn.
- ashlar - p213. Masonry technique where stones are cut to join flush with all neighboring stones, or simply a geometric pattern that resembles this masonry. As a graduate of Virginia Tech—Go Hokies!—I'm more than familar with this pattern of stone work.
- gamelan - p218. Elaborate Indonesian musical ensemble/orchestra tuned in such a way as to bring out dissonance between certain of the instruments. The dissonance "beats"—generated when two slightly pitch-shifted instruments sound the same note—are regarded as significant, and in fact kind of holy. (Note how it would be incorrect to refer to two such instruments as "out of tune" when their tuning difference is desired.) Online, one can find an assortment of Gamelan recordings. Here are some from Bali, Java, West Java, Java again, Central Java.
- Eriksonian transits - p219. Erik or Milton? (Has to be the former; we're not really discussing hypnosis here.) (And Milton's last name has a letter c.)
- Best thinking?, Carol says. We get [autism] from shots. - p225. Uh...whut? Whose "best thinking?" Johns-Hopkins'? The Mayo Clinic's? Harvard Medical School's? The American Academy of Pediatrics'? Jesus Carol, why don't you just tell the poor guy she caught it from a damned toilet seat?
- Dakota Staton doing Misty - p230.
- ACTFL - p233. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
- Skadden, Arps - p233. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates, a NYC law firm that, with over two-thousand attorneys, is what the word gargantuan was invented to describe. (With $2.3 billion in revenue it's the second largest law firm in the world, after Chicago's Baker & McKenzie.)
- Diary of the Dead - p236. 2007 horror flick, the fifth in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead series.
- MHD - p236. The "Music: High Definition" network. Has since changed its name to Palladia.
- The Fray - p236. Denver rock band.
- "Kel-Tec p32" - page 237. Semi-automatic pistol.
And I have to say something about the voice of what I've come to call the Poetic character. This character's paragraph at the top page 80 has me in complete thrall. I'm not 100% sure what it means (and trust me, I usually eyeroll hugely
when what I read is unclear) but this so works for me. In the book it's a straight-up narrative paragraph, but excerpting it here in a lyrical form makes me feel good, so I'm doing it, with all apologies to Mr Dara:
I must run so as not to be run from.
I must leave before the will for leaving leaves me.
I go to keep my kaleidoscope alive,
Filled with drenched and fragrant panes,
And not faded into compensations,
And not distanced in frames.
(Almost as heavy for me as the "het smalle/death's door" line at the bottom of p38 in The Easy Chain.)
QUESTIONS TOSSED TO THE ĘTHER FOR ANSWERAGE BY SHE OR HE WHO HATH KNOWING. OR HATH A PRETTY GOOD IDEA. OR SIMPLY POSSESSETH, YOU KNOW, A NOTION:
- Is Ezra Marcus's autistic father? (I began leaning away from this hypothesis almost as soon as I wrote it, since in the first chapter we learn that Ezra owned a hardware store. Although I know next to nothing about autism; Is it conceivable that an autistic person could run a business for as long as Ezra ran his?)
- Did Marcus really father an autistic daughter, as Carol seems to think? (If so, why would a daughter give her father a popup book?)
- Is Marcus himself austistic? He gets groceries delivered despite going on long walks and not living far from the store; his interactions with others seem problematic at best (the End-of-Dayers, p131; the guy on p214 who read his posters; the seemingly cool "jazz battle" with Mr Baker that gets awkward, etc.); Though clearly aware that the anti-flyer brigade has yanked almost all his help wanted flyers within hours, the fact seems not to bother him in the least.
- The fixer-upper that's being raved about on p235 can't NOT be Marcus's place...which means Marcus put his ass to the wind, perhaps establishing (or dreaming about establishing) a west coast branch of the Gratitude Center.
- Is the Sam who visits Ezra on p134 somehow the same Sam who, at age ten is—