Jennifer Egan Leads a Tour of Her Latest Fractured Fairytale
In the song “Fashion,” David Bowie once warned, “We are the Goon Squad and we’re coming to town.” Beep beep, indeed. Now—following her own Bowiesque tendency toward technological and societal speculation—Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer-winning Goon Squad has returned, this time via a sequel entitled The Candy House: a postmodern fairy tale that breadcrumbs readers through questions about the implications of digital technology, the illusion or authenticity of fate, and the nature of consciousness.
Egan spoke with me recently about The Candy House, and I opened our talk with the observation that the book’s predecessor—A Visit from the Goon Squad—is likely the only Pulitzer-recognized novel to include a mention of the foundational noise-punk band Flipper.
“A friend of mine actually dated their bassist when I was in high school, so I saw a lot of Flipper shows,” said Egan, who grew up in or around the San Francisco punk scene of the late 1970s. “I was not in the middle of anything. I was always a kind of adjacent observer—but I was able to observe some really cool stuff.”
She stood suddenly and moved off-camera.
“The cat is yelling,” she said. “I have to let her in. She’s becoming a Zoom addict and cannot bear to be left out of any Zoom conversation.”
It’s fitting that our talk took place via Zoom, for as she explained about The Candy House (which she began writing years before Zoom was created, let alone became a virtual necessity), “I had decided I wanted it to be full of portals. I wanted to have that sort of Dungeons and Dragons feeling of moving between worlds. I thought about the book Prince Caspian; this conceit that people jump into pools and they go into a different world depending on which pool they’re in.”
A major factor in Goon Squad, technology plays an even more central role in The Candy House. In the former, a relatively minor character named Bix Bouton invented social media. In the sequel, Bouton is promoted into the narrative spotlight and creates a piece of tech called Own Your Unconscious, which allows people to view one another’s memories in a firsthand, experiential manner. In Egan’s imagined universe (which doesn’t feel far from ours), Bouton’s efforts have given rise to the “Self-Surveillance Era” in which there are those who share and seek anything and everything about everybody, “eluders” who aim to retain the outdated concept of privacy, and civilian-agents of the government who have recording devices implanted directly into their bodies to support missions aimed at furthering a somewhat exaggerated post-9/11 conception of national security.
Here in our only-slightly less severe version of the Self-Surveillance Era, Own Your Unconscious seems like a frightfully logical next step. We have little privacy left to sell anyway.
Going into The Candy House, Egan knew that she wanted Bix to invent something radically beyond social media. The result was sharing—or…
Read Full Story At: The Daily Beast.