Knopf released Chicago-born, San Francisco-bred and Brooklyn-based author Jennifer Egan’s fifth book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, in June 2010; ten months later, the collection of generation-spanning, style-hopscotching vignettes was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Egan lives in Fort Greene with her husband, the theater director David Herskovits, and their two sons.
What’s your favorite book about Brooklyn?
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. I read it before I moved here, but I think about it every time I’m on Court Street; the world he created was so alive for me. I’d also have to say A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I read as a child and absorbed in some very deep way.
Does living in Brooklyn affect your work?
I love the stimulation and the “characters”; my need for that stuff is what would make suburbia impossible for me. I like to lose myself in what’s going on around me and forget about myself for some part of each day. Being in Brooklyn makes that easy.
What do you get from writing nonfiction (usually for The New York Times Magazine) that you don’t get from your novels?
New experiences. I’m enriched by every story I work on; the adventures and encounters it occasions end up getting braided into my own past, so that it feels as if my life has just been bigger because of the journalism. As a writer—and in general—my goal is always to get out of myself and transcend my own experience. As a journalist, that’s what I’m being paid to do, so it’s a perfect fit for me.
I imagine you’ve been getting a lot of attention since you won the Pulitzer. Has it been exhausting? Or exhilarating?
Both. It’s incredible to feel that so many people are reading my book. I’ve never had that sensation before, and it’s a thrill… The only hard part is feeling like I can’t fulfill the many things people would like me to do right now—above all, read and blurb their books. I generally like to help people if I can, so the sense of falling short on a massive scale is uncomfortable for me.