An interview v Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan talks around her publication A Visit native the Goon Squad, the affect of music on the book, and how she regulated such a vast cast that memorable characters.

Ok so tell us, what precisely constitutes a "visit native the goon squad"?A: i knew the title of this book prior to I knew almost anything else.  so I, too, entered the task in a state the wondering who the Goon squad was, exactly.  In enhancement to Proust, whose in search of Lost Time i was functioning my method through together I wrote Goon Squad, my other major literary (if friend will) influence was The Sopranos, who polyphonic structure I found deeply compelling.  So i guess you might say that there room goons in mine book"s genome.  The book is definitely full of civilization who feel beaten up in one means or another—disappointed, out of luck, gypped of what they when expected and still feeling they deserve—but this hardships aren"t the occupational of specific enemies so lot as life"s vicissitudes.  Without offering anything away, I"ll say that the reader"s knowledge of that the actual goon is accrues over the food of the book in much the way that my own comprehension of life"s excessive brevity has actually overtaken me as I"ve pushed into my forties.  and also that"s all I"m going to say!In the thirteen chapters in this book we meet a large cast the characters and also come come see, thing by chapter, how all of their stays are connected, and also often entangled, in how amazing ways.  where did you get the idea to have their stories unfold in this way?It taken place organically, and I was led by little much more than my own curiosity.  I started with "Found Objects," the first chapter in the book, and also found myself intrigued by the the quick mention the Bennie Salazar, who sprinkles gold in his coffee and sprays pesticide in his armpits. I thought:  Why would someone perform those things?  and from that inquiry came the following piece, "The gold Cure."  In the one, there"s a point out of Bennie"s ex-wife, Stephanie, who plays tennis at a nation club.  and also I thought:  Hmm, what"s Stephanie"s story, and how did her marital relationship to Bennie end?  so I wrote "A to B."  Small, lateral observations in a character"s life would capture my eye much as they execute in mine own:  I"m forever the town hall people and wondering:  who is that person?  whereby is she going ideal now?  What walk his apartment look like?  What expression walk he have actually when he"s totally alone?  and also of course, there"s no way to answer those concerns without violating people"s privacy!  but in fiction, I can go almost everywhere I want.Things really got amazing when the new pieces i was working on started to expand their tentacles come a few pieces ns had already written.  one of those was "Goodbye, mine Love," i beg your pardon I created in the late nineties in practically exactly the form it absorbs the book.  i was stand in the shower one night (the website of many of my inspirations because that Goon Squad, for some reason) once I suddenly realized the Sasha, the theif in "Found Objects," is the very same person, year later, together the runaway in "Goodbye mine Love."  They had the very same history—no father—and both protagonists had even stolen a wallet!  and also yet that wasn"t till that shower the I observed the connection.  It appears that Bennie, previous punk rocker turned music sector executive and also Sasha, his assistant, space the two people around whose lives most of the other civilization in this publication connect.  however Bennie and also Sasha recognize very small of each other"s pasts or, as points unfold, futures.   deserve to you talk a little about how they anchor the book?I think that what interested me around the Bennie-Sasha relationship is that it"s coincidental:  they"re ten year apart in age, with completely diverse pasts and also present-day lives, however they"re thrown together by circumstance (Sasha works for Bennie) and form a strong bond that is, in the way, deeply intimate for a time.  So countless relationships are favor that—dictated largely by chance, yet systematic on your own limited terms—but ns don"t feel favor I review much around those relationships.  so I started with that intersection of Bennie and also Sasha, and also followed it together it fanned out into each that their private lives and also then your pasts and also futures, and also then the personal lives and also pasts and also futures that some other people associated to each of them.  It was an instinctive unfolding, v Bennie and also Sasha as its beginning and endpoint.    There room so many wonderful people in this book.  room there any kind of you are specifically fond that or had an especially great (or especially difficult) time writing about? I had a ball writing around many of this folks.  The piece I took pleasure in working on many were probably those the commingle absurdity with logic; "Selling the General," for example, in i beg your pardon a disgraced publicist is hired to rehabilitate the call of a genocidal dictator in one unspecified thirdworld country, or the component of "A come B," when the ailing absent star unveils his plan for a publicity/suicide tour.  In general my lull zone is as much away as possible from my very own life, therefore I tend to have much more fun writing from a male point of view, because that example, 보다 from one more reminiscent of my own, favor the teenage woman narrator that "Ask Me if ns Care."  The hardest personality to create was most likely Lou, Bennie"s mentor—a selfish guy who wreaks havoc in plenty of people"s lives, consisting of those the his children.  As constantly with such a character, the challenge is to make certain he"s compelling and also complex—not simply alienating—and there"s often some trial and error prior to I control to strike that balance. You have said you space interested in the role of chance and time in people"s lives.  