From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a “sibling novel” to her Pulitzer Prize– and NBCC Award–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad—comes The Candy House, an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private. We spoke with author Jennifer Egan about the inspiration for The Candy House, her audiobook worship, and more!
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
The Candy House was inspired by my curiosity about various minor characters in A Visit from the Goon Squad—some so peripheral that we never even see them, just hear their names! These include a graduate student who I knew would go on to invent social media; three eccentric brothers; a young woman who becomes a spy; and an anthropologist whose analyses of human behavior helps to monetize the internet, and who then disappears.
I had a few preoccupations in mind as I worked, one of which was the tension between the descriptions of human behavior that data give us and the mystery and unknowability of individual humans. Another was the idea of moving between worlds and genres from one chapter to the next, as if in a role playing game. And finally, I was thinking a lot about space—the way our relationship to physical space has been transformed by virtual experience. The story took shape organically over the course of a decade, beginning in the fall of 2010 and concluding during the pandemic.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
There’s a lot about baseball and Dungeons and Dragons in this book—both of which were things my sons loved as kids. You could say that The Candy House is a book about parental love, in disguise.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I have not listened—I find it hard to read my own work—but I’m so excited about the [full] cast, whom I had the honor of helping to choose.
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
I am an audiobook worshipper!! I listen to audiobooks constantly—while cooking, gardening, folding laundry, walking, and to help me get back to sleep if I wake in the middle of the night, so I don’t have to turn on a light.
Some recent favorites are Clarissa (longest novel written in English), an 18th century epistolary saga wonderfully narrated by an ensemble cast. And Beloved, by Toni Morrison, which she read herself…in fact she recorded all of her novels, and it’s extraordinary to hear her read them.
“I am an audiobook worshipper!! I listen to audiobooks constantly—while cooking, gardening, folding laundry, walking, and to help me get back to sleep if I wake in the middle of the night, so I don’t have to turn on a light.”
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
I’m not sure I would have a career without the independent booksellers. They’ve given me support, solace, venues, and readers. As someone lucky enough to have an indie bookstore down the street from where I live in Brooklyn, I’ve seen firsthand what joy and community it has brought to our neighborhood.
Anything else to share with us?
I’ve tripled my reading since I began listening to audiobooks, and I find that I remember books better if I listen than if I read on the page.