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Jennifer Egan's Quotes

Jennifer Egan profile photo

Born: 1962-09-07
Profession: Novelist
Nation: American
Biography of Jennifer Egan

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I was obsessed with The Who. I would have accepted a marriage proposal from Roger Daltrey on the spot. I went to all of their shows in San Francisco and some in L.A. That was as close as I got to being a groupie.

Tags: Close, Marriage, Shows

I was on a very bumpy plane ride, an overnight flight. I was so miserable, and I pulled out 'David Copperfield,' and I forgot how scared and tired I was, and I thought, 'This is what reading should be.' I'm utterly transported out of my current situation.

Tags: Reading, Thought, Tired

I write totally spontaneously. I actually write fiction by hand - that always seems to startle people. I think the reason I do that is to bypass the thinking part of me and get to the more unconscious part, which is where all the good ideas seem to be.

Tags: Good, Reason, Thinking

I'm just interested in serialization in fiction. I'm fascinated by it. I love the 19th-century novels. I'm interested in ways to bring that back to fiction.

Tags: Bring, Interested, Love

I'm not a wildly gifted person; I don't play an instrument or speak another language or have great accomplishments in another field, as many writers do. But writing feels natural to me; the act of it seems to free up my unconscious, so that sometimes I feel that I have access to more ideas and information than my conscious mind could think up.

Tags: Great, Mind, Writing

If having a story that's compelling - you want to know what will happen - is traditional, then ultimately I am a traditionalist. That is what readers care about. It's what I care about as a reader. Now if I can have that along with a strong girding of ideas and some kind of exciting technical forays - then that is just the jackpot.

Tags: Care, Happen, Strong

If you read novels of the 19th century, they're pretty experimental. They take lots of chances; they seem to break a lot of rules. You've got omniscient narrators lecturing at times to the reader in first person. If you go back to the earliest novels, this is happening to a wild extent, like 'Tristram Shandy' or 'Don Quixote'.

Tags: Pretty, Read, Times

If you've been around as long as I have, watching the literary scene, then you know that who's in and who's out changes by the year. It's really a very fluid situation that requires that the person who is having the good luck now isn't having it a year or two from now.

Tags: Good, Luck, Year

In a way, I'm always trying to do something I'm not qualified to do. So I feel that lack of qualification. And I'm scared. And I have a tendency to think things may not/probably won't work out. That's my basic mindset.

Tags: May, Trying, Work

In the case of 'Goon Squad,' which sold slowly for a long time despite the good reviews, those 'best of 2010' lists were pivotal, and made the book really sell.

Tags: Best, Good, Time

It seemed impossible that a scrappy book like 'Goon Squad' could win an award like that. It's such an iconic honor. I think what the Pulitzer means to me is that I'll need to work very, very hard to try to live up to it.

Tags: Book, Hard, Work

'Look at Me' started with Rockford, Illinois and New York and the question of how much image culture was changing our inner lives. That's an abstract idea; you don't think that's going to be a rocking work of fiction, but it seemed to fuse in a way that was interesting.

Tags: Idea, Lives, Work

My last novel, 'The Keep,' was very explicitly technological, about the quality of living in a state constantly surrounded by disembodied presences, and I was thinking very much about the online experience.

Tags: Experience, Living, Thinking

Nowadays I'm more interested in what you'd call 'alternative.' Lately we've been listening to a lot of Mumford & Sons, and Jenny Owen Youngs. I'm also pretty crazy about the Kings of Convenience, a Norwegian band that's been compared to Simon and Garfunkel.

Tags: Call, Crazy, Pretty

People define themselves to some degree by the music that they listened to as teens. My mom had Elvis. Me, I had 'The Who' and later punk rock. Kids who came up in the '80s had other songs and bands. It's a way of placing ourselves culturally and temporally.

Tags: Mom, Music, Rock

Proust, my big inspiration for 'Goon Squad,' uses music a lot in his novel, both in terms of plot and structure. I liked the idea of doing the same thing, which is one reason I structured 'Goon Squad' as a record album, with an A side and a B side, that's built around the contrasting sounds of the individual numbers in it.

Tags: Big, Music, Reason

Technology makes everyone feel old. A laptop is old after two years. Someone always has something newer. Everyone seems to feel obsolete now, even the young.

Tags: After, Someone, Technology

The book that is the closest genetically to 'Goon Squad' is 'Look at Me.' It has the futuristic element - although, freakishly, almost every aspect I invented has come to pass in some way, including the terrorist who fantasies about blowing up the World Trade Centre. That was extremely uncomfortable. The book came out on the week of 9/11.

Tags: Almost, Book, Week

The way that Dickens structured his books has a form that we most readily recognize now from, say, the great T.V. series, like 'The Wire' or 'The Sopranos.' There's one central plot line, but then from that spin off all kinds of subplots.

Tags: Books, Great, Off

There's something very strange about associating me with that prize. I had hoped for it in a more directed way as a journalist. Somehow as a journalist you know there are Pulitzers out there and you can work hard and get one. To win it for Fiction seems unbelievable.