How large a role do friend think opportunity actually plays in many people"s lives? Well, an huge one—starting through the circumstances we"re born into.  past that, chance probably has actually the most impact on resides that are relatively privileged: one needs to have some choices, and also some physical mobility, to be easily accessible to a large array of chance occurrences.  Presuming the one has actually the high-end of gaining some education, selecting a job, picking a partner, etc.—I think that plenty of lives beat out together a counterpoint in between random facets of chance and also the gravitational traction of what we currently know, and also have come from.     Music is a huge component of A Visit native the Goon Squad. Why walk you decision to make music so significant and carry out you think that is fair to say the in one means or another it is what associate every character in the book? Yes, i think that"s same to say.  and also given that my obsession in Goon squad is time and also its workings, ns guess it"s no surprised that I finished up writing around music (which also plays an enormous part in Proust"s novel), due to the fact that the interaction between time and music is for this reason complex.  In one sense, music is timeless—it transports united state instantly back to periods of our lives that are long gone, and also makes us feel prefer we"re fully back in your midst.  yet in a social sense, music marks the i of time like nearly nothing else; the music the the sixties counterculture or the eighties punk absent scene will never ever be brand-new again, much as we can still reap it—in fact, it"s an indelible reminder the the cultural movements that developed it are ancient history.  and finally, all of my books are in some sense investigations the the development of technology and its impact on people"s lives.  This time, the music industry—so devastated by digitization—became one more lens through which to look, also peripherally, in ~ some effects of technical change. You catch the music industry so well, indigenous the beforehand punk rock scene that nineteen-seventies san Francisco, occupied by bands like Flipper and The Damned, come a present day boardroom meeting where Bennie actually serves cow patties come his plank members together a an allegory for the shit they room forcing him to offer to the public.  just how do you understand this world so well? The fact is, ns only recognize it well as a consumer.  I"ve constantly wanted to dig my method into the music industry somehow, and have tried more than as soon as to pursue nonfiction stories in that realm (at one point I was claimed to write for the brand-new York time Magazine about a pair of identical twin female rappers who ended up being the basis for the Stop/Go sister in "The gold Cure").  i guess the my yen to be a music industry insider in some ways urged Goon Squad, but any kind of expertise I might seem to possess is purely the product that research; I review a couple of books and also talked at an excellent length, more than once, with an extremely helpful music producer/mixer.  The one component of the industry that I execute know, though, is what it feels prefer to it is in a teenager who wishes music will certainly transform or subsume her.  Although ns haven"t been to a absent concert in years, that"s a emotion I"ll never ever forget, and also enjoyed tapping right into again.   over there is a chapter in this publication called "Great absent & roll Pauses" i beg your pardon is an intriguing concept in and of itself yet on height of that, it"s composed in the form of a PowerPoint presentation!  So, first, what is a good rock and also roll pause? and what inspired this chapter in this certain form? I"m not certain that the hatchet "rock & roll pause" is normally used, yet I got the idea indigenous a book by Jacob Slichter, the drummer of a band dubbed Semisonic.  Semisonic"s most famed song, "Closing Time," has what Slichter call a "Clearmountain pause," called after Bob Clearmountain, who produced and mixed the song, and also is apparently known for inserting pauses right into the music he functions on.  ns can"t say precisely why the idea of music pauses recorded hold of me, yet it did.  ~ above a different track, I"d additionally become obsessed with the idea of writing a story in PowerPoint—a program I did not own and also had never ever used.  i remember exactly when that idea concerned me: ns was analysis an article about the Obama campaign"s turnaround two summers ago, and also it discussed that a particular PowerPoint presentation about the campaign"s shortcomings had actually led come a effective strategy shift. The truth that the presentation in inquiry wasn"t referred to as a "paper," or a "document" or a "memo," yet as a "PowerPoint," really struck me.  ns thought:  PowerPoint has become a literature genre; I"d love to write a story in it.  This verified to be a long and also convoluted process; I"d believed I might somehow carry out it without in reality buying PowerPoint (it"s expensive!), and also when I ultimately did feather for it, I discovered it extremely limiting and hard come use.  i attempted a story that failed, and assumed that would be the end of it.  however having bought PowerPoint, ns was finally able to open and also read various other people"s PowerPoint"s, and also as with any kind of genre, reading in it was ultimately inspiring. ~ I had sold Goon Squad, which i (and mine publisher) considered to be complete, I had actually a brainwave around how to combine rock & role pauses and PowerPoint right into a narrative written by a 12-year old girl in the future, as part of her journal.  I became absolutely consumed v the project of creating that PowerPoint.  that was one of the hardest things I"ve ever before done—I create fiction in longhand, so simply staring at a computer screen for a plenty of hours make my brain ache—but ns was ultimately able to do something happen.It seems the idea that the stop is an extremely much at work in her book—in the spaces in between when people last met or between who they once were (as one of your personalities says pre-marriage, pre-parenthood, pre-money, pre-hard drug renunciation, pre-responsibility of any kind) and also who they space now.  