Thursday, October 08, 2015

Evan Dara, Flee (2013)

Goddamn, I finished this like two weeks ago, so why am I only writing about it NOW?  The reason may be indicative of my general feelings about it, but we'll see.

Right, so it's Dara's most recent novel. It's half the length of either of its predecessors, and it's a bit more straightforward (though, again, that's always a relative term). The idea is, there's this town in Vermont, Andersberg. Due to a series of events starting with the revelation that the local university has been “offering” courses it wasn't actually offering so as to receive financial aid, everything in the town starts shutting down and everyone starts moving away—only this flight is conceived of more as a pathology (“And at SureAid, the pharmacy . . .I saw—I mean, I think I saw—anti-flight pills. . . . The pills are yellow and the top part of the box said something like New! Fight the Flight.”) than the normal reaction to such a situation.

Most of the novel alternates between Dara's typical polyphonic collage of voices and a story about a couple, Carol and Rick, who are trying to start a kind of employment agency to get the town back together. Then, towards the end, it switches to a somewhat perplexing (but that may be axiomatic for Dara, really) narrative about a possibly-autistic man, Marcus, trying to achieve some kind of transcendence (and if that sounds vague, well, part of it's the book, and part of it's that I probably should've written this when it was fresher in my mind).

There are certainly interesting things in this book, and one could certainly write an interesting paper on the intersection and clash between community and capitalism therein. But I've got to say—you know this was coming—on the whole, I found it considerably less meaty/compelling than Dara's first two novels. Maybe it's partly just that I prefer their brand of extravagence to the relatively restrained story on offer here—I like the length and the self-consciously experimental touches that we don't see much of here. But I just felt there was less food for thought here; it certainly hasn't lingered with me as much as The Lost Scrapbook and the The Easy Chain. Or, maybe it's just that I'm an insufficiently subtle and perceptive reader. It's not impossible! But regardless of where it comes from, I think I'm going to have to give this a rather lukewarm recommendation. Which is not to say, certainly, that Dara isn't a super-interesting writer and that I won't eagerly read whatever he comes up with next. For the time being, though, I'm happy to move on to other things.


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