on jennifer egan (part 1)

That’s what death is, Danny thought: wanting to talk to someone and not being able to. 

[in The Keep]

After months of not writing anything in the blog, I decided to update it with something that has been in my mind for some time now: Jennifer Egan.

For those who do not know her, you’re missing a great writer. Let me tell you why: her work is one of the best things that ever happened in my life – I could tell you her work is one the greatest works ever, but honestly I lack critically based references and I haven’t read that much from the modern fiction to state something of the like. But I am sure when I say that Egan’s narratives are some of the most spectacularly well-written texts I’ve ever set my eyes on.

I first got in touch with her work through my advisor. Egan’s novel, The Keep, was chosen to be part of the corpus of our new research project. My advisor lent me her copy of the novel during the busiest time of the semester; I ignored some rules [such as do what you have to do, have fun later] and I started reading the novel. I couldn’t stop. I was compelled to read to its end, I was caught in its magical web of great stories and read it all. I have to say that I was a bit freaked out after I finished it, in a good way. Freaked out by its quality, by its capacity of being so entertaining and well done.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan

Now, I couldn’t find a better way to tell what The Keep is about without spoiling some things. So, I’ll stick to the basics and I’ll try to show why it is a ‘must read’ for everyone who is fond of good literature and catching plots. The storyline is quite simple: Danny and Howie, cousins, hung out together when they were kids. Danny played an evil trick on his cousin which left Howie traumatized. They drifted away from each other, Danny growing up to be a somewhat lost adult, the kind of I-don’t-really-know-who-I-am-and-where-I-belong-to guy, contracted severe debts and got involved in fruitless relationships with diverse women over the years. Howie, on the other hand, left the trauma behind and grew up to be an extremely successful businessman. So much so that Howie buys a castle in some blurred-border region of Europe and invites Danny to help him remodel the place and get it running.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a mere story of revenge. It is not. It is much more than that. I cannot tell you more without jeopardizing the fun and the mystery of such a text. The great thing about The Keep is that it turns out to be a story within a story within a story. And I assure you’ll feel trapped by all of them.

The beauty of Egan’s work is that you are able to relate to the characters to the point you wish you knew them in real life. Well, maybe you do. They are real, complex, human. In an interview, the author confessed having read the founding gothic narratives, such as The Castle of Otranto, and being inspired by them. But in The Keep Egan takes the gothic mode to a new level – to the technological era, to the world where everyone is connected but is still alone. This is a story about humanity, about rights and wrongs, about regret and transcendence. About how damn human we are.

Egan does not use catchy sentences or words of effect. Her narrative is clean and conversational, easy going; it is like talking to someone and listening to a very good story, those kinds of stories you cannot help from sitting for hours until you know the end of it.

So go on, grab the book and let it grabs you. Cause it will.

You can read an excerpt online HERE and you can also visit the fictional castle’s website HERE.

I’ll soon post something about A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Stay tuned!


EDIT: read part 2!


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