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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

From Old Notebooks, by Evan Lavender-Smith

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From Old Notebooks, by Evan Lavender-Smith


From Old Notebooks, by Evan Lavender-Smith


Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Paperback: 184 pages
ISBN: 978-1-938604-32-4

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From Old Notebooks, an "anti-masterpiece of an anti-novel" (Rain Taxi), begins as simply a writer's list of ideas—ideas for stories, films, novels, essays—but soon the writer's attention turns toward meditations on family, fear of death, literary fame, drug use, teaching, terrorism, pornography, and the weather. The book's seemingly disparate concerns coalesce to depict a writer writing his way through life and his first book at one and the same time.



"Evan Lavender-Smith reveals what other writers, especially first-timers, try to hide: the influence, the bravado, the insecurity, the bravery, and the cowardice and the hubris of writing.... He's abstract and lucid, direct and indirect. He makes us shudder and swoon. The result is dynamic. As he wrestles with ideas about the book and his family, we reexamine our thoughts about the writer and the book. It's a performance on both parts, a performance in which writer and reader have equal billing. Lavender-Smith isn't afraid to let his guard down, to sit at the bottom of the tower, however long he daydreams about climbing it. He shows how a writer, like a reader, is always plodding in the muck, hoping to resolve the contradictions." —Keven Evers, The Rumpus 

"The great tradition of modern philosophy and letters, from Nietzsche and Artaud to Deleuze and Houellebecq, has taught us this much: maintaining the old grammars, figures and style of humanist narrative will never allow us to think. While sustaining a beauty of textual expression Lavender-Smith has nevertheless created a new genre of literature and a new mode and style of thought. This work is at once intellectually compelling and creatively breathtaking. This is a book to be read slowly, carefully and with thoughtful pleasure. —Claire Colebrook, author of Deleuze and the Meaning of Life

"Lavender-Smith's book is, if fictionalized and created, if structured to look genuine but in fact earnestly planned ... a genius enterprise. There is an arc within the lines, there is a story in each of the related bits: We learn more about his family with each continued moment, we follow the ideas of a writer and how the craft works, we learn something more about being human, about existing." —J.A. Tyler, The Southeast Review 

"Lavender-Smith, the writer and character, is something of a rock star in his seemingly effortless riffs and charting of his own craven, absurd existence.... [From Old Notebooks] is a book on what it's like to write a book in light of the heavyweights, to have a voice but to be unsure of the results produced from an anxiety-laden mind.... Lavender-Smith pulls off this type of book, triumph that it is, easily enough." —Greg Gerke, Big Other

"From Old Notebooks is not only about stories, or even about writing stories—it is writing itself, or rather, it is writing being re-written before our eyes. Here everything changes: what counts as writing, thinking, and a "book." And its readers don't simply read From Old Notebooks—they become part of this change as well. It is very rarely that such things occur." —John Mullarkey, author of Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline 

"A wildly self-aware collection of big ideas that obliterates distinctions between fiction, philosophy, poetry and autobiography. Witty, sweet and often brilliant.... It's like hanging out with a brainy buddy, talking Truth Shit until the sky cracks open and the Light rains down, then we laugh out loud or pause in Deep Thought before weighing in on another curious angle." —Jesús Ángel García, Electric Literature

"Scenes, plots for possible stories and novels. Whimsical, fearful, lusty, philosophical, and scatological notes on books, moods, dreams, domestic events. Carrying this book around, the reader will look into it from time to time to jiggle quiescent corners of the brain." —Alphonso Lingis, author of The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common

"This book is a quintessential example of post-genre literature: it defies genre classification. It is fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theory, anecdote, aphorism, and probably a bit of whatever other thing you can think of.... It is an experiment in evolving a form. And to be blunt, I think the experiment succeeds." —Christopher Higgs, HTMLGIANT

"If Italo Calvino and Kathy Acker had a literary bastard child, then Evan Lavender-Smith would no doubt be that person. From Old Notebooks is by turns a gentle, almost wistful meander through the twists and turns of memory and a violent poke in the eye of literary and critical conventions. It is beautiful, provocative and seductive." —Ian Buchanan, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Critical Theory

"From Old Notebooks was a book I read with equal parts exhilaration and envy. I couldn't help but read with a tinge of begrudging regret; I wished I had thought to write it.... It was fresh, funny, and infectious, and secures Evan Lavender-Smith's place as the David Markson of the Twitter age." —Michael Filippone, Red Fez

