Monday, March 28, 2011

A visit from Jennifer Egan

By Meredith Deliso

The last thing Jennifer Egan wants is for you to get tired of her.

But since her book “A Visit from the Goon Squad” came out last June, the Fort Greene writer fears that she has been on a constant book tour to support the praised piece of fiction.

“It did not sell very well [at first], though it got really good reviews, so I felt like it really had to continue to support it,” said Egan. “In another situation, I might have just said, ‘Enough, I’m going to let it sink or swim on its own.’ I felt I couldn’t do that with his one.”

That effort — her “endless babbling,” as she calls it — seems to have paid off: the book is in its 11th printing, made numerous year end top-10 lists and, just this month, it won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle award for fiction, beating out the much-hyped “Freedom” by a non-Brooklynite named Franzen.

The Circle praised the experimental form of Egan’s third novel — her most ambitious, inventive piece to date — as it follows intersecting characters in the music industry, including an aging record exec, Lou; his protégé, Bennie; his troubled assistant, Sasha; and her children, whose chapters are told in surprisingly moving PowerPoint slides. It’s a tale that spans decades, jumping around from present day New York to 1970s San Francisco to a dystopian future — and is one as much about time (that cruel goon in question) as it is the music industry.

“The book is about time, and time and music are so interwoven. We walk around awash in our own past, listening to songs that meant a lot to us at certain points,” said Egan. “As a journalist, I had always wanted to learn more about the music industry, but I never did. It was just a yen to write about this world that was unfulfilled in the nonfiction realm.”

Now that she’s gotten that out of her system, Egan is looking to get back into her next big project — a novel about the women who worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II. But not before she does a bit more babbling, including two readings in Brooklyn in one week — at BookCourt tonight and the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday.

“I’m keenly aware you can’t do this forever, or you will become deeply boring,” said Egan. “I’m happy to do it a bit longer, then I think I’m going to have to close my mouth for several years and go back to what I do — which is write.”

Jennifer Egan at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677], March 28 at 7 pm. Free. For info, visit; also at the Brooklyn Academy of Music [651 Fulton St. near between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], March 31 at 6:30 pm as part of its “Eat, Drink and Be Literary” series. Tickets $50 (includes dinner, wine, tax and tip). For info, visit


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