Jennifer Egan sets The Candy House in the same world as A Visit from the Goon Squad and revisits the same characters – but it feels like a movie that has suddenly changed genre at the mid-point.
I loved Candy House. The wandering structure, POV, and style are more than a gimmick – they underscore the dislocation / loneliness / alienation of our media-saturated / screen-mediated modern lives.
In 2012, Egan published a version of one of the chapters in the short story Black Box – if you’re looking for a fun taste of this world.
I feel I will read this book again soon.
Some of my favorite bits…
967 Still, my curiosity about Damon gradually wore away my scruples. Doesn’t it always? If my life has taught me anything, it’s that curiosity and expediency have a sneaky, inexorable power. Resisting them is easy for a minute—a hundred minutes—even a year. But not forever.
2341 No matter how much Lou Kline drinks—and he drinks a lot—a part of him is always removed, watching with faint detachment as the men around him get plastered. Lou is waiting for something. He thought it was love until he married Christine, whom he worships; then he thought it was fatherhood; then moving west, as they did two years ago. But the sensation of waiting persists: an intimation of some approaching change that has nothing to do with Christine or their kids or the house in Belvedere on a man-made lake where Lou swims a mile each morning and sails a little Sunfish. He’s become the social impresario of their cul-de-sac, organizing cookouts and cocktails, even a dance one night last summer, dozens of neighbor couples swaying barefoot by the lake to Sinatra and the Beatles. At Christine’s urging, he unearthed his sax and played it that night for the first time since his jazz-combo days at the University of Iowa, mildly electrified when everyone clapped. Life is good—it’s perfect, really—yet Lou is haunted by a sense of something just beyond it, something he is missing.
2733 Stress and frustration, disguised until now by sheer motion, ambushed him. What the fuck was he doing at the airport? How much time had he lost?
4370 In deep night, when I listen to sounds of the rainforest, I feel like I’ve returned to my mission.
The landscapes are nothing alike.
I see now that the place I’ve been yearning for is my own imagination.
It was with me before and will be always. It’s in every children’s book.
Kiss our babies for me a thousand times, and remember to water the seedlings.
I’m counting the seconds until I see you next week.
- Read The Candy House by Jennifer Egan