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Egan, Jennifer

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1962-    ) US author whose early short fiction – most of it smilingly disjunctive (see Postmodernism and SF) and some of it of direct fantastic interest – was assembled in Emerald City: The Collected Works of Jennifer Egan (coll 1993; exp vt Emerald City 1996). The protagonist of her second novel, Look at Me (2001), a model with an artificial face, transacts a hallucinated New York selling her versions of her artefactual Identity in the form of webcasts (a prescient idea in 2001, though since routinized). Her third novel, The Keep (2006), set in a haunted castle (see Keep) in a dark contemporary Europe, slyly derogates the postWar world through a grotesque family melodrama.

Of direct sf interest is the loose Goon Squad sequence beginning with A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010), which offers a disintegrative vision of a Near Future America whose grasp of reality, of "objects existing in time and space", has been fatally vitiated; America, as seen through the life story of a rock singer from 1970 to 2020, has fallen victim to consumption: with everything transformed into fungibles curated in PowerPoint, with the sum of the parts amounting to more than the whole. In The Candy House (2022) – whose title, a play on the Gingerbread House in folktales about Hansel and Gretel, posits a mythopoeic intensity to the tale – shifts slightly further into the Near Future, where the Invention of an AI capable of downloading the entire Memory ganglia of individuals, and of accumulating these memories into a trademarked CollectiveConsciousness, a gyre of accessible selfdoms out of a fungible version Spiritus Mundi (see William Butler Yeats). The novel comprises a series of linked stories whose protagonists search for their true selves through the arid enticements of this labyrinth. Though she seems more congenial than these writers, Egan has been compared to Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon. [JC]

Jennifer Egan

born Chicago, Illinois: 6 September 1962

works (selected)


Goon Squad

individual titles

  • Look at Me (New York: Doubleday/Tan A Talese, 2001) [hb/]
  • The Keep (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2006) [hb/John Gall]

collections and stories

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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