From a Q & A with Jennifer Egan about her new novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad:
Q: Ok so tell us, what exactly constitutes a “visit from the goon squad”?Visit Jennifer Egan's website.
A: I knew the title of this book before I knew almost anything else. So I, too, entered the project in a state of wondering who the Goon Squad was, exactly. In addition to Proust, whose In Search of Lost Time I was working my way through as I wrote Goon Squad, my other primary literary (if you will) influence was The Sopranos, whose polyphonic structure I found deeply compelling. So I guess you might say that there are goons in my book’s genome. The book is certainly full of people who feel beaten up in one way or another—disappointed, out of luck, gypped of what they once expected and still feel they deserve—but these hardships aren’t the work of particular enemies so much as life’s vicissitudes. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that the reader’s understanding of who the real goon is accrues over the course of the book in much the way that my own comprehension of life’s extreme brevity has overtaken me as I’ve pushed into my forties. And that’s all I’m going to say!
Q: In the thirteen chapters in this book we meet a large cast of characters and come to see, chapter by chapter, how all of their lives are connected, and often entangled, in surprising ways. Where did you get the idea to have their stories unfold in this way?
A: It happened organically, and I was led by little more than my own curiosity. I started with “Found Objects,” the first chapter in the book, and found myself intrigued by the the brief mention of Bennie Salazar, who sprinkles gold in his coffee and sprays pesticide in his armpits. I thought: Why would someone do those things? And from that question came the next piece, “The Gold Cure.” In that one, there’s a mention of Bennie’s ex-wife, Stephanie, who plays tennis at a country club. And I thought: Hmm, what’s Stephanie’s story, and how did her marriage to Bennie end? So I wrote “A to B.” Small, lateral observations in a character’s life would catch my eye much as they do in my own: I’m forever watching people and wondering: Who is that person? Where is she going right now? What does his apartment look like? What expression does he have when he’s completely alone? And of course, there’s no way...[read on]
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