Read, Hear, and See Tweeted Four Stories by Jennifer Egan, Author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Though def­i­nite­ly a writer, and an acclaimed one at that, Jen­nifer Egan does not allow the tra­di­tion­al­ly writ­ten word to con­tain her. In 2010, her book A Vis­it from the Goon Squad turned read­er­ly heads by pre­sent­ing itself nei­ther as a nov­el nor a short sto­ry col­lec­tion. It also con­tained an entire — chap­ter? sto­ry? — sec­tion in the form of a Pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tion. If you find your­self on the fence about plung­ing into Egan’s for­mal­ly irrev­er­ent, Pulitzer Prize-win­ning work, you can sam­ple its first sec­tion (not the Pow­er­point one, you may feel relieved to hear) as “Found Objects,” the way the New York­er ran it in 2007. If the loose-ends music-indus­try work­er pro­tag­o­nist’s brush with klep­to­ma­nia intrigues you, and if you val­ue autho­r­i­al inter­pre­ta­tion, you can watch Egan her­self read a bit of the sec­tion above. The New York­er has also run two oth­er pieces of Egan’s Goon Squad-era writ­ing on its fic­tion pages: “Safari” and “Ask Me if I Care.” Then comes “Black Box.”

Egan com­posed “Black Box” for Twit­ter, where it ran over ten nights on the New York­er’s NYer­Fic­tion account. But she did­n’t write it on Twit­ter, opt­ing instead for long­hand in a Japan­ese note­book print­ed with rec­tan­gu­lar box­es. You can find all the tweets that com­prise the sto­ry col­lect­ed at Paste, and New York­er sub­scribers can read the whole thing in a slight­ly more tra­di­tion­al form here. Egan spent a year on the sto­ry, which she describes as “a series of terse men­tal dis­patch­es from a female spy of the future, work­ing under­cov­er by the Mediter­ranean Sea.” I’ve seen many a lit­er­ary aca­d­e­m­ic go into rap­tures about the impli­ca­tions of Twit­ter, but here we have an artist exe­cut­ing a gen­uine­ly intrigu­ing project with “the odd poet­ry that can hap­pen in a hun­dred and forty char­ac­ters.” Cer­tain gen­er­a­tions of writ­ers and thinkers make such a big deal about that 14o-char­ac­ter lim­it, but I notice that nobody under 35 blinks an eye at it. It’s just the way we com­mu­ni­cate now — Egan must under­stand this makes it one of the most impor­tant medi­ums for writ­ers to take on. You can hear her dis­cuss that and more with New York­er fic­tion edi­tor Deb­o­rah Treis­man on the mag­a­zine’s pod­cast.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jen­nifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize Win­ner, Talks Writ­ing @Google

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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