Hate Jennifer Egan so I feel better

Jennifer Egan thinks about how a person's appearance has no bearing on her success as an author.

For months now I have been trying to explain to people the singular idiocy of A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan’s collection of mawkish, overwritten stories that manage to feel slight despite their relentless self-regard. That shit won the Pulitzer Prize. It must be important, if only as a motionless canary in the dark shaft of contemporary American fiction. I have commiserated with strangers in bookstores over A Visit From the Goon Squad, but I have never been able to explain what’s so infuriating about it to people who haven’t read it. Fortunately, the good people at Slate have released a long video interview with the author. Finally, people who do not want to read ironically can experience the utterly vapid thought process of the woman who wrote, “My eyes were open, but only the ones on my face. My other thousand eyes were squeezed shut.” First installment after the jump.

There she is, speaking incoherently and with great satisfaction about being a writer in Brooklyn and spending a year in Europe after high school. Note that she turned to writing as a means of dealing with the powerful homesickness she experienced on the Continent. “I wrote my way through that misery,” she says, “and ultimately I did have to come home early because I was really struggling.” Egan appears to see no contradiction in this statement, which functions as a fine introduction to her writing: able to recognize the deep significance of human emotions to herself, but not able to consider them with any more depth than is required to identify them. Jennifer Egan knows the deep romantic potential inherent in people feeling stuff. Otherwise, she knows nothing. Hate her with me!


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  1. Jesus Christ, I hated that book. The sentences were absolutely terrible, the kind of writing I expect from a middling English 101 student. The section written in the vein of David Foster Wallace was sickening. She clearly doesn’t have the mental capacity to mimic his writing (as few do), but most writers know not to embarrass themselves trying.

    Interestingly enough, the only portion of the book I enjoyed was the long powerpoint section. I can’t think of a more damning compliment to give a writer: “You know what part of the book where you weren’t writing sentences? That was great!”

  2. Fuck. I just found myself searching for the “like” button for the above comment. I’m clearly spending my time the wrong way.

    But, while I can’t rally hate her until or if I read the stuff, I do greatly enjoy your hatred of her, Dan–of her work, at least.

  3. She might suck at being a smart person, but isn’t that still better than being awesome at idiocy? Can’t we credit Egan with provoking a few more brainwaves than say, your disabled neighbor? I’d rather eat shit than starve.

    Perhaps your anger is directed in the wrong place. Really, aren’t you just angry at the mismatch of her poor skill and resounding success? We should be hating people who like her, not her.

    I recently enjoyed hating Eat People by Andy Kessler. I got it for 80% off at Borders and still overpaid. I’d use the book for fuel if his ideas weren’t so limp. Kessler combines his expertise in teleological arguments with arrogance and a pinch of unfunny dad to create a masterpiece of disposable business advice. I’d call it the one percenter’s manifesto if that wasn’t cruel to the one percenters. A laughable first half and an infuriating second half make this book a great last read for anyone contemplating violent suicide.

  4. What I’d be angry about here is not the state of contemporary fiction, but rather the state of contemporary taste. The Pulitzer decal attracts only the “Ooh! I’ve heard of that!” reader, to whom Jennifer Egan is a spectacular departure from their readerly norm (The Secret Lives of Bees, That Book About The Bad Sandwiches In Some Foreign English-Speaking Country or Colony or Whatever, etc.).

    The Pulitzer doesn’t award great literature; it awards (1) new riffs on the Pulitzer-Brand motif of Americana — immigrant community, the 20th century, Rise-and-Fall-and-Rise, clever gimmick exposing the above — and (2) accessibility. The last Pulitzer winner that didn’t infuriate me was Martin Dressler, and, if I have to admit it, Kavalier & Clay. It’s because I like comic books! And I liked that they were Czech! And at age 21 I thought the title ‘The Escapist’ was clever! Okay? Fuck! Even The Road annoyed me. You want to get me really hot? Praise Oscar Wao.

    At least people are reading?

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