Tags: Hard, Win, Work

What lists and awards don't measure - and I feel this strongly - is the lasting value of any work of art. They're a snapshot of a moment, and one should always consider their judgments in that context.

Tags: Art, Moment, Work

When I first had a child, I really had a hard time trying to figure out how it was all going to fit together. Because I felt like, when I was with him, I wanted to be writing and I should be writing. And when I was writing, I felt like I should be with him, and wanted to be with him. So I was unhappy a lot.

Tags: Hard, Time, Writing

When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. I was really interested in gore. My grandfather was an orthopedic surgeon and he had a lot of books in his library that I would just pore over. A lot of them had really horrible pictures of deformities.

Tags: Books, Library, Wanted

Americans are less selfish than some of our politicians believe and will respond with reason and resilience to passionate clarity.

Tags: Less, Reason, Selfish

'Goon Squad' took about three years to write and that's the short end. My second novel, 'Look at Me,' took six years.

Tags: End, Short, Write

I am at my worst trying to write about things that overlap with my life.

Tags: Life, Trying, Write

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Much more quotes by Jennifer Egan below the page.

I don't really know where my ideas come from. I start with a time and a place. That's what I need to get started, and an intellectual question.

Tags: Place, Start, Time

I'm a dogged person. I respond to adversity with a steely resistance.

Tags: Adversity, Resistance, Respond

I've never been that confident. I don't tend to think, swaggeringly, 'I'm going to ace this.' It's just not who I am.

Tags: Ace, Confident, Tend

If you don't have people that the reader cares about and stories that are gripping, you've got nothing.

Tags: Cares, Reader, Stories

One area I have a huge amount of trouble in is writing about myself. I get a heavy, almost depressed feeling.

Tags: Feeling, Trouble, Writing

That adage about 'Write what you know' is basically the opposite of the way I function. I write about what I'm curious to find out.

Tags: Curious, Opposite, Write

The bottom line is that I like my first drafts to be blind, unconscious, messy efforts; that's what gets me the best material.

Tags: Best, Blind, Line

The music industry is an interesting lens through which to look at change, because it has had such a difficult time adjusting to the digital age.

Tags: Age, Change, Music

We live in a moment and a culture when reading is really endangered. There's simply no way to write well, though, if you're not reading well.

Tags: Moment, Reading, Write

Because you can't write habitually and well all the time, you have to be willing to write badly. That's how you get the regularity that enables you to be present for the good stuff.

Tags: Good, Time, Write

But I always need to identify with a character to write about him or her - and by 'identify,' I mean see the world through that person's eyes and have a strong sense of the inner logic of their acts and decisions, wacky or wrongheaded though they might be. In that sense, I think there's some of me in all of them.

Tags: Character, Mean, Strong

I did go on safari in Kenya when I was 17, with my mother, stepfather and little brother, and I kept a careful journal of the experience that was very helpful in terms of my sensory impressions of Africa. I have traveled quite a bit at distinct times in my life, though now that I have kids I've settled down.

Tags: Experience, Life, Mother

I felt more doubtful than usual with 'Goon Squad,' because I knew that the book's genre wasn't easily named - Novel? Stories? Novel-in-stories? - and I worried that its lack of a clear category would count against it. My hopes for it were pretty modest.

Tags: Against, Book, Pretty

I find myself thinking more about the past as I get older... maybe because there's just more of it to think about. At the same time, I'm less haunted by it than I was as a younger person. I guess that's probably the ideal: to reach a point where you have access to all of your memories, but you don't feel victimized by them.

Tags: Past, Thinking, Time

I had this idea that I could hire myself out as a person to go on archeological digs and dig, without any training! I actually wrote to a number of archeology departments and offered up my services.

Tags: Actually, Idea, Training

I haven't had trouble with writer's block. I think it's because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, cliched writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn't have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments.

Tags: Good, Trouble, Writing

I hope to keep writing journalism as long as I write fiction; it's afforded me such amazing adventures and opportunities. It does take a lot of time, so it's hard to do both at once, but I try to do a big journalism piece every couple of years, and I'll hopefully continue with that.

Tags: Amazing, Hope, Time

I listened to classic rock and roll, and punk rock. 'Goon Squad' provides a pretty accurate playlist of my teenage years, though it leaves out 'The Who,' which was my absolute favorite band.

Tags: Pretty, Rock, Though

I loved every minute of my childhood - sunbathing on the fire escape, digging for buried treasure in the back yard, pulling alewives out of the sand... Then it was all taken away from me. I came back every summer to visit my father until I was 18, but I was always the outsider.

Tags: Away, Father, Fire

I think the one thing that's changed over time is that I've come to realise, as a fiction writer, the fact that I don't think it will work out, doesn't mean that it actually won't.

Tags: Mean, Time, Work

I think, for one thing, all of us remember those teenage years and those songs that we fell in love with and the music scene that we were part of. So, in a certain way, music cuts through time like almost nothing else. You know, it makes us feel like we're back in an earlier moment.

Tags: Love, Music, Time

I was a stepchild in two different families. The hardest thing about being a stepchild is you know that in some way everything would be easier if you didn't exist.

Tags: Exist, Families, Hardest