"Lavender-Smith has created a conceptual novel of sorts, a work that asks the reader to examine the process that occurred before the writing of the words.... The content becomes a vehicle for the reader to engage with their own memories, their own mental archives. Some might think of this work as a series of journal entries and for others it might read as a unique approach to memoir. Lavender-Smith seems to be posing the question to his readers, 'Can't it be all of these things and none of these things, at once?'" —Angela Stubbs, The Nervous Breakdown  

"Unapologetically honest, dazzling introspective, meticulous and charming, Evan Lavender-Smith's From Old Notebooks presents us with both the minutiae and macrutiae of a lived life—both the sacred and the profane, the mundane and the miraculous—and interrogates genre so as to interrogate why we live and why we die. His writing commands us to eavesdrop, and we do so ravenously. —Jenny Boully, author of The Body: An Essay

"From Old Notebooks implodes genre expectations and conventions.... Composed of short entries, some as brief as a clause, none longer than a page, the book is at once poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, while also none of these. The book, then, is simply the book, and the book brilliantly.... [From Old Notebooks] questions the very nature of art, of living, in the details of small, continuous explosions of memory and time.... This work changes the art of the book and challenges what it means to write and read, to live and tell a story." —Callista Buchen, Prick of the Spindle

"[Evan Lavender-Smith's] hybrid memoir–philosophic mania–idea machine–joke book–power assemblage From Old Notebooks is simply out of control. In the vein of Markson or D'Agata, but with a manic, hilarious, intense vision that makes it so singular it's almost its own genre." —Blake Butler, HTMLGIANT

"Finally a conceptual art that is thoroughly literary. This is not a registering in language of various perverse tasks like copying an entire issue of The New York Times. Rather Lavender-Smith's fictions ask us to project, reflect on, and even enjoy the bizarre ways that fictions pervade our world—recalled simply by mention, without the necessity of their being developed. I especially like his projected plots because the reader cannot know if he or she could easily complete them or find it impossible to have much to say at all. Perhaps in the long run those are both the same states, and what matters most about our fictions is that they are so always already complete that they also seem inexhaustible." —Charles Altieri, author of The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects

"More true to life in its set of preoccupations than many a "realist" novel or plotted memoir can ever become.... From Old Notebooks is a charm, a goad, an anti-masterpiece of an anti-novel—a work of art that's easy to enter, and hard to put down." —Stephen Burt, Rain Taxi

"Like an atonal musical composition, Evan Lavender-Smith's suite of fractured annotations scores a symphony of wonder one abridged but baying note at a time. This is pointillism on point—both the static of the infinite spaces between the stars and the salt and pepper snow spilling from a deranged cathode ray tube on fire. You don't so much read the book as absorb the scintillating ecstatic pulsing radiation." —Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone

""Novel in which the verb to be and all inflections thereof appear italicized in every instance." "Story about a mother who develops an allergic reaction to her kids." "Monologue spoken by an aging pianist-composer, based on Prokofiev, beginning with the following sentence: My fingers have grown very tired." This is not "stream of consciousness," this is jet stream of consciousness. The mind above itself looking into itself, into fantasy, imagination, longing, and fear as if from a great and bemused but wary distance. If, as Baudelaire has written, the philosopher is the one who has "acquired by habit a power of rapid self-division and thus of assisting as a disinterested spectator at the phenomena of his own ego," then Evan Lavender-Smith is that philosopher—writing with an intense wit, an open vulnerability, and an intricately layered intelligence—layered like a cake and layered like a Dantean vision: sweet, rich, terrifying, demonic. An outrageously smart and seriously playful/prayerful book. Read it." —Julie Carr, author of 100 Notes on Violence

"What makes [From Old Notebooks] truly remarkable is the intelligence of insight and the formal innovation.... At a time dominated by sound bites, one-sentence analysis, and instant messages, Lavender-Smith's book fits perfectly.... This startling, insightful compendium reminds us what literature is in its endless, mutating forms." —Barry Silesky, Triquarterly 

"Any of the concepts gestured at herein, if executed, would make an awesome book project. This compendium of potentiality, laced through with Eros and Thanatos and Knee-Slappers, is all we will ever need, ever again." —Rebecca Wolff, author of The King