Brief Biography of Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago to Donald and Kay Egan. When her parents’ divorced, she moved with her mother to San Francisco, where she spent her youth. She studied English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, Egan spent two years at St. John’s College in Cambridge, England. During this time, she traveled throughout Europe, which provided inspiration for some of her first novels. She moved to New York City after returning from Europe, and worked a series of odd jobs before her stories began being published. She published her first novel, Invisible Circus, in 1995. She published two other novels and a collection of short stories before A Visit From the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. Egan continues to write in New York City, where she lives with with her husband and two sons.
Historical Context of A Visit from the Goon Squad
As a novel set primarily in post-9/11 New York City, A Visit from the Goon Squad explores the way in which American culture has changed since the World Trade Center fell on September 11th, 2001. Many of the stories reference the absence of the twin towers, and several stories nod to the fear of future acts of terrorism, depicting the heightened state of surveillance Americans have experienced since the towers fell. The novel also examines the impact of digital media and the advent of the Internet, especially how these advances in technology have influenced the way in which Americans interact with one another, the environment, music, and other art forms. In relation to advances in technology, Egan takes a special interest in the music industry, moving from the punk rock scene in 1970s San Francisco to the highly produced pop music of today.
Other Books Related to A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan cites two primary sources of inspiration for A Visit from the Goon Squad. Her main influence was the work of Marcel Proust, especially his multi-volume novel, In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s fiction is often structured around the idea of music, and the passage of time remains a common theme of his work. The same is true of Egan’s novel. Second to Proust, Egan was inspired by the HBO television series, The Sopranos. The episodic nature of the television show, the complexity of the characters, and the way in which different characters move in and out of focus, became a major inspiration for her work. As a novel in stories, A Visit from the Goon Squad is in conversation with several modernist works, including Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Ernest Hemmingway’s The Nick Adam’s Stories. The novel in stories has become a popular form in recent years. Elizabeth Strout’s novel in stories, Olive Kitteridge, won the National Book Award in 2009.
Key Facts about A Visit from the Goon Squad
Full Title: A Visit From the Goon Squad
When Written: Between 2006 and 2010
Where Written: New York City, NY
When Published: June 8, 2010
Literary Period: Contemporary Literature
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Novel
Setting: Most of the stories take place in and around New York City, although some stories are set in California, Italy, and Kenya
Point of View: A blend of first, second, third, and other non-traditional points of view
Extra Credit for A Visit from the Goon Squad