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Jennifer Egan

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Jennifer Egan
Egan in 2017
Egan in 2017
BornSeptember 1962 (age 61)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Notable works
Notable awards
David Herskovits
(m. 1994)

Jennifer Egan (born September 7, 1962) is an American novelist and short-story writer. Her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. From 2018 to 2020, she served as the president of PEN America.[1]

Early life[edit]

After graduating from Katherine Delmar Burke School and Lowell High School, Egan majored in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. While an undergraduate, she dated Steve Jobs, who installed a Macintosh computer in her bedroom.[2] After graduating, she spent two years at St John's College, Cambridge, supported by a Thouron Award, where she earned an M.A.[3][4] She came to New York in 1987 and worked an array of jobs, including catering at the World Trade Center, while learning to write.[5]


Egan at LiteratureXchange Festival in Aarhus (Denmark 2019)

Egan has published short fiction in the New Yorker, Harper's, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Ploughshares,[6] among other periodicals, and her journalism appears frequently in the New York Times Magazine. Her first novel, The Invisible Circus, was released in 1995 and adapted into a film of the same name released in 2001.[5] She has published one short story collection and six novels, among which Look at Me was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001.

Egan has been hesitant to classify A Visit from the Goon Squad as either a novel or a short story collection, saying, "I wanted to avoid centrality. I wanted polyphony. I wanted a lateral feeling, not a forward feeling. My ground rules were: every piece has to be very different, from a different point of view. I actually tried to break that rule later; if you make a rule then you also should break it!" The book features genre-bending content such as a chapter entirely formatted as a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. Of her inspiration and approach to the work, she said, "I don't experience time as linear. I experience it in layers that seem to coexist ... One thing that facilitates that kind of time travel is music, which is why I think music ended up being such an important part of the book. Also, I was reading Proust. He tries, very successfully in some ways, to capture the sense of time passing, the quality of consciousness, and the ways to get around linearity, which is the weird scourge of writing prose."[7]


Egan received a Thouron Award in 1986,[4] was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996.[8] In 2002 she wrote a cover story on homeless children that received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award.[5] She was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library in 2004–2005.[9] Her 2008 story on bipolar children won an Outstanding Media Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.[5] In 2011 she was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.[10] That same year she won the National Book Critics Circle Award (Fiction),[11] the Los Angeles Times Book Prize,[12] and Pulitzer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad.[13]

Egan won the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Manhattan Beach.[14] The novel was also longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award.[15]


Egan at the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival

Academic literary critics have examined Egan's work in a variety of contexts. David Cowart has read Egan's project in A Visit from the Goon Squad as indebted to modernist writing but as possessing a closer affinity to postmodernism, in which "she meets the parental postmoderns on their own ground; by the same token, she venerates the grandparental moderns even as she places their mythography under erasure and dismantles their supreme fictions," [clarification needed] an aspect also touched upon by Adam Kelly.[16][17] Baoyu Nie has focused, alternatively, on the ways in which "Egan draws the reader into the addressee role" through the use of second-person narrative technique in her Twitter fiction. Finally, Martin Paul Eve has argued that the university itself is given "quantifiably more space within Egan's work than would be merited under strict societal mimesis", leading him to classify Egan's novels within the history of metafiction.[18]

In 2013, the first academic conference event dedicated to Egan's work was held at Birkbeck, University of London, entitled "Invisible Circus: An International Conference on the work of Jennifer Egan".[19]

Personal life[edit]

Egan lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.[20]



Short fiction (partial list)[edit]


  1. ^ "Jennifer Egan bio". PEN AMERICA. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  2. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (November 3, 2010). "Inside the List". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Margaret (2009), Hamilton, Geoff; Jones, Brian (eds.), Encyclopedia of Contemporary Writers and Their Work, Infobase Publishing, pp. 108–110, ISBN 978-0-8160-7578-2
  4. ^ a b Whiteman, Sean (July–August 2011). "Surprises Are Always The Best". The Pennsylvania Gazette. 109 (6).
  5. ^ a b c d "Amazon.com: Jennifer Egan: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". www.amazon.com. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  6. ^ "Author Details". Pshares.org. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Julavits, Heidi. "Jennifer Egan" Archived October 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, BOMB Magazine, Summer 2010. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
  8. ^ "Jennifer Egan". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011.
  9. ^ "Past Fellows". New York Public Library.
  10. ^ Bosman, Julie (March 15, 2011). "Deborah Eisenberg Wins PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Bosman, Julie (March 11, 2011). "Jennifer Egan and Isabel Wilkerson Win National Book Critics Circle Awards". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Jennifer Egan – Novelist and Journalist". jenniferegan.com. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Discussion of "A Visit from the Goon Squad" in relation to her work as a whole: Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction". American Library Association. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  15. ^ "2017 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction: Manhattan Beach". National Book Foundation. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  16. ^ Cowart, David (May 27, 2015). "Thirteen Ways of Looking: Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 56 (3): 252 in 241–254. doi:10.1080/00111619.2014.905448. ISSN 0011-1619. S2CID 162555558.
  17. ^ Kelly, Adam (September 21, 2011). "Beginning with Postmodernism". Twentieth-Century Literature. 57 (3–4): 391–422. doi:10.1215/0041462X-2011-4009. ISSN 0041-462X.
  18. ^ Eve, Martin Paul (2015). ""Structural Dissatisfaction": Academics on Safari in the Novels of Jennifer Egan". Open Library of Humanities. 1 (1). doi:10.16995/olh.29.
  19. ^ "Invisible Circus: An International Conference on the work of Jennifer Egan – Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London". www.bbk.ac.uk. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  20. ^ Cooke, Rachel (September 24, 2017). "Jennifer Egan: 'I was never a hot, young writer. But then I had a quantum leap'". The Guardian. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  21. ^ Eve, Martin Paul (2020). "Textual Scholarship and Contemporary Literary Studies: Jennifer Egan's Editorial Processes and the Archival Edition of Emerald City". Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory. 31 (1): 25–41. doi:10.1080/10436928.2020.1709713.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]