Tuesday, March 27, 2012


What Jennifer Egan offers us is an unforgettable essence of life.  Most of the characters in the book have tainted backgrounds of some kind.  That is just the setting of the book.  What happens to these characters as a result of their struggles is what composes most of the book.  Written in sections, with chapters dedicated to different characters, and written in different tones and perspectives, the characters make up the bulk of this story, even if it is a book about the backdrop of the music culture. This book is very much about who the people are, what their psychosis is, and how they become interwoven in each other's life.

The writing is in a league of its own, marked by the Los Angeles Times as "The smartest book you can get your hands on." This is no easy reading.  I felt myself swimming effortlessly through the conceptual waters of this book, and slowly felt myself sinking into the abyss of my own ignorance trying to paddle my way back up to the surface.  It takes intellectual maturity to get the most out of this book.  You will take away from it only what you are ready to see and absorb.

I want to add a few things further.  There are minuscule moments in the book that make for great and unforgettable parts.  Part of that is the element of surprise.  In the interview above for PBS, Jennifer Egan mentions that something really profound, that I found to be a great portion of the book, and something that I felt drawn to. She says: "I think what I was most interested in were the moments of surprise, when we realize that time has passed.  You know, it's moving slowly and incrementally, but we only notice it in sudden quantum leaps, where we think, oh, this has changed.  And the change always feels surprising, which in itself is surprising, because change is so constant." This is such a profound concept. How many of us have not experienced this?  It is inevitable.  Change is happening in the course of our lives all the time, and most of the time it's like Jennifer Egan says, minuscule.  Then suddenly you realize a big change is happening and you've been oblivious of the smaller changes in time.  It all seems foreign, and a BIG Surprise!

Another intricate constituent part of the book is the attention to details that most of us would just absorb subconsciously.  Half the time we're not even paying attention to these moments, but Jennifer Egan emphasizes them in the book.  "She wanted badly to please him, to say something like It was a turning point; everything feels different now, or I called Lizzie and we made up finally, or I've picked up the harp again, or just I'm changing I'm changing I'm changing: I've changed! Redemption, transformation - God how she wanted these things.  Every day, every minute.  Didn't everyone?"  Even though this quote also deals with change, this bit of writing reminds us of something we normally might take for granted.  We would all like to tell people that we're changing, transforming, and redeeming ourselves in their eyes or in front of the world, but chances are we cannot even say that to ourselves.  People might want us to tell them what they want to hear, and we might want people to tell us what we want to hear.  Most days, though, we just let that traverse through our subconscious and before we know it, it haunts us.  What Jennifer Egan does here is bring to surface something very universal.  It's time to acknowledge it, and accept it.  Change takes time, even against all cultural and personal expectations.  For some that time is short, for some it is longer, and for some is life-long.

Lastly, I want to mention that there is a section of the book that is absolute genius.  Jennifer Egan portrays concepts of literature in diagrams, schematics, and cascades of images.  The science background of this books just gave me chills when I stumbled upon it. All along, you think you're reading pure literature, and when you find a piece of the writing immersed with scientific knowledge it colors your whole perspective of the book.  I love authors who hybridize their artistic and scientific tastes of life.

I cannot fully do this book justice with my review.  I would like you to go visit these reviews, and see more for yourself, what this book really means in the literature world: New York Times: Time, Thrashing to its own Rock BeatPaste Magazine ReviewPBS Interview

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