What intrigues you around the pause? You"re right, the book is all about pauses.  Unconsciously, ns think this have to be what intrigued me about the idea the pauses in songs once I very first encountered it.  Let"s confront it—human life is a pause. It"s tiny, and also in the bigger scheme it hardly registers against the mysterious magnitude of what precedes and also follows it.  but it"s every we"ve got, and also it"s sweet and bitter and powerful.  This is what Jules ends up speak in "A come B," when he speak his sister, "Yes, whatever is ending.  but not yet."  In retrospect, i think I want to design a publication that consciously occupied and explored that very small, yet vividly powerful, "not yet."A Visit indigenous the Goon?Squad consist of a vast geographical sweep. While lot of the activity takes location in new York City and San Francisco, you likewise take readers to Africa, come Italy, come a an enig compound occupied by a third world dictator.  How important is setup in her fiction? ns don"t want to sound over-dramatic, but for me, setup (with that is component parts of mood and atmosphere) is precise everything.  there is no it, ns can"t begin, and often a setup is all I have when i do.  This was true of practically every piece in Goon Squad; in "Found Objects," all I had going in was the feel of that hotel bathroom, through the wallet in level view.  ns didn"t recognize who was seeing it, or what she would certainly do, or why.  In "Goodbye mine Love," i was moved by the cool decrepitude that Naples, v its disk palazzi and multitude the street thieves.  also in "Great Rock and also Roll Pauses," for all my interest in both pauses and PowerPoint, mine entry to the story was the emotion of the California desert in ~ night.  In almost every case, I started with a place, or also an atmosphere that precedes place, and also out the that come people, and events, and eventually a story.  It"s been this way with all of my fiction, indigenous the an extremely beginning.Bennie it s okay a surprised visit from one of his previous band mates Scotty Hausmann, when the young star however now a down and also out part-time custodial worker because that the city. Scotty says to Bennie, "I came for this reason . . . I desire to know what happened between A and B."  phone call us about this idea that A to B together you actually division the book into two components titled A and B, what is different around the stays we check out in each of those sections? Well, "A" and also "B" average a lot of things in this book.  First, i conceived that this publication not together a novel or a story collection, but as one LP: a narrative the unfolds in segment that comparison a great deal with one another, yet contain a variety of styles and also tell a story end time.  Like any LP, it has an A side and a B side, arranged on the same values of evolution and also contrast.  In ours era the atomized song-buying, the LP is not simply a physics relic, yet a conceptual one—which is partly why I wanted to honor and also exploit it together a structural model in this book.  but given the the book"s subject, to a huge extent, is readjust over time, "A come B" is likewise a sort of shorthand for the change.  If Goon formation is around pauses, then "A to B" is the an are inside of which the pauses takes place. "Pure Language," the last chapter in the book, takes place in a futuristic Manhattan whereby babies use handsets; the media people has made it through something referred to as the "Bloggescandals"; one character is creating a dissertation on the phenomenon of "word casing," a term for words the no much longer have meaning outside quotation marks; the usage of devices for communication leads who to describe an additional person together someone who "lived in his pocket." What motivated this chapter?  space you nervous about the future the language? i think we all are; it"s difficult to contemplate the speed of technological change, and the magnitude of the financial and cultural and environmental impact of those changes, without gaining nervous around where the hell we"re walk to uncover ourselves in twenty years—much much less two hundred.  therefore yes, I"m nervous.  But more immediately (maybe this is why I"m a writer), I"m fascinated, and curious.  ns can"t help imagining forward. There might be miscellaneous apotropaic about these imaginings—a hope that conceiving the a water wall surface protecting Manhattan indigenous its rivers means that there won"t ever before actually it is in one.  but what ns often end up feeling, even as I experience vertigo in ~ the assumed of the future—is that humans are immensely resourceful, and capable of an excellent beauty and also genius, and that language and also inner life will certainly survive and also even thrive since of those qualities, every little thing threats they might face. i don"t desire to give anything away around the finishing of A Visit native the Goon Squad but it really appears to suggest that music (and the music industry) transparent the book has in many ways been provided as a metaphor for language.


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Is that so?  deserve to you talk around this connection in between music and also language?
i think that"s right. The allude of connection between music and language is that both are deep and basic forms of person expression.  at the moment, lock both feeling imperiled, from a service standpoint (will over there still be posting or a music market in the future?) and, more ominously, indigenous a an imaginative standpoint (will language and literary creation be debased by text massage shorthand and also the plagiaristic ‘sampling" mentality of net culture, together the music industry has been?)  Culturally and humanistically, these room vast, gaping questions.  i think that, finally, "Pure Language"—and in some sense all of A Visit indigenous the Goon Squad—is my attempt to price them.