Tag Archives: Jennifer Egan

The Keep by Jennifer Egan

My contrary self is taking me through Jennifer Egan‘s oeuvre backwards, having started earlier this year with her latest, A Visit from the Goon Squad, just before she deservedly won both the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award and 2011 Pulitzer for fiction.

First things first about Egan’s thus-far penultimate title: The Keep is a total mindtrip. You’re never quite sure what’s really happening … who’s imagining what, who’s creating what, who’s remembering what, who’s experiencing what. One close literary friend wrapped it all up with “the whole thing was so meta.” Bottom line: The Keep is a thoroughly mesmerizing read.

Even though it’s one novel, three main stories (at least) are trapped within maze-like layers:

  • Convicted prisoner Ray starts a writing class with fellow inmates, earnestly taught by a woman named Holly. After reading aloud an initial first story full of gratuitous violence clearly directed at Holly, Ray has a transformational epiphany and starts writing a strange and mysterious tale of two cousins.
  • Cousins Danny and Howie share a traumatic past from which neither has truly recovered. As young boys, Danny and another older cousin abandoned Howie in a cave; his comatose body was found three days later. What a difference a couple of decades has made: Howie has morphed into the powerful Howard, independently wealthy, early-retired, married with young kids, and in the midst of restoring a phenomenal 12th-century castle in Eastern Europe to turn into a luxury destination. Having nothing better to do (and nowhere else to go), Danny arrives at Howard’s new abode, rightfully unsure of what to expect …
  • The book’s third story – revealed in Part III – brings together all the seemingly disparate strands. I really can’t tell you more than that, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you’ve read carefully, you will absolutely appreciate the rollercoaster ride.

And not to add to all those meta-layers, but look what I just found … click here. Ready to pack your bags …?

Readers: Adult

Published: 2007

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Nonethnic-specific

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

With very good reason, Jennifer Egan‘s fifth title, A Visit from the Goon Squadwon the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, announced earlier this month. As with most major award winners, I try to take a look or a listen (forget the cat; curiosity broadens the mind, right?) … but I confess that I don’t always finish what I start. Not so with this one!

With Roxana Ortega’s narration shoved into my ears, I even ran extra miles to keep the story going … truly, Goon Squad is that addictive. The only regret I might have about listening rather than reading is missing Chapter 12 in print. But I won’t spoil that for either listener (which has sound effects added!) or reader. The book just came out this week in paperback, available for the cost of about two cups of good caffeine, so no excuse not to literally imbibe now!

Goon is another title best enjoyed without too much prior knowledge. Although, it also proves to be such an inventive time warping romp by book’s end that all you want to do is talk about it … So allow me a moment of minimal indulgence, oh please.

The book opens with Sasha on her therapist’s couch, reliving her first and last date with Alex and confessing to yet another kleptomaniacal incident – or two, actually, by date’s end. Sasha is music executive Bennie Salazar’s assistant, who has lusted for her always from a distance, although he also relies on her to be his virility meter (which is currently less than zero).

Sasha and Bennie’s employee/boss relationship make up the exact point of intersection for this inventive, uniquely over-under-multi-layered story of diverse lives that wanders in unpredictable directions from decades past to sometime in the future. Egan’s ability to effortlessly bend time requires careful recall of details from chapters past: for example, Bennie’s ex-wife’s ex-boss’s daughter eventually marries the Columbia University-robotics-PhD-ed grandson (one of 63 grandchildren) of the Kenyan warrior who dances with Bennie’s mentor’s teenage daughter one moonlit African desert night. Sound complicated? Not in Egan’s delightful, teasing, enlightening prose.

Each new character, each unexpected intersection is another invitation to witness the surprising shifts of everyday lives that somehow come together to create this magical odyssey. Forget the coffee for a couple of days; don’t miss this adventure … its adrenaline comes complete with eclectic soundtrack.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2010

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Nonethnic-specific