Jennifer Egan Reading
Thursday, April 18, 2013Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
When I first read A Visit from the Goon Squad two years ago I loved it. So when I had the opportunity to hear Jennifer Egan speak last month I was thrilled! During the evening she read the whole first chapter of that book and then answered audience member’s questions.
One of my favorite aspects of her talk was hearing about the process of creating Goon Squad. It started as a single short story about a woman finding a wallet. This story was inspired by Egan herself being robbed on the day she had to fly from New York City to California. Shortly after that experience she saw a wallet sitting out in a public restroom and the story was born.
After writing it she was curious about the other characters mentioned in the chapter and she quickly realized that she had something more than a single short story. As it grew into a book she set three rules for herself:
1) Each chapter had to be about a new character.
2) Each chapter had to feel different and unique (1st person, interview, PowerPoint, etc.)
3) Each chapter had to stand alone; readers deserved closure with each chapter because they’re being tossed into a completely new situation each time.
She said the book is a bit like a concept album. In the same way that musical artists will occasionally create albums (especially in the 1970s) where each track had a different style, this book is set up in a similar way.
Egan was incredibly kind and engaging. She was also bright and very honest about her work and inspiration. I loved her comments on trying something new. She recently published an entire short story “Black Box” on Twitter via The New Yorker. She talked about trying the new form of media as a sort of modern day serialization like the way Charles Dickens used to publish his books. She was so open to finding new ways to experiment with creative flow.
As soon as I got home I started re-reading the book and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. I remembered bits and pieces from each characters’ life and so seeing the complete picture once more was wonderful! I will definitely be reading more of her work as soon as I can.
Photos by moi.