Jennifer Egan’s latest is a smart and fun take on technology.
“Nothing is free!” Jennifer Egan warns in The Candy House, the long-awaited sequel to his 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A visit from the Goon Squad. “Only children expect otherwise, even though myths and fairy tales warn us: Rumpelstiltskin, King Midas, Hansel and Gretel. Never trust a confectionery! »
In effect. High-end, innovative Goon Squad, a series of interconnected stories, detailed the intersecting lives of record label executive Bennie Salazar; his assistant, Sasha; and a complicated cast of characters. The candy house takes on the adventures of Bix Bouton, an African-American technician who played a minor role in the previous book. This time he’s leading Mandala, a tech empire with planetary reach into people’s privacy that would put Google, Amazon or Meta to shame. It’s a cautionary tale, but often playful.
“I’m not interested in judging things,” Egan says over the phone from his home in Brooklyn. “If I want to report facts and give an opinion, I would do it in a non-fiction field. Fiction is more about asking questions than answering them. When I feel a whiff of didacticism, I lose interest.
The author has come a long way since her youth in the Bay Area, though she remains attached to the city. “There’s something about a place you’ve known since childhood that always feels like you’re connected to the past,” she says. “I prefer to come back as a visitor. I feel like I still have access to that imaginative world, because I remember it so well, but I feel more alive in New York. … I think it has something to do with the remoteness of the geography of my past. When she was 7, Egan moved from Chicago to San Francisco, where her mother, Kay Kimpton Walkerran an art gallery in town and his father-in-law, sand walkeris a renowned architect.
“Fiction is more about asking questions than answering them.” —Jennifer Egan
Egan says: “I went to see Katherine [Delmar] Burke School when I was younger, then Lowell High,” where she fondly remembers the legendary English teacher Flossie Lewis. She initially thought she would be an archaeologist until she took a year off to dig, only to quickly find out it wasn’t for her.
Growing up in the aftermath of the 1960s, she worked in a cafe on Haight Street during her senior year of high school, much like the protagonist of her first novel, The Invisible Circus, which dealt with a teenage girl’s search for the cause. of the mysterious death of his hippie sister.
Although she followed Goon Squad in 2017 with the historical novel manhattan beachshe couldn’t leave the previous book.
“Bix made a brief appearance [in Goon Squad]. It was a guy in his early 90s, who was on his computer, talking about this amazing thing that was going to happen,” she said. “Everyone knew someone like that. I thought, “Oh, I bet he’s going to be a tech icon.”
Egan, though far from a tech geek – she always writes the first draft of her novels by hand – has some personal knowledge of this world. She dated the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs when she was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, though she’s quick to point out that, unlike Bix, he had made his mark and was already famous by the time they met.
But she’s less interested in the latest apps and more in how to incorporate their impact on storytelling. Goon Squad famous included a fully narrated chapter in PowerPoint. This time around, it includes a series of hilarious emails between a publicist and her assistant, who tries to drag her boss into a wacky movie deal involving a dictator trying to rebuild his reputation by setting up a photo shoot with a B-list movie. actress.
“It makes sense to lean into the almost inexhaustible possibilities of the form – it’s our best shot at keeping it relevant,” she says. “It’s also just fun. As soon as I encounter a genre, I say to myself: ‘How can I use it?’ And I have more ideas up my sleeve.
Do you intend to return to fiction in his native territory? “I’m actually interested in a detective story set in San Francisco in the 1950s,” Egan replies. “So far it’s not clear if he’ll have legs, but it’s fun to think about. [the City] when it was smaller, before the tech boom.